With the mission to educate children in body, mind and spirit, Fraser Coast Anglican College (FCAC) has fostered a culture of wellbeing, pastoral care, and development of soft skills. This holistic approach and the school’s recovery from pandemic-related challenges have led to its recognition as Regional School of the Year at the 2022 Australian Education Awards.
In this conversation with The Educator, Joe Wright, principal of FCAC, talked about the school’s achievements in the past year and its expectations for the future.
To solve the staffing problems experienced by all schools, FCAC had focused on making people feel like “part of a community… like they’re making a difference,” he said. High standards, career development, and effective leadership are other factors that have enabled the school to attract and retain its staff.
Despite the low socioeconomic status of the Fraser Coast region, FCAC has achieved excellent academic outcomes because of the employees and families who share its vision. Wright said the school is proud of these academic results, which create opportunities and are the outcome of all the work being done to develop their students.
“While we don’t expect the students here to be the best at anything, we just want them to do their best. I guess that probably sums up the culture of the school, and I think in that kind of environment it’s easier for people to be successful,” the principal said.
To strengthen its connection to the community, FCAC revised its mission statement and values by gathering insights from the students, parents, staff, college council, diocese and Schools Commission, to come up with a statement that encompasses the priorities of all these stakeholders.
This new statement is meant to guide the direction of the school’s culture next year, Wright said.
“[W]e theme our terms around each of the values now ... Our pastoral and character development programs are all based around those things. It’s about developing those skills, and then that just flows through to the classroom, to the teaching and learning over time.”
Wright has a positive outlook for 2023 but expects regional education in general to face a test in a potentially glum economic environment. Despite limited resources, schools like FCAC would continue to serve the needs of families in the region, especially considering the large number of people who had relocated during the pandemic, he said.
“We implemented a new business plan that would maximise our use of resources, really prioritise what needed to be done. We’ve been very disciplined by sticking to it, and it’s taken a few years, but [we’re] making sure that we can keep the increases at a minimal level, that the families that want to access our school can still do that and that we don’t become out of reach for them,” he said.