26 January, 2023


Yes, curriculum-based learning and the achievement of high academic scores are extremely important aspects of being a successful school. But also important are clear expectations in relation to daily routines and behaviour management, and success in a range of interschool events and competitive activities. In his book ‘The Formative Five: Fostering Grit, Empathy and Other Success Skills’, Thomas Hoerr cites widespread writings demonstrating that, while the aforementioned are essential ingredients of a successful school, they are only the foundation.

So much more is needed to reach for a higher success ceiling. Writings cited by Hoerr include:

  • We should be asking ourselves whether our students are going to be productive and happy citizens at age 25, 45 and 65. What kinds of adults will they be? Will they be good friends, partners, and parents? Will they be respectful and honest, and will they make the world a better place? According to James Honan from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, these are the qualities that we should be valuing and pursuing in schools. These are the measures of school effectiveness.
  • Doing well in school tests and exams no longer guarantees a lifelong job or career as it once did… only people who have the knowledge and skills to negotiate constant changes and reinvent themselves for new situations will succeed. “What matters most in a child’s development is not how much information we can deliver into the brain in the first few years. Instead, what matters is whether we area able to help them develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence.” (Paul Tough)
  • 85 per cent of your financial success is due to skills in human engineering, your personality and ability to negotiate and lead. Only 15 per cent is due to technical knowledge. (Carnegie Institute)
  • Social and emotional learning – or the processes through which students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions – is critical to developing competencies besides academic content knowledge that is necessary to succeed in post-school education and in careers. (Rennie Research Centre and ASCD)

Hoerr notes that not so long ago we believed that things like grit and determination were traits people were born with, not skills that could be developed over time. Over recent decades, hard and soft sciences have produced an impressive body of evidence that teaches us two very important things. First, that we can ake our innate abilities and cultivate them, just as we build up muscle, dexterity and language fluency. Secondly, that social and emotional skills matter just as much in determining life satisfaction and success as traditional intelligence.
These skills are not only innate – they can be taught and can be learned.

This thinking underpins the Learner Attributes in the Learning Strand of the Scotch Oakburn SOC2035 vision. The ten attributes are embedded in daily learning experiences for students of all ages right across the College and a program (New Metrics) developing processes to monitor individual student progress and growth was trialled in classrooms on both campuses in 2022.

In conjunction with our five core Values, the Round Square IDEALS, the ACARA General Capabilities and programs such as The Resilience Project, the Learner Attributes foster personal and character development, equipping and setting students up for happiness and success right through their school years and then life beyond school… when they are 25, 45, 65 …. These are the true measures of a successful school.

Lachie Wright
Head of Junior School