Assistant Principal - Pastoral Care

Building a Learning Character


“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt


In the 1970s and 80s when I was growing up, a set of encyclopedias had pride of place in a home. Families who had the ‘World Book Encyclopedias’ were always seen to have an advantage over those who had lesser brands such as ‘Funk & Wagnalls’ (like my family’s second-hand set). Encyclopedias represented knowledge and having it gave you much of what you needed to learn. Today, we know that such a view is incredibly limited, that knowledge is infinite and constantly expanding and that through the internet, knowledge is easily and readily accessible. So it begs the question, what does a young person need to cope in a world where knowledge is constantly changing and, at times, highly contested?


The pinnacle of Australian education policy set its directions in the 2019 Alice Springs Declaration of Education. Here Federal and State ministers determined agreed goals for where education should be heading: 


“The Declaration has two distinct but interconnected goals:

Goal 1: The Australian education system promotes excellence and equity 

Goal 2: All young Australians become:

  • confident and creative individuals
  • successful lifelong learners
  • active and informed members of the community.”

These two goals are reflected in most schools’ brochures and mission statements. The most important question though, is how do we achieve this? How do we prepare our young people best for a world that is rapidly changing? Where should our focus be if young people are to become lifelong learners who are confident and active and informed? Where should our emphasis be as educators (both parents and teachers)?


Guy Claxton, an English academic, argues that:


“Apart from food, shelter and love, more than anything else today’s young people need strong minds. They need minds that are supple and robust enough, to deal well with the challenges and uncertainties that are coming their way. Whether it be mastering complicated new technology, mixing with different kinds of people, moving to a new country, or coping with a baby without any Aunties or Grannies to support and advise you…the one thing we can be sure of is that today’s students will need to be up to living a learning life.”


In another presentation he argued that:


“The fundamental purpose of education is precisely to increase young people’s level of Resources to cope with life … Education is the response to increased Demand that focuses on reducing stress by expanding capability. If we go right back to basics, back to the ground floor — not getting out at the usual mezzanine of SATs scores and GCSE results (for Australia you can insert HSC and ATAR) — education is about giving all young people whatever-it-is we think they will need in order to thrive. And that means: thrive in the face of the challenges and opportunities we anticipate they are going to meet.”


In light of the increasingly complex and diverse demands placed on young people, the NSW Government has been reviewing the future directions of education and they too have arrived at similar conclusions to Claxton:


“The long-term vision is for a future school curriculum that supports teachers to nurture wonder, ignite passion and provide every young person with knowledge, skills and attributes that will help prepare them for a lifetime of learning, meaningful adult employment and effective future citizenship ... The mere acquisition of knowledge and skills is insufficient; opportunities to transfer and apply learning to new contexts should be an integral part of every subject throughout the years of school. Applications of learning, including meaningful challenges and problems and through projects that students undertake, also provide opportunities to build students’ skills in knowledge application – such as critical and creative thinking, using technologies, interpreting information/data, collaborating and communicating.”


Thus, I would argue that learning dispositions and character traits are essential to a young person being well-prepared for 21st Century living. It is not so much what we are learning that is important but how we learn. This is what students take with them when they leave school. If a young person can persist with a challenge, can self-discipline themselves and delay gratification, if they can ask good questions and think and reflect on what they are doing and how they are doing it, if they can work with others and by themselves and they are prepared to try different things to solve problems then they will be well on the way to living a learning life. In essence, they are building what I call a ‘learning character’.


This year we have placed a greater emphasis in our reports on ‘Work Habits’. Here parents and students gain a good insight as to how each student is progressing in their learning character. 


Below are the students who have consistently rated highly in the ‘Work Habits’ domains either in Term 2 or throughout Semester 1 (this won’t include Years 11 and 12 as they have a different style end of semester report). All of these students will be feted with a morning tea and certificate to congratulate them on their achievements. 


Furthermore, as a teaching staff we made a commitment to consistently recognise the positive behaviours, actions and work of students. By the end of Term 2 the teaching staff had made 4515 Teacher Commendation entries in Compass. This is a marvellous achievement and a credit to their dedication to the young people they serve as well as reflecting how amazing so many of our students are at McCarthy. The students in each year who attained the most commendations will be taken to lunch and they too are listed below.


Highest Number of Teacher Commendations

Year 12 - Maeve Galvin

Year 11 - Marianne Flood

Year 10 - Oscar Krogh

Year 9 - Layla Dobson

Year 8 - Kaitlin Rheinberger

Year 7 - Halle Buckman


Consistently High Ratings over Semester 1 (Term 1 and 2 combined)


Year 10

Abigail Taggart, Caitlin Jackson, Annabel Kelly.


Year 9

Allyza Shania Baga, Ellisa Vu, Thomas Melville, Darcy Lyon, Hannah O’Toole, Vy Ho, Georgia Williams, Indiana McGregor, Mackenzie Blackwell, Samiel Morris, Archie Ringland, Mackenzie Scott, Gabrielle Miller, Kyra Mihell, Chelsea Miller, Blair Orman, Yulangelo Barbero, Ethan Allen, Olivia U’Ren, Hallie Scott, Isabella Bolsom, Aiden Lee, Demi Ashton, Charlotte Leonard, Jorja Easterman, Jackson Lane, Mitchell Scott, Bella Fox, Jack O’Neill, Kaitlyn Lovell.


Year 8

Alice Blackey, Baylee Whitworth, Lauren Barnes, Caitlan Myers, Hannah Briley, Hannah Pawsey, Katie Bui, Maria Shvili, Kaitlin Rheinberger, Mikeeli Tyrrell, Maddison Bell, Jack Benjamin, Laura Davis, Penelope Hutchinson, Xyieneza Anito, Zach Whalan, Amber Burrow, Kaitlin Burgess, Natasha Lees, Cohen Wolter, Tilani Smith, Haydon Hunt, Seth Visser, Charlette Lyon, Carter Thrift, Jossie Vince, Juliah White.


Year 7

Huynh Mai Lam Nguyen, Paige McMillan, Zoe Bell, Janae Griffiths, Jacqueline Clemson, Matt Manzano, Penelope Torrens, Sienna French, Mia Gentle, Anna George, Erin Tickle, Grace Tickle, Elouise McCann, Sophie McMullen, Caitlin Dunstan, Dylan Mihell, Emma Taggart, Lainey Mackay, Samuel Drew.


Consistently High Ratings over Term 2


Year 10

Grahame Davey, Sophia Vu, Grace Salked, Macklin Innis, Abigail Burr, Hallie Munro, Hope Madden, Oscar Krogh, Scarlett Coppola, Lara Cowley, Lindsay Maxworthy, Charlie Cox, Katelin Abra, Olivia Croker, Parker Rigby, Jake Salvestrin, King Transona.


Year 9

Elizabeth Rogers, Hannah Curtis, Amelia Wynn, Lauren Vella, Layla Dobson, Jude Delbridge, Charlize Beasley, Chloe Trappel, Kerwin Richards, Will Dickinson, Charmaine Smith, Zoe Cosgrove, Elloise Boyce, Rachael Golledge, Ella Halcroft, Kaydence Larkham.


Year 8

Chelsea Parry, Fletcher Norman, Thomas Drew, Hailey Tran, Ariel Mettam, Ngoc Gia Nghi, Millie Tighe, Shania Coppola, Tessa Hyslop, Tahl Handsley, Alexis Masters, Ryan Lu, Johnny Vuong, Kiara-May McKay.


Year 7

Alice Smith, Isaac Edgar, Jessica Scott, Mariya Saji, Madisen Thornton, Bonnie Wall, Dung Anh Vuong, Emily Bull, Sophie Myers, Hallie Feasey, Molly Taylor, Caitlyn Robinson, Jayla Kelly, Summer Wenborn, Lilliah Baker, Nha Lam Tran, Adrian Lu, Halley Buckman, Gurleen Sohi, Jessica Shiels, Ava Neill, Sienna Fielder, Hannah Fahey, Abbigale Gwatkins, Bronte Clegg, Colbie Butler, Lauren Cook, Peyten Gill, Erica Campbell, Georgia Staniland, Jasmine Williamson, Ataya McLaren, Joshua Koppers, Madelyn Grehan, Tho Trung Kien, Josh Patterson, Jorja Baker, Clare Mackney, Elizabeth Flood, Jackson Medlock, Stella Robinson, Savannah Slater, Zali Kapeller, Emmanuel D’Ugo, Janina Willoughby, Maddison Zell, Bree Ashton, Sterling Rodda.     


Mr Mick Larkin - Assistant Principal - Pastoral