It was because of a short conversation on LinkedIn, and some support from another colleague, that the first meeting of Teacher Librarians, eLearning Coordinators (ICT Integrators) and IT Managers of several Good Samaritan Schools in Sydney occurred on Thursday. The aim of the meeting? To share our stories of success and failure and to create a forum where advice could be sought and given between schools with similar values and similar goals.

There seemed to be several key issues that arose during the discussion between St Mary’s Star of the Sea (Wollongong), Mount St Benedict’s College (Pennant Hills), St Patrick’s College (Campbelltown), Stella Maris College (Manly), Rosebank College (Five Dock) and my own school St Scholastica’s College (Glebe).

For those unfamiliar with Good Samaritan education or the Australian system of independent Catholic schools, here’s a bit of a history. In the 19th century and early 20th century (mainly, it has happened since) various religious orders within the Catholic church were given permission to establish schools in Australia. Specifically, these orders often focused on the poor and neglected. For example, the Good Samaritan sisters established schools predominantly for women. Some schools were incorporated into the relevant diocese of that area, thus becoming ‘systemic’ Catholic schools, under the control of the bishop and Education Office of that diocese. However, there are still many independent Catholic schools, run by the orders or their nominated representatives including the Sisters of Charity, the Brigidine sisters (who built my previous school), the Christian Brothers, the Patrician Brothers and so on. All independent schools in Australia, whether Catholic or not, adhere to the same curriculum and standards as every other school. All students in NSW for example, regardless of school, sit the Higher School Certificate (HSC) examinations as the major assessment of their final year.

But back to the meeting.

The issues raised included:

  • the role of school administration software
  • the role of cloud-based services to store data
  • the devices being chosen by schools or a movement to a bring your own device (BYOD environment
  • challenges of upskilling staff and putting in place supportive professional learning opportunities
  • the relationship between teacher librarians, IT managers and eLearning staff with each other and the wider school

What I found fascinating was that though we all shared the same values and philosophy as schools, we had gone down sometimes quite significant paths in terms of school structure, role responsibility, device choice and infrastructure because we had all worked in isolation. Each school does have its own differences in terms of governance, student demography and so on, but it was interesting to see the vast differences in certain areas. This was both challenging and very healthy for myself and our outstanding IT Manager to hear, as noone should work in a bubble when it comes to making school-wide decisions.

I will keep the confidence of those in the room, suffice to say that I think the size and nature of the group is highly useful to actually get discussions going and resolved in the time frame allowed. It will provide a rich and supportive environment to float ideas, to get feedback and to seek advice on a range of issues. Already several of those at the table have arranged school visits to see how each other are working.

Though schools are the hub of the community, its surprising how often we work in a silo. Hopefully, this kind of network will begin to change this in a positive and lasting way.