Quaker Values Committee of The Friends’ School

Quaker Values Committee[i]

 

 

 

The Quaker Values Committee (QVC) is comprised of Friends representing the various Regional Meetings in Australia and the Yearly Meeting Clerk. The committee reports to The Friends’ School Board of Governors to support the implementation of Quaker values, encourage and facilitate connections between the School and the broader Quaker community, and to promote and disseminate practices which might benefit the wider community. Each year the QVC visits The Friends’ School in Hobart to observe a teaching day, meet with students, teachers and others associated with the school and attend the AGM of the school Association.  The Association is the entity which owns the school and is composed of Quakers who are current or former Board members plus current and former members of the Quaker Values Committee.

 In 2022, the QVC visited from 12-15 May 2022 to observe ways in which the Arts curriculum engaged with the School’s Purpose and Concerns statement; a foundation document that informs the spiritual and teaching activities within the School. The incoming YM Presiding Clerk (Bruce Henry) and a previous Presiding Member of the Board (Julian Robertson) also joined the committee as observers. The visit included a presentation by the Arts faculty, observation of drama, music, visual art classes and performances across the School, attendance at Gatherings in Morris (Kinder through Year 6), the High School and Clemes (Years 11 & 12), attendance at Board meetings and shared worship with Tasmanian Friends on Sunday morning. Staff members also reported to the committee on the Social and Emotional Learning program, the Reconciliation Action Plan, and the manner in which Gatherings are held for children of various ages across the school.

Friends’ Primary School students in a Gathering in the Hobart Meeting House

Observations

Gatherings are rich experiences for students and staff. Each Quaker Advisor (Jess Dundas, Lou Giudici, Maddy Walker) has brought their experience as Friends and as educators to the organisation of Gatherings so that the students are able to engage as fully as possible with a structured meeting for worship in a way that fits with their developmental needs.

Staff spoke about the impacts that COVID restrictions have placed on face-to-face Gatherings including moving to an outside space in warmer weather and to the Farrall Centre as it got colder. These adaptations appear to have had some unexpected benefits for high school students who have felt able to sit more deeply in silence at the Farrall Centre because they haven’t been distracted by eye contact from peers across the circle.

Students reported that they feel supported and respected by their teachers. QVC witnessed numerous instances where teachers modelled equity, empathy and trust in their classrooms allowing students to feel safe enough to open up with each other in respectful and appropriate ways.

 

Students demonstrated independent learning practices while also encouraging their peers to try new things and move beyond their ‘comfort zones’. We heard the ways that The Friends’ School is responding with sensitivity to the wellbeing and mental health needs of young people. We note that this has been exacerbated by COVID and that some age groups have been especially impacted.

We also heard about the range of ways that the School supports students who are experiencing a change in their gender identity and/or sexuality. We understand that each person and situation is unique requiring great sensitivity from the school when working with students and their families.

The Friends’ School Board is well into their recruitment process for a new principal and it has become clear that restrictive rules set by the Federal Education and Immigration departments may prevent a suitable Quaker educator from applying. The Board is considering structures and support for a non-Quaker principal if this eventuates. The QVC recognises that The Friends’ School has done a lot of work over the past few years to embed Quaker values into the policies and processes of the School, and that this provides a good foundation for any incoming Principal. The QVC recognises that we have a role in supporting the Board as they work through the logistical challenges of appointing the next principal. In particular, we can assist with communication between AYM and The Friends’ School  and also in the discernment of ways that a Quaker presence might be sustained in the leadership group without a Quaker in the role as Principal.

Commendations

We acknowledge the high-quality teaching practices across the school that demonstrate respect and care for each child and recognise ‘that of God’ in each person. We are grateful for the ongoing process of aligning the curriculum with the Purpose and Concerns statement. This document expresses our Quaker Values in a practical way and clearly guides the work that teachers and administrators are doing. We were moved to witness Gatherings that were carefully planned to fit with the developmental and spiritual needs of each year group. We thank the Quaker Advisors for their diligence and sensitivity in planning these events, especially during the past two years of COVID restrictions.

Recommendations

We ask that the Quaker Advisors share information and resources about planning Gatherings for children and young people with Regional Meetings around Australia. We feel that families and Children’s Meetings would benefit from access to these resources and ideas, especially at this time when there are so few young people engaged with Meetings. We suggest that QVC members consider visiting the School for longer periods of time as Friends in Residence. We propose that the QVC meet quarterly for at least the next 12 months to maintain a sense of energy in the committee and to more actively support the school at this time of leadership transition.

The Friends’ School  Purpose and Concerns

The Friends’ School is a coeducational Quaker school based on fundamental values such as the intrinsic worth of each person, the recognition of ‘that of God’ in everyone, the desirability of simplicity and the need to establish peace and justice.

As a learning community, we are concerned for the academic, cultural, physical, social, emotional and spiritual development of each person in our care.

We seek to help our students develop as people who will think clearly, act with integrity, make decisions for themselves, be sensitive to the needs of others and the environment, be strong in service and hold a global perspective.

We believe that these aims can best be achieved with the active support of all members of our School community.

 

[1] Quaker Values Committee of the Friends’ School

Mary Beadle (TRM)
Tracy Bourne (CRM) – convenor
Tom Dundas (TRM)
David Edmiston (TRM)
Bruce Henry (Presiding Clerk AYM – incoming)
Liz Field (NSWRM)
Nelson File (Principal)
Oliver Lovell (VRM)
Christine Venner-Westerway (QRM) – replacing John Beattie
Karen Wilson (TRM)
Ann Zubrick (Presiding Clerk AYM – outgoing)

 

 

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