Vision of Education

a. Parents as the primary educators.


"So, if we accept that parents have a role in education, and by education here we mean education beyond academic proficiency... education in values, education in our correct attitude to material goods, education in love and chastity, education in freedom and justice, education in the Faith, how important is this parental role? The Second Vatican Council in a famous phrase, describes the role as “so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it”.... It means that our success as parents is the fundamental yardstick of life; success, prestige, and material wealth cannot compensate for a failure in this task."

Gary Doherty, Chairman of PARED Address at the Opening of Redfield College February 1994

Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which everyday society needs. Vatican II, Declaration on Christian Education, 3.

As you beget children on earth, never forget that you are also begetting them for God. John Paul II, Letter to Families

Many schools today would agree that parents are the first educators in principle, but few are able to pay more than lip service because their contact with parents is minimal, superficial, or largely restricted to discussing academic progress. Some even misunderstand this term, reducing its meaning to refer to early intervention in a child’s reading, etc.

Yet, parents are the primary educators and schools should seek to give parents every support. In particular, schools have a duty to reinforce of the work of parents in passing on values and building character. We hold it to be the right of parents, except in genuinely exceptional circumstances, to set the agenda in the moral development of their own children. At Wollemi, a number of very practical approaches ensure that the College works very closely with each boy's parents, ensuring that parents are, in fact, the first educators.


b. Consistency between home and school.


In this perfect educating community the school must be an extension of the family. The most essential characteristic of any family must be love "without love, the family cannot live, grow and perfect itself as a community of persons."

Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 18

We always like best whatever comes first… and therefore youth should be kept strangers to all that is bad, and especially to things which suggest vice or hate.

Aristotle

 

Children need consistency between parents, and between home and school. Parents need to ensure that the other inputs in the lives of their children are consistent with their own messages. If they fail to do so, there is the danger, that no matter how dedicated they are, their own efforts will be undercut by the competition. Children imitate those who take an interest in them… for better or for worse. Children imitate whoever they spend time with, even in chatrooms, on videos and on MTV.

So, an essential priority in Wollemi is that the two major learning environments of home and school are in harmony. It is a parents’ right to be the decisive influence in the upbringing of their own children and Wollemi seek to uphold this right by providing an educational environment which reflects the parents’ own values through the example of staff, and in the curriculum and texts that are studied. Just as responsible parents try to give the best example they can at all times to their children, teachers also have a duty to do so. The staff at Wollemi strive to give good example, in their own professionalism and also in their wider attitudes and behaviour. Staff are selected for their capacity to provide sound role models for the students. Staff receive regular professional development to help them foster effectively the character development of each one of their students. The staff know that their personal example is important because children copy people they admire.

The peer group can be the decisive influence in the life of an adolescent and parents comment also on the value of having a peer group that is a positive reinforcement. Parents are encouraged to get to know very well the parents of their own children’s friends


c. Close Cooperation between home and school.

But corresponding to their rights, parents have a serious duty to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities.

Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio

Our aim is to create a school that works most closely with parents in the education of their own children, and the starting point of close cooperation is effective communication. Hence, Wollemi teachers are attentive to home school communication and report on academic progress on paper at the end of each term. We ask parents to attend four personal interviews with their son’s tutor each year in place of the normal brief parent teacher nights that are the norm in most schools. Further, Key Parent Functions are held each term at each level of the school, evenings which are a mix of curriculum and parenting information. We require both parents to attend at least one of these functions per term. The school has a family spirit in which each person is accepted, respected and has a unique contribution to make. Friendship between families and between teachers and families is a consequence of this solidarity.


d. Education tailored to the individual person.

Effective education is personal – education must be of the whole person. Certainly a school must be concerned about UAIs and academics, but we know that happiness is more about character than intellectual achievements. Doors will always open to a good man who has learned to offer his best. The best education is the development of the whole person: head and a heart, mind and will. Teachers of Wollemi work with parents to assist in the intellectual, moral, spiritual, social and physical development of the boys and young men entrusted to them.

Effective education is also personal as opposed to institutional. The tutorial system guarantees that the needs of the individual are understood and addressed. Teachers meet regularly with tutors to review the progress of each student in each subject. Also the enrolment numbers of the College are consciously restricted to maintain the personal emphasis. The focus is on helping each individual reach his potential.

e. Virtues as the building blocks of character.
Happiness is the reward of virtue.

Aristotle.

Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.

Pope John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis 10

Aristotle did not say, “Happiness is the reward of values”, but, “Happiness is the reward of virtue.” There is a big difference. Values education is not enough to lead a child to live a productive and happy life. Neither sentiment, ideals, nor even conviction in the deepest truths is sufficient. Values alone cannot bring happiness. Good intentions have never been enough. In addition, the systematic development of good habits is needed. Otherwise we are condemned to a life where we aspire to do good but are constantly frustrated. Values remain in the mind, no matter how sincere the conviction. But we are beings of body and soul, of matter and spirit, and therefore we need a psychology that recognises this. Virtues make us better people; in some way they change who we actually are.

Values Education Column. Education Review. April/May 2000

In Wollemi, great stress is placed on developing human virtues, or strength of character, because these virtues enable a person to be self-directing in life - to be truly free in one’s actions. Freedom is not seen as mere freedom from constraints but as a capacity to carry noble convictions into action. Too often man finds himself limited and inhibited by his own failings, ignorance or unquestioning conformity to peer group or media. Ultimately, the capacity to truly love others, to freely enter into permanent loving relationships, and to be happy, are a consequence of character with a well-rounded development of virtues. The family, where an overriding motivation is the welfare of the other members, is the environment par excellence for fostering virtue.

Essentially, virtues are good habits. We place great emphasis on sincerity and generosity as key virtues for the intellect and the will. The four cardinal virtues map out the key fields of human action: sound judgement, governing our capacities to assess situations objectively and honestly; respect and responsibility governing our interactions with others; self control or the capacity to manage our own impulses, appetites and passions; and courage, our ability to strive against external challenges in pursuit of noble goals. 

Virtues, habitual qualities of character, will provide our young people with the internal resources to overcome so many of the challenges they will face in adult life: fidelity in marriage, leadership of their peers, management of their own temperaments, even internal motivation in their studies.

The aim is to build not only nice attitudes, not only conscience, but to provide regular positive experiences of service, so that students learn the happiness of helping others and develop well-seated habits of compassion. Good intentions never put bread on a table. We are told in the Gospels, He went about doing good, and nor may it be coincidence that, even before the birth of Jesus Christ, Cicero observed, Men were brought into existence for the sake of others, that they might do one another good. The proof is always in the doing… whether you are Christian or pre Christian.

Values Education Column. Education Review November 2001

Students from Years 3-12 are involved in a wide variety of community service experiences. Theory about serving others is insufficient; young people need to develop the wherewithal to be persons of action, not nice idealists. Virtues are essentially habits of action.


f. The Tutorial System
Tutors are teachers, who apart from their classroom teaching take on an additional professional task that requires specific study and expertise. They are selected to fulfill this task according to individual preference, professional commitments, and personal suitability for working with individual students and parents. But all members of staff, whether they are tutors or not, are involved in a team approach based on the common awareness that they are educators of the whole person, above all, by their personal example of their own virtues.

Extract from “Parents for Education”

Virginia Monagle in Kappa Delta Phi Record (Fall 1993)


The personalized Tutorial System is the most distinctive feature of Wollemi. The tutors support parents in exercising their privilege and duty as primary educators. An individual tutor, from among the teachers of the school, is appointed to each student as his mentor and given the necessary training to do the job. 
The tutor meets with the boy in regular fortnightly tutorials, and meets each term with the parents in interviews to review progress and establish priorities. The focus is on leading the young person to think for himself and to work on acquiring the balanced strengths that he will need in adult life. Through his rapport and friendship with the student, the tutor provides an effective service of personal example, guidance, and advice. He helps the student develop positive habits and qualities in areas of character development such as responsibility, thoughtfulness and good use of time. A young person who has received this support throughout the years of his schooling will draw great long term benefit: he will have grown in qualities of character, he will have learned to look more objectively at issues, to better reflect on his strengths and weaknesses, and to set and monitor his own goals. 

The tutorial is also an effective reinforcement for parents. Parents comment on how helpful it is, particularly when their sons are in teenage years, to be able to rely on a trusted mentor to reinforce key values with one’s son. The tutor is ideally placed to coordinate, on behalf of the parents, the efforts of all who are contributing to the education of their son. He is able to provide objective suggestions and useful observations for both the parents and the child's teachers. Close cooperation between parents and tutor ensures success. 
The tutorial system as it operates in Wollemi is unique to the PARED Schools in Australia. As far as we know there is no other tutorial system that is one on one, for all students, and involving all parents in regular interviews, in which tutors are prepared to offer all the time that is needed to students when a student has a particular need. Clearly such a structure requires a considerable increase in staffing. Yet in these times when so much is being rediscovered about the importance of mentors for young people, and when research is showing that just one significant adult can make all the difference in the life of a young person, it is just common sense to put our emphasis in this direction. 

g. Scholastic Challenge and Hard Work

In addition to satisfying NSW Board of Studies curriculum requirements for all the Key Learning Areas, distinctive features of the Wollemi Curriculum include: 

  • The structured and systematic Spalding approach to teaching language and literacy emphasising the phonetic components of language across Primary.
  • Study of a modern language for all students Years 3-8 and a general emphasis on history studies throughout the College foster a universal outlook and cultural depth in students.
  • Honours programs for students in Years 7-10 in English, Mathematics, Science, History, Art and Music, allowing the most able students to discover new challenges.
  • An integrated approach to the personal development curriculum, delivering selected PDHPE syllabus content through PDHPE and religion classes, tutorials, and at home from parents.
  • IT facilities and curriculum integrated into studies from Year 3 onwards.
  • Ongoing studies in Catholic teaching and practice open to all students.
  • Specific qualities of character highlighted each week in each section of the College. Over time in each class, the class teachers review in a practical manner the full range of qualities that make up a well rounded personality. The emphasis in this program is to equip the students with a multiplicity of practical approaches, and to see personal development in these terms.
  • The opportunity to benefit from an ongoing and wide-ranging program of visiting expert speakers.


Virtues of work, such as diligence and industriousness, are essential in the development of maturity. Wollemi students are expected to work very hard at their studies, and to strive for excellence. In such an atmosphere of scholastic challenge, with the personal attention which is also very much a part of Wollemi, students are encouraged to live up to their responsibilities and reach their complete potential.