Maroubra Junction Public School Principal Focuses On Developing A Strong School Culture

‘School culture’ has been the focus area of the 2021 International Teacher Exchange program between Helen Empacher, Principal of Maroubra Junction Public School and a colleague from Alberta, Canada.

Read: Proud Maroubra Resident Dylan Parker Taking Public Service to New Heights

In an exchange done virtually with Ms Kathiana Marc of Ecole Sainte-Catherine School in Alberta, Ms Empacher shared how the culture of a school can impact relationships with key stakeholders and learning outcomes for students.

“In my current school, I would confidently say that our school culture is strong. One way of knowing this is via our annual involvement in the Tell Them From Me surveys,” Ms Empacher said.

Tell Them From Me is a self-evaluation tool for schools based on two complementary research paradigms (‘effective schools’ research and ‘Dimensions of Classroom and School Practices’). Amongst other markers of success as a school, these surveys measure the school’s abilities in the eight drivers of student learning.

“For all eight, we have graded as above state average for the last three years. This is not to say that we are without challenges where our school culture is concerned. This is why I keep this at the top of my priorities because it is this that strongly drives student learning outcomes,” she said.

Developing a Strong School Culture

Photo credit:Maroubra Junction Public School

Ms Empacher, a principal at Maroubra Junction Public School for over eight years has shared a few recommendations to Ms Marc, who was new to the position of a school principal, working in a small school in this role for just over a year.

She believes problems within schools can be resolved more readily and successes can be celebrated more authentically if relationships and communication are strong. 

“Once relationships are established, more challenging questions can be asked, for example, as trust has been built,” Ms Empacher said.

According to Ms Empacher, there are three main categories when developing or sustaining and growing a school culture:

  • Verbal – includes written and spoken, evident in things like the school motto, the school plan, a shared vision, the school’s goals and the language used by teachers when talking about school.
  • Behavioural – evident in the school’s procedures, ceremonies, rules and regulations, rewards and consequences, structures and curricula.
  • Visual – evident in the school’s symbols, uniforms and facilities.

Culture, for Ms Empacher, is the environment that surrounds people at work all of the time. It is a powerful element that shapes your work enjoyment, your work relationships and your work processes.

Lastly, Ms Empacher recommended working with key stakeholders to identify the school’s culture and to negotiate the way forward for improvement. Principals should find ways to collaborate, to have parents involved, to communicate with students about their home lives and their learning at school and to be inclusive of students at all levels of need.