Anglican Identity on the agenda in Canberra

Towards the end of each academic year, our College, in conjunction with MMG Education, conducts a comprehensive survey of Year 2, 5, 7, 10 and 12 parents and caregivers and Year 12 students. I understand a number of other Anglican schools around Australia survey their parents each year as well.

The feedback we get from these surveys is extremely useful in guiding our operational and strategic direction. The data is thoroughly reviewed by the College’s management and summaries and trends are provided to staff and the College Board.

One of the questions we always ask is: “Why did you choose Radford College for your child?” A range of reasons are given, and parents rate them in order of importance to them. One of the reasons that always rates as “not at all important” or “of little importance” is that Radford is an Anglican School.

In many respects this response should not be surprising given the growing secular nature of society and the fact that Radford, like many other Anglican schools is very inclusive, especially in terms of enrolments. We are proud to accept students of any faith or even no faith. All our students are valued whatever their background, socio-economic status, or abilities. We do say, however, that all students must attend Chapel services and must take Religious and Values Education (RaVE) classes. We do not expect all students to actively worship in Chapel, but they do have to be in attendance for duty of care reasons.

Each year when I receive the information from the surveys and look at the responses to the question about why parents choose Radford, I have routinely wondered if that same question was asked in a Catholic school, whether the response about religion would be as low. Having worked in Catholic schools, I doubt it would. They tend to be more insistent on families adopting the Catholic faith and values and are overt about the importance of religion in their schools. I asked MMG if they could do a comparison and whereas less than half of our parents cited “an Anglican school” as a reason for choosing Radford, more than three-quarters of all Catholic school parents they survey nationally cited “a Catholic school” as a reason for their choice.

Since its foundation, Radford’s Anglican values and tradition have been an integral facet of the College. As has been well-documented, the College was established in the early 1980s to provide an Anglican school in Canberra’s north, in addition to the other two, well-established Anglican schools (Canberra Grammar School and Canberra Girls Grammar School) on the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin. At the time, the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn was keen to have a greater presence in the expanding nation’s capital and wanting more young people to have exposure to the Anglican faith.

Radford’s Anglican values and traditions continue to be a very important part of our school and are at the heart of the decisions we make and the actions we take. They shape the school we are today and have certainly influenced Radford’s evolution over the past 35 years. Given the importance of our Anglicanism, it was decided some months ago to conduct an Anglican Identity workshop at Radford over two days at the beginning of this year, to coincide with the start of the strategic planning process. The aim of the workshop was to allow us an opportunity to reflect on the things we do that make us an Anglican school – the rituals, the events, prayer opportunities, and religious studies – to name just a few. We wanted to be able to identify those things that we should continue to do, determine whether our Anglican ethos was prominent enough or whether we needed to do more, and re-visit our Ethos Statement to ensure it reflected our agreed values.

The two-day workshop in mid-February was facilitated by The Reverend Dr Daniel Heischman, Executive Director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools in the USA, who was visiting Australia to work with a number of other Anglican school groups. The first day involved staff (Principals, Chaplains and RaVE teachers) from other schools in the Diocese, while the second day was devoted purely to Radford staff and Board members.

Reverend Dan is a very experienced facilitator, having worked with many Anglican schools around the world. His presentation on the first day centred on what he considers to the main pillars of Anglican identity: faith, reason, worship, inclusivity, and service. He challenged each of the schools to determine whether these elements are practiced regularly, or whether more needs to be done at the school level. He also presented a number of real-life scenarios (situations that had arisen in his American schools) that may challenge us in the future. The second day allowed Radford staff to continue to reflect on our practices and record and document discussions.

By Fiona Godfrey, Principal | Radford College, ACT