Scotch Oakburn College is a wonderfully diverse community made up of families from over 50 cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In the true spirit of the Uniting Church, we have representation of all the major religions of the world as well as community members who do not identify with any religion. Our College is stronger for this diversity, and importantly, as we learn and grow together we realise that there is far more that unites us than divides. Central to our sense of community are our Values. Values are non-negotiable and regardless of who we are, they frame how we behave, interact, live out our lives, and connect as a community of learners. Our Values are the foundation stone of our culture, and as such, the commonality between the Values of the College and those of our families is what truly creates a powerful community.
In July 2018 Scotch Oakburn College was challenged by visiting academic Erica McWilliam in the area of the volume of words that appeared on our website describing who we are and what frames our goals and aspirations. She gave us the very direct feedback that there was too much going on in the Mission, Vision and Values space. Alongside our Vision and Mission, we had nine Values: belonging; commitment; compassion; grace; humility; inclusivity; integrity; resilience; and responsibility. We also had a very wordy document that detailed the College’s Vision for Learning. In addition, from Round Square, we have a set of IDEALS and at that time, the Discovery Framework.
There was so much information and so much trying to be achieved, all with good intent, that in trying to do everything, we ran the risk of losing clarity of purpose, with the volume of words becoming ‘white noise’, clouding our Purpose and the Values that underpin all that we do. In regard to our Values, I tested McWilliam’s claim with our students at a Senior School Assembly, asking the collective knowledge of the nearly 400 students to name our College Values. It took some time, many possibilities were proposed, but we eventually got there. Interestingly, one of the first terms offered by students, but which wasn’t one of our Values, was Respect. As an aside, it reminded me of when I first looked at the College’s website nearly 10 years ago and was surprised that Respect wasn’t mentioned. If our students didn’t know our Values, it would be difficult for them to consciously live them each day. Clearly something had to be done.
Research and Analysis
The analysis of our Values commenced by researching the number of values commonly held by organisations, with the findings being three to five. Next, a survey was completed to gauge staff and student thoughts on our Values, ranking the existing ones and identifying if there were any values that resonated strongly but were currently missing. This led to the mapping of the existing (and potentially new) Values against key strategic domains and stakeholder values. The result of this work is set out in the following table:
Our goal in this work was to distil our nine Values down to between three to five, ensuring that they truly represented the foundations of our culture and aligned the College with our key stakeholder organisations. The outcome of that work, which was led by Dr Jessica Woodroffe, Board Member and Academic Coordinator at the University of Tasmania. Borrowing directly from Dr Woodroffe’s work on the creation of our revised set of Values:
“The new proposed Values and their conceptualisation to the Scotch Oakburn College
community will be meaningful and relevant. In mapping the old Values against the new Values,
we are confident they inform, or can be included in the new Values, they are not ‘lost’. The proposed
Values also pick up on other proposed Values from the survey.”
The next step in the process, now that a revised set of Values had been created, is to define them in words that have relevance to Scotch Oakburn College. For this, we will look to our students and staff.
It has been through research, consultation, analysis and student agency that Scotch Oakburn has arrived at the five Values that will guide the growth and development of our people into the future. These Values encapsulate all that we are. Dare I say it, this project has taken commitment to the task, compassion for others’ long-held beliefs, courage to change and grow, respect for the work of those who have gone before us, and responsibility to stay true to who we are. That is, the project itself has been a litmus test of these Values, and they have proven themselves to be most worthy.