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Every child matters, every day at Lindisfarne

When Mr Stuart Marquardt took over as principal of Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School in 2016, he took it upon himself to restore the school to its former glory. He offers a glimpse into the leadership style he has adopted to provide a clear direction for the school.

Can you provide an overview of Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School?

Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School is an independent, Anglican co-educational grammar school that serves the southern Gold Coast, Tweed Coast, and northern NSW.

Families choose to attend Lindisfarne because of its high standards and student outcomes. Parents entrust their children to our community because of the high quality educational program complemented by a pastoral care program that nurtures personal, social, and academic wellbeing supported by the School’s values of compassion, wisdom, and respect.

We support 1944 students across our Early Learning Centre for Preschool and Kindergarten, Junior School for Years 1 to 4, Middle School for Years 5 to 8, and the Senior School for Years 9 to 12. Our structured academic program has a focus on students’ individual strengths and abilities, supported by a comprehensive co-curricular program that includes sports, studies in performing arts, and recreational activities. This combination of academic and co-curricular activities, supported by pastoral care, helps our students develop as confident, independent, and well-rounded individuals.

What is the history of the school and its philosophy to guide staff and students?

Lindisfarne began as a small Anglican Primary School in 1981 through an initiative of the rector and parishioners of St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, Tweed Heads. The facilities of the original campus at Sunshine Avenue, Tweed Heads, were progressively extended until secondary schooling was introduced in 1995. In 1996, the Secondary School relocated to its permanent site in Mahers Lane, Terranora and the Early Learning Centre at Sunshine Avenue in 1998. Central to an Anglican-based education is development of the whole child: education of heads, hearts, and hands, or mind, body, and spirit. We embrace our values of compassion, wisdom, and respect with intent.

What are you career highlights and what attracted you to the role of Principal at Lindisfarne?

My work over 11 years with Education Queensland played a pivotal role in shaping the educational leader I am today.Working on exchange with the Windsor Board of Education in Canada, early on also opened my eyes to learning around the world. Being a Foundation Head of Subschool at Sunshine Coast Grammar provided the opportunity to be part of building a school from the ground up. These skills helped when I became Headmaster of Great Southern Grammar School in WA, growing the boarding and day school communities. What attracted me to Lindisfarne was its untapped potential. We’ve built on this and the school is going from strength-to-strength.

How does Lindisfarne take steps to foster a sense of community on the school campus?

We  pride ourselves on being accessible, engaged, and visible – something I’ve learned over the years is most students and a large number of parents are not particularly interested in the quality of your strategic, curriculum or operational plans. They want to see staff at the top of the stairs or the front gate in the morning or afternoon. They want to talk with staff formally and informally.

Our staff attend various school events where we mix and mingle and help pack up too; it is important to set an example of servant leadership. Our staff are quick to join school productions and jump on the microphone at school events.

What are the school’s main priorities for the 2023 school year?

Being intentional about our Anglican identity and ethos sets an excellent platform for our work and enhances our culture. We will continue to enhance the use of data to inform teaching and learning and to build capacity in students. We are pursuing an aspirational master plan and infrastructure projects at both campuses to enhance the facilities. We worked for over 12 months to develop a meaningful Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and to engage in authentic ways with First Nations people and in closing the gap initiatives. We are building a culture of mission and service in our students, advocating that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. At the heart of this message is that we should aspire to use our gifts for the good of others. Helping students to make good decisions and good choices ‘when no one is watching’ helps build a reflective culture of personal responsibility.

How do the visual and performing arts play a role in the curriculum at Lindisfarne?

A rich visual and performing arts culture permeates across the school. We have an outstanding staff, hard working and talented students, and a very supportive school community. We live in a region where the arts are central to daily life and are the threads woven into the very fabric of the community.

There is a strong performance culture, and music, drama, dance, and visual arts are at the forefront of whole school gatherings and daily school life. Students grow enormously from creative exploration, building the capacity to go above and beyond and gaining confidence that is transferable to other areas of learning and life.

The students are creative problem solvers who bring joy into the life of our community through a deep commitment to their artistic endeavours.

What strategies do you employ, and what traits make for an effective leader in education today?

I’m proud a distributed model of leadership exists in our school. I have visibility over all aspects of our school’s operations but have trust and delegated authority within an amazing executive team. I knew early on I would need to have a capable and high performing executive team structure. I quickly implemented a sub-school leadership structure to ensure that roles and responsibilities were clear and my colleagues could have legitimate leadership autonomy for aspects of the school they were charged with.

Important messages I’m reinforcing with staff include:

– That every child matters, every day. At the heart of this is to care deeply for each of our students.

– Learning is valued in all that we do, whether it be in the classroom, beyond the classroom, across the curriculum, or beyond the school. At the heart of this is the belief that all young people can learn and all learning is important.

– Every staff member has the capacity to make an enormous difference in students’ lives and our school, regardless of their role.

– If you want young people to do remarkable things, you must first give them remarkable things to do. This is about stretching ourselves to provide a rich and responsive curriculum, a dynamic and contemporary co-curricular and service learning experience in order to stretch students and build capacity.

– At the heart of education is the education of the heart. In settings such as Lindisfarne, it’s essential to teach gratitude, ensuring our focus is on something other than what we want to get, but on what we have to give.

– Technology is a standard learning tool. It does not replace good teaching, but contributes to great teaching and learning, and access to a knowledge base unimaginable to previous generations. Let’s use it well.

How has your time at Lindisfarne influenced your leadership style?

As a large and dynamic K-12 learning community, it is important that staff have the opportunity to share their expertise and practice. Weekly staff briefings are held, and staff meet regularly throughout the term in school, subschool, faculty, year level, academic and pastoral teams. This allows staff to share best practices, discuss current contemporary issues, develop plans for the future, discuss students or areas of the school needing further support and development, and reflect on current achievements.

Staff, of course, are encouraged to share information as well through professional dialogue and collegial support. It is important for staff wellbeing that they are given an opportunity for times to gather and share socially in support of one another through staff morning teas, social club functions, and in times of celebration such as weddings, the birth of a child, or a significant career achievement and in times of grief and loss.

I’ve worked hard with the staff to develop a ‘culture of yes’. For so many years, the school had, for some reason, developed a culture of ‘No’. Staff ideas were rejected, and staff input was almost non-existent. We needed an environment where input from staff would not only be sought but valued, supported, and, as much as possible, implemented. Our achievements in giving staff voice and agency have been extraordinary.

Comprehensive co-curricular programs have been implemented, and new curriculum offerings in many areas, including Performing Arts, Technical and Applied Studies, and Science, for example been introduced. Also, our one-to-one device program developed from this culture, as did our community garden. I encourage staff to write for the newsletter, speak at conferences and forums, and share their practices with and beyond the school.

So many conversations with staff result in new ideas; it’s exciting when staff start the conversation with “I’ve been thinking about…”

What lessons could principals or aspiring education leaders learn from your experience?

When I began at Lindisfarne in 2016, it was evident the school needed to change, particularly as neighbouring schools continued to grow and flourish in supporting students in the region while Lindisfarne’s offering had narrowed and enrolments were in decline. I immediately set about implementing a significant reform agenda across the entire school. In broad terms, the school lacked clear and consistent strategic intent across the key elements of school performance outlined in Master’s School Improvement Tool (2016). Using this framework, I commenced with a large-scale ‘warts and all’ review. All stakeholders were invited to contribute to a cultural audit, with over 400 respondents, which I have used to lay the foundation for many of the reforms over the past seven years.

The outcomes from this review drove our first strategic intent and the strategies that arose from each of our strategic pillars – Achievement, Relationships, Communication, Initiatives, and Reputation. The values of Wisdom, Compassion, and Respect and the cultural drivers of Leadership, Standards, and Collaboration came from the feedback.

The school operates with a clear vision and agreed and aligned values.

My advice to educators aspiring leadership would be to involve themselves deeply in the life of the school, to continue to study and learn, build a network beyond the school, and a servant leadership mindset to the school.

Any further highlights worth mentioning?

In recent months, I have found my attention being drawn to the year 2032. This will be an exciting year in the history of Australia as the 2032 Olympic Games are held in Brisbane. The questions I find myself asking are: What will Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School be like in 2032, and how might we leverage and build on an Olympic Games being held within 100km of our school?

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