About Anne Knock

What does it take to inspire, empower and equip leaders for world where change is the only constant? Anne Knock is the Director of Development at Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL), research and innovation unit at Northern Beaches Christian School. She regularly speaks and facilitates groups in the areas of: People, Place and Pedagogy in the new paradigm Facilitating change Challenging current practice Learning space design Equipping leaders to navigate change International education context Anne is passionate about supporting and facilitating school and learning to inspire and equip young people for an uncertain, yet potentially exciting world. To contact Anne and find out more about the work of SCIL or make contact visit: scil.com.au

The Geraldton Cup: A reflection on mateship this ANZAC Day

Neil 1943This poem was written by my father in 2007. He was asked to contribute to an ANZAC commemoration service for his residential community. True to form, he preferred to write something that conveyed the mateship and strong connection amongst his friends with whom he served.

This is a true story, as I remember my father telling me about the racehorse named Maroomba. 



Neil with his grandson, Sam


Neil is coming up to his 92nd birthday, hale and hearty, all things considered. I have been meaning to share this for a few years.

I grew up listening to my father recite classic Australian ballads about the outback, bushrangers and the unique Australian character. I think I can still get most of the way through ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. This is definitely written in the same style.



The Geraldton Cup

Way back in 1943, or was it ‘44
We all had shouldered arms and Australia was ‘ay war.
The mighty second div, the best that we could boast, was quickly shipped to Geraldton to guard our western coast.

The Japs got wind that we were there and wouldn’t have a go,
They knew the second divvy boys would be a worthy foe.
We’d been training in the desert just to keep us all on course,
When Alan Heap and Charlie Roffe went to town to lease a horse.

They brought the bay mare back to camp locked in a breakdown van,
And this meant weeks of training with the help of everyman.
Charlie nominated himself, to be the horse’s jockey,
He was only five foot four, was short and rather stocky.

Bully Hayes, the blacksmith, pitched in to lend a hand,
The greatest metal bender in all the western land.
“If Maroomba doesn’t win the cup, don’t put the blame on me,
She has the finest set of shoes that you did ever see.”

Big Wal McNab was six feet two, slim and rather dapper,
With lots of strength and keenness, was selected as the strapper.
Neil Moulang from instruments was asked to be the clocker,
He, the only man in camp with a stopwatch in his locker.

Our Captain said, “Don’t tell me boys, I don’t know anything,
But I wish you all the best of luck when Maroomba has her fling.”
The serious training started, the parade ground was the track,
Maroomba showed exceptional form with Charlie on her back.
All our accurate timing, turned out to be for nought,
‘Cos what we thought was a furlong, was really ten yards short.

The fateful day at last arrived, the day that was to see,
Maroomba win the coveted cup, or despatched to the glue fact’ry.
The army lads were loaded and plonked their money down,
All set to win a motza from the bookie boys in town.

When we manned the railings just to see the nags go past,
The boys were all dejected to see Maroomba come in last.
But Charlie said, “Don’t worry boys we have another ace,
You see, we’ve listed ol’ Maroomba to run the final race.”

She did improve her placing, now she knew which way to go,
Maroomba came home second last, and still we had no dough.
There can be no recriminations, now it’s twenty zero seven,
As most of the known perpetrators are at the race track up in heaven.

Neil Moulang,
Ex 132 Bde Workshops
Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

18 April 2007


Position vacant – Change Agent: 6 characteristics required to lead change wherever you are.

Change AgentThis is an exciting time to be in education. There is a groundswell for change, that will eventually see governments and administrators stop and take notice. The innovation in school education that so many of us seek seems to be low on their policy agenda at the moment. So as a result leaders are emerging, individuals, groups and entire schools, are taking action and creating a movement.


The time for incremental, slow-moving change has passed, and now we need to step it up a pace. Leaders are restless people. They see and sense the need for change, but usually the biggest blocker is the culture that surrounds them. It can be conducive to change, or resistant. 

To change culture effectively we need to strategically position change agents in schools.

Position vacant: Change Agent

Thank you for applying to become a change agent. Before we go any further, you need to realise that being a change agent is synonymous with leadership. There are a plethora of change agent positions available. Here are a few things you need to know before applying:

Leaders change things.

Leaders are at all levels in an organisation.

Leaders are not content with the status quo

People are looking for leaders.

People will be poorly led, if that’s the only option available.

People often resist change.

Change is inspired by vision.

Change requires strategy

Change is effective when it disrupts the prevailing culture.

Change is a subject, an attitude or an environment that can polarise people. There are those who love it and those who are terrified by it and many in between who sit on a bell curve from acceptance to rejection.

Position Vacant: Change Agent

Essential Criteria for Change Agents

Only passionate, inspired and selfless individuals should apply. This is hard work, and in the initial phases, there may be little return for your effort. You will need to be:

Motivated by meaning and purpose: Being an effective change agent starts internally. You will not be successful if this is just your next step on the ladder of success. You want to do this because you know that change is essential to for growth, improvement and potential.

Positive outlook on life: You possess a can-do attitude that excites people and compels them to join you on the mission. You are known for being a glass-half-full kind of person.

Self awareness: Change agents are optimistic, but also have a good grasp on their own strengths and limitations. You need to build a team with complementary skills and talents. People with honest self-awareness attract great talent.

Courage to ask tough questions: This is not mutually exclusive with having a positive outlook. As a change agent you will not be a person who accepts the status quo. You will need to find alignment between roles and goals and develop a plan. This will mean shaking things up.

Warmth and good humour: Shaking things up and being courageous needs to be conveyed in such a way that relationships are not only maintained, but strengthened. Not everyone will accept your ideas, but that is a choice that they have made, so long as you have prioritised relationships along the way.

Authenticity: Maintaining trust and respect, through navigating difficult waters is essential. This is achieved by being real and responding in a way that models a healthy culture

Perks and conditions

Change agents can’t assume there will be any. You do it because you believe that students need an education that will better equip them for their future. You will, however, belong to a tribe of world-wide change agents.

There is no application process. Just get started and make a difference.



Ref: Dr Samual Chand - Ch 5: Change starts with me.

Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration

Charting a course for change: Is your culture the elephant in the room? (and other mixed metaphors)

Peter Drucker once famously said,  “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Culture: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society

How would you describe your school or organisation’s culture?

Positive, vibrant and exciting?

Demoralised, weary and fearful?

Or somewhere in between?

Leaders are in the process of continuous change, taking people on a journey.  As the leader you may have an inspiring strategic plan, clearly articulated mission and vision statements, and effective systems and processes in place, but unless the culture is assessed and addressed, these grand plans will come to nothing, by “breakfast”.

Your culture is the most powerful factor in change, it determines:

  • speed of change
  • receptivity for change
  • health of your people
  • impact of your vision and mission
  • effectiveness and influence in the long term

What’s floating your boat?

Sydney to HobartOne of my favourite places over summer is Nielsen Park on the harbour in Sydney. It is the vantage point for the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in December each year and I find it fascinating to watch the boats jostle for position, maintain speed and agility until the siren starts the race.

What does sailing and culture have in common?

Your boat

There is an interconnection between each of these elements but the hull is what makes it a boat, and in the same way, it’s the culture that makes or breaks any organisation. None is culture-free. Without the hull, the other parts become the accessories.

Is this still a boat?

Dr Samuel Chand* identifies the types of cultures that define an organisation and impact the ability to progress.

How would you describe your culture?

Inspiring: Sleek, fast, regatta-winning boat with prevailing winds

Accepting: Potential to do well in the regatta.

Stagnant: Becalmed and not going anywhere

Discouraging: Not a very well-maintained boat

Toxic: The boat may look really good on the outside, but is not seaworthy and actually dangerous

What do you need to do?

If Drucker’s famous statement is true, then a leader cannot ignore the prevailing culture, despite how exciting and innovative the vision and mission may be.

The place to start is under the waterline – building an environment of trust, respect and authenticity.


*Ref: Dr Samual Chand, Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration

SCIL Vision Tour 2014: World’s best museums are the epitome of personalised learning

As a child I can remember running around the old Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, where UTS is now located, flicking switches, seeing lights and mechanical things buzz. It was fun. I was the daughter of an engineer, and I think some of this rubbed off onto me. I always loved to tinker with things and play with technology.

Over the past few years when planning the SCIL Vision Tour we have made a point of not just visiting schools, but looking at the variety of places where learning occurs. This includes museums, not the dusty-old-stuffed-animal kind, but the ones where learning comes alive.NEMO

NEMO, the science centre on the harbour in Amsterdam proudly displays the sign “Forbidden not to touch”. This place provides a whole body and mind experience of science. Where else can you actually stand inside your own giant bubble?Universe

Universe, the science theme park in Sonderborg, Denmark, goes beyond hands-on, they aim for “body on” learning.

The Jorvik Viking Centre in York immerses the visitors in the viking experience and an archeological dig. It captures all the senses, there is even the smell of the era.

Great places of learning capture the hearts, minds and imagination. The Third Teacher Consultancy came up with: 79 WAYS YOU CAN USE DESIGN TO TRANSFORM TEACHING + LEARNING which includes elements that bring the museum experience to school:

#14 MULTIPLY INTELLIGENCES: Allow students time and space to choose what they want to do – their choices will illuminate their original strengths.

#54 THINK HANDS ON: Children of all ages need places where they can learn by touching, manipulating and making things with their hands

#72 PUT THEORY INTO PRACTICE; Give students spaces – studios, workshops and laboratories – where they can test ideas

and, of course…

#16 EMULATE MUSEUMS: An environment rich in evocative objects  - whether it’s a classroom or museum – trigger active learning by letting students pick what to engage with.

What if schools were like the museums where there is ‘push and pull’ learning as needed? Great museums ‘push’ information in innovative, engaging and creative ways, but also provide opportunities for learners to ‘pull’ in what they need. This is truly personalised learning.

What makes a great museum? Of course, I Googled it and found Museum Planner 

“we plan and build wonder”

The answer to my question started there. A great museum creates wonder. When we visited Danfoss Universe in Denmark, in 2011, we heard from the director about the underpinning to the learning. The science theme park grew out of the vision of the Danfoss founder Jorgensen Mads Clauson, who said,


Yes, we could lift a car!

“We need a new place to bring passion for science and technology back to our children. Danfoss Universe shall be such a place.”

Today the park is brimming with excited learners of all ages exploring all sorts of science related subjects, in a ‘body on’ way. But underpinning the fun is the theory of interest development, each layer building on the last:

Trigger situational interest

Maintain situational interest

Emerging personal interest

Maintained personal interest

The role of the great museum is to provide the trigger for wonder, that can be maintained beyond the experience, where the student wants to take if further – create the context to become lifelong learners

Great museums captivate the imagination and provide a place where passion for learning can be unleashed. They are visually stimulating and the best indicator is that we don’t want to leave.

Could schools be like that?

As educators and school designers we need to take the opportunities to see the best and most creative learning environments in the world. Not only for our own ‘body on’ experience, but to observe how young people can be interested and curious, independent of the teacher. Given the right environment and left to their own devices they will learn and explore, discover and create, and hypothesise and synthesise.

Schools have much to learn from great museums.

This October, the SCIL Vision Tour will again have a focus on museums as part of the tour. Some museums visits are planned as part of the tour, including Cite des Sciences in Paris, In Flanders Field in Ypres/leper and possibly (if itinerary allows)  forbidden-not-touch at NEMO in Amsterdam. In addition there may be time for the participants to choose to visit some of the world’s most famous ones, Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Rijksmuseum, British Museum, British Natural History Museum.IMG_1389

2 - 16 OCTOBER, 2014
Register your interest: contact info here


Leadership again: “I’ve opened the space for learning, now what?” #thingsyoushouldneversay

Imagine if the story of the stork delivering the baby was true.

When I was young, kids’ TV shows didn’t dare mention, or even allude to, the real method of conception and delivery. Instead, we saw the image of a stork delivering a baby, perhaps unsuspectingly, to the happy couple.

The Stork

“The baby’s here, now what?” Imagine that.

Prior to the arrival of our first-born, by the conventional method of course, there was much preparation for this newest family member. We made initial plans and preparation for the responsibilities ahead – bought supplies, furniture and the enormous amount of equipment that the small person apparently required.

When he arrived we muddled our way through. As time went on we adjusted our plans and expectations, however, the months of preparation were essential. This baby was going to change our lives. It definitely wasn’t a matter of ‘business as usual’ once he arrived.

Open Space Learning: From conception to inceptionPArklands

Like any great idea, plan or endeavour there is a point of conception, when the idea was first formed. I have heard anecdotal accounts of teachers arriving for the new school year, finding walls down and shared learning spaces created. It didn’t end well.

Just like prior to the arrival of a baby, there are significant preparations to be made. The role of the team/school leader is to simultaneously listen and respond to concerns and to reinforce vision and direction.

At Northern Beaches Christian School shared spaces for learning are constantly being developed. In 2008 it started with Year 7 in the Global Learning Village, 2010 with The Zone for Stage 3 and Year 8 Quest for an integration of Science and Geography. Over the past few years the idea has spread across primary, to maths, design, technology and music.Rhythm & Blues

The development of each of these spaces requires constant attention, prior to staff and students using the open space, and then continued development, even after occupancy:

From conception – the germ of the idea

1. Reinforce a positive mindset, while considering every concern

If you truly believe that opening and sharing learning spaces are the right thing, then stick with it. Listen to concerns, respond to them, be empathic and supportive, while simultaneously resolute about the decision.

2. Design the space to achieve the vision The Zone

A sledgehammer to the walls is only the first step. Unless the physical environment is carefully crafted the space will more than likely default to a modified single cell use. Name and define zones within the open space.

3. Constantly communicate the desired culture (behaviour)

Be clear on how the space will be used. Communicate it and communicate it again. Share stories and paint pictures. Spark excitement and enthusiasm. The more that the leader talks about the changes the better.

To inception – the starting point

4. Be fluid and flexible Design Studio

Once staff and students start using the space adjustments will be made. This is normal. The vision remains clear, but execution needs to be tweaked. As a leader, be involved in all these discussions. It is important to keep the vision clear.

5. Take action to ensure that behaviours don’t default to old ways

Without reinforcing the vision, culture and desired behaviours old habits can creep in. Cupboards and bookcases can become walls spaces become delineated instead of fluid zones. Communicate vision and communicate it again

Opening spaces for learning is definitely not a ‘business as usual’ activity. Like the passing of time between conception and delivery of a baby, preparations for this ‘baby’ needs to commence as early as possible. School leaders not only need to fully own the decision, but give teachers the support and encouragement for the idea to grow and mature.




Leadership Culture 201: Two steps to transforming your school

CompassTwo steps to transforming your school:

Step 1: Find your true north

Step 2: Do everything that will make Step 1 happen

Many of us agree that the historical model of school is broken and not serving the future, or even the present. Often the factory analogy of separation is used to describe the education that many of us received:oldschool

  • Separated rooms

  • Separated teachers

  • Separated classes

  • Separated furniture

  • Separated preparation and planning

This model has led to teachers as the driver, represents dependence and independence (not interdependence), one size fits all, confrontation, control and the relational tensions that often arise. Students usually become either compliant and passive vessels, or defiant and active resistors.

Many educators know that transformation is essential, collaboration is necessary and rethinking student success an imperative. We also know that it’s not a simple thing to transform a school, but perhaps distilling the magnitude of change to a few key priorities can help.

PDOur team at SCIL, the innovation centre at NBCS in Sydney, works with educators to kick-start or facilitate one or a few priorities on the journey of change. When edu-visitors come to the school I often sense they are overwhelmed by the possibilities and sometimes have difficulty articulating the impact of the experience. We notice that there can be two main responses:

  • I want to do everything

  • I can’t do anything

Over time we have refined our process and program for the day to help visitors interpret the experience and begin to articulate their next steps. Essential to this is the concept of navigating the journey and finding their own ‘true north’. What they are seeing when they come to NBCS is almost 10 years of development. It didn’t happen overnight, but under Stephen Harris’ leadership this ship is navigating toward ‘true north’.

Step 1: Find your ‘true north’

Authentic leadership requires a compass to guide and map the path ahead. Mariners know that locating true north is essential for accurate navigation. Magnetic north varies from place to place over time. To find true north it is necessary to know, but not follow, local magnetic variations. Finding your true north, rather than the magnetic north, will mean that you aren’t meandering but focussed on where you are going.

What is ‘true north’ for your students? It may be something like: To create learning culture that gives every student every opportunity to succeed.

What is ‘true north’ for your staff? It may be something like: To support and challenge educators to grow and stretch as they provide students every opportunity to succeed.

What is ‘true north’ for yourself? It may be something like: To be the leader that my team/school needs me to be for their success.

Do everything that will make Step 1 happenplectrum

Once true north is identified and success is articulated, then what? Perhaps it is gaining alignment of your community across a few important areas:

  • empowering students

  • growing staff

  • renewing parent and community mindsets

And then setting your priorities and milestones that will break down the ‘separated’ mindset:

  • Articulating the desired culture for learning, relating and leadership

  • Rethinking pedagogy that empowers the learner

  • Questioning everything that has been traditionally associated with ‘school’

  • Establishing shared language

  • Ensuring collaboration on all levels

  • Creating the physical and virtual environment to support

GatewayWhen the teams leave NBCS after their day we hope they have been given the time and space to process and develop at least one ‘next step’. Transforming the concept of school, something that is so embedded in our society, is not for the faint-hearted.

But we feel, at least, that as we grow a tribe of like-minded and committed educators we all know we are part of something very important, life-changing.


To visit Northern Beaches Christian School and find out more about what we do at SCIL visit our website 



Let’s change the way teachers learn, so we can change the way teachers teach #mim14

We’ve just concluded our fifth Making it Mobile workshop, held at Northern Beaches Christian School. Excited and passionate educators arrived from Queensland, Victoria, ACT, UK, NZ  and Sydney.

At Making it Mobile we present a professional learning experience that gives meaningful and helpful input as well as providing teams with the time and the space to play with the ideas and create something they can implement with their students in the following week. The  professional learning is presented in a physical learning environment that recreates the open spaces at NBCS. IMG_1214

The workshop is held over two days. The first day has input from our SCIL team. A keynote from Stephen Harris sets the scene for rethinking the paradigm of school, then we commence the rolling workshops, practical, hand-on input to get started or perhaps grow as practitioners. IMG_1228

Our workshops are led by teachers who have been using these ideas and practices with their own students. We want participants to be able to implement new approaches to learning, that are collaborative and engaging no matter where they are. There is a process to the workshops across the first day:

101: Blooms Gardners Matrix – how engage students and provide choice with minimum resources and low tech

201: Personalise Learning – how can you use technology/apps to create exciting learning opportunitiesIMG_1230

301: Project-Based Learning – getting started in with PBL

All the while, participants are reminded of the theme for the following day:

What will you build?

The next day teacher-teams have the time and space to play with their ideas, a very rare luxury. The participants get to work, with the NBCS team who are on hand to provide on-the-shoulder help. As I walk around I am reminded of the phrase, “learning is hard fun”, eavesdropping on deep conversations about learning.

IMG_1220 IMG_1229


The day concludes with each team providing a quick visual summary of their learning, then participating in a gallery walk as ideas are shared and critiqued.

As I spoke to one of the excited participants, she passionately described what she had learnt and the ideas she will implement into her teaching and learning program on Monday.

It is very satisfying to see educators work through the process of anticipation, excitement, struggling with idea, engaging in deep conversations and emerging with real and tangible ideas.





Leadership Culture 101: Model great #followership to build collaboration.

The culture of leadership in the 21st century is relational and collaborative. The pressure is off leaders to feel that they must have all the answers. Instead, when they work within a culture of collaboration, the process of allowing and enabling the unique suite of strengths to flourish is essential. My own team knows so much more than me, it would be foolish not to watch, listen and play to their strengths.

Great leaders also need to be great followers, this is what makes great collaboration. Group processes

Understanding team development and the role the leader plays is essential. Collaboration occurs when a group of people becomes a functioning team.

In 1965 Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the terms “forming, storming, norming, and performing” in his paper Developmental Sequence in Small Groups 

Forming: A group of people join to work together in a common cause, but they don’t necessarily know each other. There may be politeness, uncertainty, passion and excitement as the group forms. Some may hesitate, others bluster in. At this stage, it’s the leader’s role to galvanise the group and cast the vision.

Storming: The boundaries begin to be set. People start to rub against each other as working styles differ and processes are challenged. This is when it is important for each group member to find their place, learning to work with each other, rather than against. Storming is hard, but the time taken is worth the effort. The leader needs to allow this process to work through, always keeping the vision in full view.

Norming: Instead of strengths and differences being seen as a point of conflict, the team now appreciates the strengths that each person brings to the project. The leader’s role is to be the rudder, ensuring the group moves with the favourable winds, not against them

Performing: The rubber hits the road and team members take responsibility for their roles and the corporate outputs of the team. The reason ‘why’ is realised. The leader can focus on being the cheerleader and building the capacity of individual team members.

Others have added a fifth step to recognise that teams come to an end, adding ‘Adjourning’ as an opportunity to recognise and celebrate achievements.

Followership matters… for all

This is a significant shift from the command-and-control approach to leadership, where the leader directs. It is releasing, in the sense that the leader releases their grip on the project, gets them to the point of ‘performing’ and then release the team to work in ways they excel. It requires trust and submission on the part of the leader.

Barbara Kellerman in her book, The End of Leadership, questions the focus of leadership development over the past few decades. She asks,

Isn’t teaching good followership as important now as teaching good leadership?

When we consider the role of the leader in the Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing process it can be argued that the leader models the role of the good follower, by allowing the team members to flourish – individually and corporately.

Followers matter… They have always mattered, and they matter more now than before… Just as we encourage learning to lead, we should encourage learning how to follow—how to engage, how to collaborate and compromise, how to serve and support good leaders, how to challenge and even take on bad leaders.

A follower is a person who is interested in the progress or development of something. Just because we are leaders it doesn’t mean we can’t simultaneously be a follower as well. Developing skills of ‘followership’ is a highly effective way to model to your team the preferred types of behaviours and values, establishing and reinforcing the culture.





What’s in the ‘secret sauce’ of an innovative school? The SCIL story

The ZoneNorthern Beaches Christian School (NBCS), on the suburban fringe of Sydney has gained a reputation for innovation. There are many components that make this so, including, engaging learning programs, the physical spaces and places around the school, passionate and engaged students, and motivated and inspiring teachers.

For the many hundreds of educational visitors who come to the school each year these things are clearly evident. They visit NBCS hoping to learn from their experience, keen to implement ideas into their own teaching practice in their own school.

TofflerYet, what they are experiencing on any given day is the result of years of dedication to the vision to reinvent ‘school’ accompanied by a dogged determination to grow the capacity of educators with, as Toffler described the it, the ability to “learn, unlearn and relearn”.

In 2005 the principal at NBCS, Stephen Harris, began to think deeply about the impact of technology on the future of school and learning. The journey of innovation started in a couple of key ways. Firstly, he put the building blocks in place to enable online learning, and secondly,  established Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL), a ‘place’ where teacher innovation and professional learning could have expression. Each of these weren’t just good ideas, but seen as essential parts of the vision of education for the future.

As the vision and culture of NBCS was embedded and the learning spaces transformed, the school started to attract attention from across Australia and around the world. It started with educators who wanted a tour of the school, then the SCIL team shaped the innovation as professional learning packages for other educators. From 2010, SCIL began to broaden its reach, PD programs for teachers and school leaders, international study tours and executive consultations began to be developed.

Innovative teachers often feel the constraints of those who fear change, they may have great ideas but are regularly told, “No, we don’t do that here.” or “No, the government won’t let us”. The original iteration of SCIL provided a place for innovative educators at NBCS to bypass potential discouraging responses and play with their great ideas.

Professional learning can even be fun!The culture at NBCS gives permission for innovation to flourish. This is accompanied by professional learning that empowers teachers to embrace change. It is one thing to cast a big vision, and another to maintain it. On a weekly basis, all staff at NBCS participate in PD, with content and delivery sourced from the wealth of internal capacity. An important part of growing a great staff is their ability to share with and to equip colleagues. The beginning of each new school year time is set aside for whole staff PD – to cast vision and set priorities for the year.

This experience has had the added benefit of enabling the teachers to lift professionally. When visiting groups spend time talking to teachers, it is fascinating to hear them articulate and re-articulate their approaches to learning, how they use the spaces and engage with students. It is second nature for the teachers to use the language of innovation, as they are surrounded by it on a daily basis.

The secret sauce? When educators come to NBCS they often make the comment, “I thought I was coming to see buildings, and now I know it is so much more.


That “much more” is the seemingly intangible element, how the vision for an innovative school is continually cast by the principal and then lived and breathed across the school. Essential to this, however, is continual professional development that is focussed on current and future learning needs of the educators, addressing the identified priorities. The educators at NBCS have the responsibility to equip a generation of young people who are independent, engaged and passionate about making a difference to their world.

A responsibility they do not take lightly.


What does it really mean to have a culture of leadership at your school? It’s just like yoghurt.

Culture is the result of the fermentation process that gives yoghurt its unique texture and flavour. We can’t actually identify this elusive element called ‘culture’, it is just  there, otherwise it wouldn’t be yoghurt. The added fruit or flavourings may enhance, but they aren’t what make it yoghurt.

In the same way, a culture of leadership is something that runs through a school or organisation. It is evident in its “texture and flavour”. Leadership can be added like the  fruit, but it is more effective when it forms part of the whole product.

Blanchard quoteIn the last decade the nature of leadership has shifted to being the intrinsic ‘influence’ of potentially all, rather than an elite program for a few. As one of my favourite writers on leadership, Ken Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” This idea paints a picture of relationship, inspiration, collaboration and empowering. It is a far cry from the notion of “the boss”.

Growing up on a diet of American sitcoms and drama, I learnt from TV what it was to be a ‘boss’. They didn’t talk about leadership back then. The boss was male, old, grouchy, shouted, told people what to do, had a big corner office a female secretary and a view. Back in those days there were just workers and bosses, there weren’t teams, people just did what they were told.

The world was different then, ‘culture’ meant you went to the opera and ‘collaboration’ was just another word for cheating. Fear, blame, command and control drove the “boss” culture and power was vested in the few.

In the 21stC leadership can be everywhere. Leaders are in the mix and making things happen. They create the texture and flavour for change to occur. Rather than identifying a few, the opportunity to lead is available to the many, if not all.

Instead of command-and-control, what are the elements necessary for leadership today? In a survey of CEOs around the world by IBM asked about the key traits needed for success today and into the future, the top four were:

  • collaboration

  • communication

  • creativity

  • flexibility

Future Forecast, McCrindle 2014. Source: ABS

Future Forecast, McCrindle 2014. Source: ABS

These areas were identified as essential skills that CEOs actively sought in recruiting new staff. If we then recognise that our students, and our younger teachers will morph and change throughout their careers, how are we providing opportunities for them to develop these skills.

In the highly regulated school environment, with external pressures that often feel like command-and-control this can be a challenge. Nevertheless, we will not serve the rising generation unless we give them opportunities to acquire these essential skills.

We need to provide opportunities to grow leaders who are equipped for:

Purposeful collaboration: Working together as a team to achieve shared goals

Effective communication: Sharing information through whatever means necessary to inspire, encourage and effect change

Creativity in practice: Where a new and valuable idea is developed for aesthetics, for simplicity or to solve problems

Flexibility in execution: Allowing for a range of appropriate responses to a given situation

The way we design schools and then structure the learning activities directly impacts the effectiveness of a leadership culture, through:

  • Openness both in the physical space and to new ideas
  • Freedom of movement and expression
  • Teams collaborating on meaningful projects

It is important that leadership is in the mix with the culture of a school and is available to anybody. Through the opportunities that technology brings and the potential of global connectedness, young people have the ability to lead and influence like never before. Schools then, need to be the place where their leadership has the space to be nurtured and grown.