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McAuley Catholic High School, Doncaster – Headteacher, John Rooney shares details of an important initiative that has begun at the school.

Belonging

The way good Catholic schools continue on the path of improvement is through a combination of factors which will create an irresistible culture of greatness with our students feeling that they belong here.

What are these interdependent elements, many of which are already underway, which will create this culture?  We are working on five main areas.

1   An appreciation of the power of emotional, academic, social factors, growth mind-set and resilience and ways in which we involve and empower families as facilitators of students engagement; a genuine home-school partnership model which opens up all our facilities to support this as well as regularly taking ‘readings’ about what we do and how we do it. Supporting in meeting those basic needs helping students to be ‘school ready’.

2   The significance of the curriculum in its broadest sense but also in its narrowest sense too, curriculum construction from Y7 to Y13 paying attention to why and how we are teaching what we teach, assessment and instruction, academic engaged time versus lost learning time, the use of (Solo) Bloom’s taxonomy and a greater understanding of cognition to maximise this and the impact this has on lesson construction involving students as co-learners in the use of supportive technologies, including the importance of reading and vocabulary.

3   The importance of relationships at all levels. The understanding that for things to get better we may need to alter the way we operate with an insistence on the way we speak to our young people giving them greater responsibility and a say in the future of the school.

Elections to McAuley’s first Student Leadership Team this month resulted in ten young people from Y7 to Y11 taking an important leadership role in school.  On the day they were elected I told them, “JFK said ‘in your hands more than mine will rest the success or failure of what we are trying to achieve’.  What we are trying to achieve was made real by the words in your vision statement.  And so my co-learners and my co-leaders – ask not what your school can do for you but ask what you can do for your school.  Ask Jesus what he wants from you as you have all been called to put yourself into this very worthwhile process.  Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave.  You have not hidden your gifts and your talents.  You have shown that you have not been scared to dream of great things.

The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love.  My dear young people – your energy, your freshness, your energy, your commitment to this school are your greatest strengths – God expects great things of you and your generosity.  The generosity of the time you have given to this.  This school is waiting to be shaped and it’s more malleable, shapeable than you might think.  I want to see all of our students be involved, engaged and to belong.”

4   The necessary re-alignment of roles, resources, systems and structures (many of which have already taken place and continue to do so) to enable this to happen, including the system to recognise and reward student achievement and absolute clarity and consistency about our standards and routines in the way we deal with misbehaviours, the structure and timings of the school day.

5   We will continue to develop a methodology, a programme and staff training with the aim of maximising the number of students who positively engage in being responsible for their own learning and sense of belonging to our school allowing them to be actively involved in every aspect of the life McAuley, becoming super-motivated young people with the active support and involvement of their parents and carers.