fbpx

From the Deputy Headmaster

Posted 19 November 2021
Senior School

Not everything that can be measured counts… 

When I lived in Sydney, I was introduced by a business coach to a monthly ‘mastermind’ session with local business owners. It was fascinating to visit different workplaces to see and hear how they operate. The business owners were equally interested in hearing what schools value and, in the absence of ‘profit and loss’, what schools use to define and determine their success.  

It would be easy but wrong to attribute a school’s success to quantifiable factors alone, such as the number of enrolments or a median ATAR. Yes, high numbers in these metrics may certainly be a reflection of excellent work by multiple teams of staff, but schools are not about numbers, they are about people.  

Our ‘product’ is not something inanimate like those I saw being manufactured in Sydney; our product is our people, and the ‘humanity’ in this makes any attempt to measure it not only fiendishly difficult but almost impossible. What is important in schools is culture, connection and belonging. Paying attention to these aspects of school life – what we really care about, rather than what is easily measured – is highly rewarding, and there should be no deterrent in the fact that these are not easy things to track. Whatever one pays attention to has the capacity to transform. 

We could take pride, for example, in the great number of students on stage at the musical extravaganza last Friday night – something certainly easy to measure – but this would not tell us about the depth nor richness of their experience, nor the sense of belonging that the students achieved in being part of such an impressive ensemble performance.   

You will have heard the saying, not everything that can be measured counts and not everything that counts can be measured, or maybe something similar. There is generally widespread agreement of this statement. As parents, we all love data as a form of evidence and proof that our sons are making progress, but, at the same time, we stand boldly behind the fact that there are things about our sons that cannot be quantified, such as their personality and their kindness. What we aspire to at St Peter’s College is a concerted team effort to find out the immeasurable things about every individual. 

In terms of data, we have been looking closely at student effort this year, and we have aligned merits to the stated values of the School – Truth, Respect and Service. But we are not an institution that invents algorithms to ostensibly achieve their outcomes while violating common sense, and we never will be. Do we purposefully look for trends in the data we collect? Yes. Do we look to correlate a range of data sets to develop a greater understanding of our students? Yes. But, overall, we appreciate that there is always a human behind the numbers, and one, like all of us, who needs to be understood and supported. 

Please continue to keep me updated with feedback on your son’s experience at St Peter’s College. 

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster