Newsletter 12: 11 September 2018

Dear Colleagues,

The National Marist Assistant Principals conference, recently held at the Marist Centre in Brisbane, was a great gathering of 44 Marist leaders from every State and Territory. The theme of the Conference was The climate of the Marist classroom and was ably led by Dr Paul Rijken, the Principal of Cardijn College in Adelaide, and a member of the South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools. Paul is a dynamic and visionary Catholic school leader, with a passion for school improvement, informed by research, to foster outstanding learning outcomes for students. In 2018 Paul was appointed director of Catholic Secondary Principals Australia and a member of the Regional Council (VIC/SA/WA) for Marist Schools Australia. In 2017, he completed a PhD in mathematics and science from Curtin University and was awarded Principals Australia Institute’s John Laing Award for his commitment to facilitating professional learning for all staff in his school and across the SA Catholic sector.

Over a period of seven years, Paul conducted research in partnership with Curtin University, which clearly identified key factors that have a significant impact on students’ self-efficacy and achievement. Such has been the quality of his research, Paul has been invited to present findings on the international stage, including making a series of international presentations in the United States for the prestigious American Educational Research Association.

In essence, Paul and the staff at Cardijn have systematically embarked upon a highly disciplined research based approach to learning in which carefully focussed feedback from students to teachers and teachers to school leadership has led to sustained improvement in student engagement and learning outcomes. After two days of listening and learning from one another, it was clear that the Conference and the work at Cardijn captured well many key characteristics of quality Marist education. Most outstanding was the importance and power of listening. Attentive listening, with an attitude of openness and sincere willingness to learn from others were the outstanding characteristics of the research Paul shared and the manner in which he facilitated our days together. The participants at the Conference shared a remarkable wealth of diverse experience and varied innovative practice, and consistently emphasised were key features of Marist education.

On behalf of the Marist Schools Australia Leadership Team, I thank Paul for his generosity in sharing such insightful learning and expertise. Many of the participants will themselves be leaders of Marist and other Catholic schools in the coming years and are clearly leaders committed to evangelising through quality Catholic education.

Sally Dillon