Principal's News Term 2 Week 9

Monday, 24 June 2024
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 
— 1 Samuel 16:7

We have reached the end of Semester 1, and there is much to celebrate. In the last few weeks, we have achieved in all areas of the school. This week, for example, the college is hosting the regional Chess tournament, our NAIDOC week celebrations, our Year 6 Plays and of course, our Foundation Day event.

Leadership Growth

During much of Term 2, I was on Sabbatical Leave, returning on Friday, June 14. I would like to extend my gratitude to Mr. Simon Doyle, who served as Acting Principal in my absence. Mr. Doyle exemplified visible and compassionate leadership, upholding the values that are fundamental to our wonderful Anglican school.

I also wish to acknowledge Mrs. Sue O’Connor for stepping into the role of Head of Secondary and Mr. Terry Close for acting in the Director of Student Wellbeing position. Additionally, Mrs. Erin Powell took on the responsibilities of the Year Coordinator during this period. These role adjustments provided significant leadership opportunities and facilitated professional growth for our team while I was away.

What did I learn while studying at Oxford University?

In today's rapidly changing and unpredictable environment, educational leaders face significant challenges that demand adaptive and innovative approaches. This May, I had the privilege of attending the Oxford University Strategic Leadership Programme at the esteemed Saïd Business School, aiming to gather deeper insights and strategies to tackle the complexities of leadership. The following conclusion is a quick snapshot of my takeaways.

Today's primary challenges are managing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Traditional strategic planning methods, effective in the past, now often fall short. This shift necessitates more agile and participative approaches emphasising ongoing strategic dialogue and engagement across all levels of an organisation.

Leadership requires balancing short-term demands with long-term vision. Margaret Heffernan's work on future thinking underscores the need for leaders to move beyond immediate fixes and plan for sustainable success. This involves fostering a culture of innovation and experimentation, prioritising creative freedom and resource allocation for innovative projects. Heffernan also notes that not all experimentation will yield immediate positive results.

Building and maintaining trust is another critical challenge. Colin Mayer's research indicates that trust in businesses and leadership is paramount, with higher trust levels observed in family-owned businesses or community-run organisations than in publicly traded enterprises or government agencies. Leaders must cultivate authenticity and integrity.

Effective leadership in complex environments also involves embracing uncertainty and learning from failures. Rob Poynton's approach, which emphasises "Noticing More, Letting Go, and Using Everything," encourages leaders to remain open to unexpected opportunities and learn from every situation, enhancing resilience and adaptability.

For educational institutions, leaders must address specific operational challenges such as funding models, cost and talent management, and enrolment growth. Solutions include creating alternative funding streams, creating collaborations, optimising resource use and sharing, offering innovative curriculum options, building co-curricular value, and expanding catchment areas while preserving the school’s core values and culture. In essence, leadership in today’s complex environment requires a multifaceted approach combining strategic agility, innovation, long-term vision, trust-building, and resilience. I will continue to work closely with the College Leadership Team, the College Council and with parents to ensure that Bishop Druitt College remains the educational leader on the NSW North Coast. My attached leadership mindmap links these various ideas and thought bubbles together.

CeX Community Sleep Out

CeX Community Sleepout to raise funds for Homelessness in Coffs Harbour - if you are interested in supporting, I will be sleeping out this Wednesday night at the Stadium - donations are welcome - donate by clicking here! 

Donations are welcome after the event.

The Anxious Generation

Please find below a copy of a recent article I wrote in response to the release of Jonathan Haidt’s book The Anxious Generation. I recommend this book for all parents of school-aged children.

As a school principal, I've witnessed firsthand the alarming rise in anxiety and mental health issues among our students over the past decade. Jonathan Haidt's book "The Anxious Generation" provides valuable insights into the potential causes behind this deeply concerning trend.

One area that resonates strongly with my observations is Haidt's examination of how phone-based play and excessive screen time are reshaping childhood experiences. The constant presence of digital devices has undoubtedly altered how our students interact socially, regulate their attention spans, determine sleep patterns and manage their emotions. The neuroscientific evidence Haidt presents on the impact of screen time on developing young minds is particularly worrisome, as it suggests a clear link between excessive digital exposure and heightened anxiety levels.

Another chapter that aligns with my concerns is "The Lost Art of Play." The trend toward overscheduled, structured activities and increased screen time has come at the expense of free, unstructured play – something I believe is crucial for fostering resilience, creativity, learning about risk and developing strong social-emotional skills. As Haidt argues, the lack of opportunities for children to explore the outdoors independently and engage in imaginative play may be hindering their overall development and contributing to emotional vulnerabilities.

While I appreciate the well-intentioned motivations behind many modern parenting practices, such as the desire to protect children from harm and ensure their success, Haidt's analysis highlights the potential downsides of these approaches. The culture of overprotection and the relentless pressure to achieve can inadvertently breed anxiety, inhibit emotional growth, and undermine resilience.

As a school principal, I firmly believe that we must heed Haidt's call to action and re-evaluate our cultural norms surrounding technology, play, and the proactive role parenting and schooling has. We owe it to our children to create an environment that fosters balance, meaningful relationships, and the development of crucial life skills like emotional regulation and resilience.

By implementing Haidt's practical strategies for mindful technology use, encouraging more unstructured play, and promoting a healthier perspective on success and failure, we can work towards addressing the anxiety epidemic our youth are facing. It is our responsibility to listen to research-based voices like Haidt's and make the necessary changes to support the mental wellbeing of our children.

Extra Kindy Class for 2025 class

Due to an increased demand for places in Kindy this year, we have recently decided to add another Kindy class in 2025. This decision is exciting for our community and reaffirms the positive work occurring across the campus. If you know a family that is thinking about starting their BDC journey, please encourage them to contact the college as quickly as possible for a Principal’s tour.

Year 6 plays

I had the joy of witnessing both plays presented by our Year 6 students. Our students displayed remarkable confidence and professionalism in their performances, delivering outstanding humor that made both plays highly enjoyable to watch. Thank you to our Year 6 staff and helper staff for supporting our students in their performances. 

Below are the photos from Tuesday's performance. 

Below are the photos from Wednesday's performance. 


I am delighted to announce that I have been selected as the new national chair of the Coalition of Regional Independent Schools Australia (CRISA). This prestigious role is both an honour and a significant responsibility, as CRISA is dedicated to ensuring that policymakers at the state and federal levels recognise independent schools' unique and vital contributions to rural and regional development.

CRISA is a representative group comprising independent school heads from across Australia. Our primary mission is to advocate for the interests of regional and rural independent schools, emphasising their essential role in enhancing educational opportunities, fostering community development, and contributing to the economic vitality of these areas. As the new chair, I am committed to continuing this advocacy with the same dedication and passion that have characterised CRISA's efforts since its inception.

The inaugural chair, Mr. Stephen Higgs, outgoing Executive General Manager at Ecumenical Schools Australia and former Headmaster at Ballarat Grammar School, stepped down at our most recent Annual General Meeting. Over the past three years, I have worked closely with Mr. Higgs as the NSW representative on the CRISA board. His leadership has been instrumental in shaping the coalition’s direction, and I am grateful for his mentorship and the solid foundation he has established. I aim to build on this foundation, ensuring that our collective voice remains strong and effective in influencing policy decisions that impact our schools and communities. I will continue in my current role with the college, and so daily, as parents, you will not see any marked changes. I will, however, be more active politically in this new capacity as I continue to work for fair and equitable funding arrangements for independent schools, such as ours, in the public domain.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a fantastic school holiday. It has been a quick term with only nine weeks, but as always, so much has happened. You should receive your child’s school report in the coming week. I enjoyed reading them over the last few days and I encourage you to discuss it with them and help them set some goals for the coming semester.

Nick Johnstone