Success, Pride and Motivation for all.

It is interesting watching the varying reactions of our young men as they come to the stage of the Waterford Hall to be congratulated for success whether it be in the classroom or the sporting field or community service. Our younger students enthusiastically present themselves for congratulations and proudly show their certificates to the audience. As they get older a reluctance creeps in which is understandable given the realities of adolescence, a code that says it isnt cool to succeed.

Not a new paradigm but certainly one we should challenge.

Individually they are quite proud of themselves but the last thing they are going to do is present as proud to their mates; that breaks the code. The trap for schools is to pander to this. Young men deserve to be congratulated for the success they achieve. We want them to be role models to their peers. The code needs to be challenged.

One of the measures of what a school values is what it celebrates. Our hope is that we highlight success for all our young men in all things they do. As part of our commitment to St. Pauls as a school committed to Positive Education, a distinct focus on the positive is a significant priority for us, keeping faith with the accepted thinking of Positive psychology to always be affirming much more than criticising.

We know in schools that ‘catching them doing it right’ and affirming that, as we actually target the praise for the actions,  is  a much more successful strategy with our young men than a disciplinary approach. As parents we know the strong motivating effect of praise and gratitude we direct to our children. Age makes no difference.

Our House Shield competition which is being led by our College Prefects is something we are using to motivate our young men, building on their sense of identity and pride, coupled with a healthy competitive spiruit is seeing , as each assembly occurs, is developing a more and more positive reponse . The audience is taking notice!

I have challenged our young men of St. Paul’s at the end of each assembly with the question,  “Why aren’t you up here receiving an award?” We know that the number is higher with younger students than older yet we also know that our seniors need such certificates and awards as part of a curriculum vitae they’ll require for employment and / or University / TAFE entrance .

Encouraging them to embrace positivity and recognition is something we as parents can helpo ouyr young men to do. We shouldn’t let them off the hook just because they are older.

We know that developing success is a great motivator, as much as informed feedback. That we learn as we go, motivated by small interactions that encourage our improving actions. Given we are a week or so along from Parent Teacher Student interviews now is a good time to ask our sons what has been positive for them since the PTS interviews? Praising the improvement they talk about is good but even better to praise that combined with them describing why?

Praise for praise’s sake is hollow and ineffective and as we know from the work of Carol Dweck around Growth Mindset and Praise  . we should be commending students for the processes they use – engagement, perseverance, strategies, improvement – fosters motivation, increased effort, willingness to take on new challenges, greater self-confidence, and a higher level of success.

The positivity needs to be intentional, purposeful and motivating.

God Bless,

Chris Browne

College Principal.


Why St. Paul’s? Why a Boys School?

In a very complex and dynamic educational environment it is useful to note some key characteristics of a boys’ school as compelling reasons for why a parent or a young man may choose St. Paul’s over another school or college. What is it about a boys school? Whether you are considering a school for your son for Year 7 or are reconsidering for Year 11 or 12 rest assured we are a high quality choice for your son.

St. Paul’s as a choice.

There is much written about what makes a good school and how to improve them; everyone has an opinion. What make s a good catholic school is a narower set of readings but the best of them in my exoperience is Educating Hearts – Seven Characteristics of a Good School by Anthony Maher and Bob Hanley.

Maher and Hanley.jpg

On all seven criteria I believe we present very well indeed and we hope that our families and young men can articulate that as their experience of us. However you dont hear much about this in the media. What you do hear about is results which are important but only reflect a narrow iamge of the holistic experience a school like St. Paul’s brings.

The following graphic of Risk Factors vs. Protective Factors is worth focusing on. When you look at the ‘service’ aspect which would refer to the school in this instance the college strives to be delivering well on all three aspects but of course we know we are always a work in progress and must always be working with a view to be the best of service to our young men and their families.

Risk Protective Factors


There is much research on Year 12 outcomes which point to clear gap between the achievement of boys in boys schools and boys in co-ed schools. I’ve spoken before about the perfomance of St. Paul’s by comparison with other schools in this region which bears this out. So I won’t labour the point but do ask you to please be swayed by fact not myth, folklore or old information that continues to judge unfairly a transforming school.

As parents we want the best option for our sons, not second best. We know that St. Paul’s has a higher success rate for boys at the top end than all government and Catholic schools in this region. 

Our value adding data indicates on a year to year improvement for all students across the range of ability fromn Years 9-12. The Gonski 2 report talks about such a notion as something desirable. Catholic schools through the analysis conducted by Dr John DeCourcy has been informing us of this since 2001.

To our Year 10 parents last night I spoke of the culture of Year 11 and 12 here at St. St. Paul’s with a broad curriculum and small class sizes where students are cared for and supported in their learning by a well qualified and dedicated staff who through the judicious use of technology anre supporting students to improve every day, evening, through holiday periods. There is a generosity which is admirable which quite franly you dont see in many schools.

With a developing leadership structure for our young men student voice is valued and contributes strongly to developing the culture of care and support we would expect in a catholic school with an Edmund Rice tradition. With the feast day of Blessed Edmund last weekend on 5th May,  our young men are reminded of his example of hope, that a problem can be identified and that we can step up and make a difference in our world for the betterment of others as he did, as Jesus called him to do.

Almost daily we see examples of our young men taking aprt in a rich co-curricular program with enormous pride and success. You only have to scroll through our college Facebook page to see the richness of the experience the boys have.

The care of our young men has been a hallmark of the college’s reputation for a long time. This tradition continues  and is augmented further by our membership of the Positive Education Schools Association and the development of programs drawing on the well of research around positive psychology led by Martin Seligman.

Why a Boy’s School? Beyond the academic perfomance question from Year 12 discussed above there are many compelling reasons to choose a boy’s school for our sons. Given I had my own sons educated in a catholic boys school I may be considered biased but I’m also someone driven by best evidence practice as anyone in the college or who follows my interests on Twitter.

A number of significant writers and rersearchers speak favourably of boys schools. The late great Celia Lashlie, herself a sociologist, researcher into boys schools in NZ and author of He’ll be OK. Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men, has this to say:

” I began a journey that has taught me much…left me with a strong sense of the magic about the schools where boys can just be boys and where the business of boys is the sole focus…By their very existence boys’ schools encourage a sense of pride in being male. In a world where there’s a great deal of discussion about the ansence of positive male role models and where much of the media focus is on the more negative aspects of young men, the ability of boys’ schools to provide an alternative view cannot be underestimated….The message in these schools is clear: it’s OK to be male.”

The INternational Boys School Coalition has published a list of six aspects in support of ‘Why choose a boys’ school?’ It identifies that they

  1. Understand and celebrate boys.
  2. Seek first to build good men.
  3. Know that boys develop and learn in different ways.
  4. Schools for boys teach in ways that boys learn best.
  5. Schools for boys help students discover and explore their full potential.
  6. Schools for boys foster brotherhood and lifelong friendships.

These are all aspects that St. Paul’s seeks to foster through the life of a young man in the college.

The American researcher Michael Gurian, author of a number of books on educating boys advoactes separating boys and girls on behaviour grounds; that in a co-educational context the discipline referrals of boys to girls is 10:1 which is attributed to what Dr Tim Hawkes, recently retired Headmaster of the Kings school and noted author on boys education as boys being viewed as toxic in classes because they are being boys- loud, smelly and disruptive- the toxic touich of testosterone.

From personal experience in co-educational schools, when boys are judged objectively differences disappear. The problem is they generally aren’t. Boys can articulate the inherent injustice coming out of primary schools. Boys need good teachers as Malcolm Slade in his seminal work, Listening to the Boys, points out and will flourish under such teachers.

William Pollock in his book, Real Boys, makes the point that schools need to be boy friendly and stimulating for the learnimng of boys, which St. Paul’s is.

Bringing them to a boys school like St. Paul’s allows them to be themselves, to not feel constrained, to be able to flourish. All the many different talents of our young men can be celebrated. Here we see the creative arts flourishing as a shining example of this issue. Whatever our young men aspire to be an education at St. Paul’s prepares them well for that.

As always I invite you come in and talk with me about your experince of the college. Any good school must be open to feedback and learn and plan accordingly in response. We are here for you and your son.

God Bless.

Chris Browne

College Principal