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Character and Well-Being Development at Prince Alfred College.

Author: Dr. John Kinniburgh. PAC Head of Secondary School & Deputy Headmaster.

Given the challenges relating to mental health, academic pressures, social engagement and personal healthy, it is certainly not easy being a young person today. As a result, few would contest the notion that the role of a contemporary independent school is to equip young people with the skills to succeed in a world that is complicated, unpredictable and challenging, even for the most able.

At Prince Alfred College our belief is that a child’s education should focus on developing the holistic needs of the individual and the skills that they need to thrive, and ultimately be successful in life. We want all boys who attend Princes to extend themselves and to develop the confidence to judge risk, explore the unknown and have the courage to persist with an idea that just might make a difference to themselves and others. It is also important for boys to be self-reflective about moving beyond their comfort zone and extending themselves.

A core underpinning of a boy’s education at Prince Alfred College is to focus on the development of character and this is reflected in our core beliefs that guide our actions as a school. These values outline our intent and desire to develop ‘Princes Men’; men who know how to act ethically, and that doing so for the right reasons is essential if they are to become autonomous and successful. We believe this approach prepares them to respond well and appropriately when faced with challenges, be able to live, cooperate and learn with others, and perform in whatever area they choose. By focusing on these core beliefs and the notion of character in all aspects of school life, we can help our young Princes Men to be more aware of what it takes to flourish in life and regulate their own wellbeing. This is a key focus for us and is part of the broader narrative that focuses on preparing boys to flourish in life.

We understand boys and we have a strong sense of what parents hope for their sons as well including being independent, feeling secure and supported as an individual, and being able to respond well to challenging situations. Boys need to show resilience and learn from their mistakes, develop a moral and social conscience that enables them to make a positive, and valuable contribution to society in the future. We encourage our boys to act in accordance with one’s deeply held values that contribute to the greater good via experiences that benefit the individual.

Our emphasis is on building men  of character and our expectation is that our Princes Men know and model key virtues including gratitude, courage, integrity and wisdom. These are some of the foundational components that underpin the ‘Princes Man’ and when practiced and challenged each day, they can help our young men to flourish as human beings.

Character is, however, both ‘caught’ and ‘taught’ at Princes. It is caught through the interactions with all students and in the language, that we use with them. It is also ‘taught’ through our ‘Princes Man Program’, which is an explicitly delivered wellbeing course that all students in Years 7 to 12 undertake during timetabled lessons. The program is one aspect of the broader Pastoral Care offering at the College and this year it has been re-developed to focus on the explicit teaching of virtues; virtues that help our young men to be ‘of good character’.

The Princes Man Program is an inclusive model as every boy is different and their own journey is personal, as they seek to shape their experiences now and in the future. Each tutor at the College spends one lesson per week delivering the course and the timing of this lesson is the same for the whole school, irrespective of the year level. Tutors are encouraged to adapt and modify their approach to suit their own pedagogical style and the needs of the students in their tutor group. Each year level follows a specific  curriculum overseen by the Year Level Coordinator under the direction of the Dean of Students and Head of Secondary School. Each lesson is grouped under four wellbeing themes:

1 Character and Manhood

2 Health Safety and Risk

3 Learning Performance

4 Connections and Community

The development of the ‘Princes Man’ is a core focus for Prince Alfred College and this has always been a priority throughout the College’s history. What is unique today is that we are actively teaching boys about how to be a young man ‘of good character’. We believe that this can be achieved via a taught wellbeing curriculum underpinned by a virtues-based character education, and enhanced through various pastoral, academic and co-curricular experiences.  Sewing these seeds through this approach helps our young  men learn the skills to flourish in life. This includes being able to regulate their own emotions, be independent, respond to challenges and manage their own wellbeing. This is a life-long journey but one that is essential to develop Princes Men who have the qualities to accept challenges in life, perform at his best and contribute to a cause larger than himself.

Dr. John Kinniburgh
Head of Secondary School & Deputy Headmaster.

 

 

Thanking Scholarship Donors

Author: David Cornish, Executive Officer, Prince Alfred College Foundation.

For a decade the College’s Foundation has operated the PAC Foundation Scholarship Fund.  This fund is the vehicle for philanthropic donations, and which are used exclusively to provide scholarships to boys who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to attend the College.  These scholarships are in addition to those offered by the College.

Annually all donors to the Scholarship Fund are invited to a morning tea at the College, where they enjoy the opportunity to meet with recipients, the Headmaster, and President of the PAC Foundation.  It is a pleasure to see the students and donors interact, and they often have common links which ensures the conversation flows freely.

Formalities are brief.  Firstly, the Headmaster provides an overview of the College’s scholarship program.  He is followed by a recipient who gives a personal insight into the meaning of receiving a scholarship, what they are achieving at the College, and their aspirations for the future.  The Foundation President concludes the event with his perspective on being involved in the delivery of the Fund’s scholarship program.

Philanthropy at Prince Alfred College for Scholarships has grown exponentially over the last decade. This growth, combined with seeing students prosper and the enjoyment donors receive from seeing their gifts at work, has been the highlight of my professional career in philanthropy at Prince Alfred College.

My personal giving, and in time my bequest, will go to the PAC Foundation Scholarship Fund.  I invite you to join me in helping to provide a life changing opportunity for a young man.

David Cornish
Executive Officer
PAC Foundation, Prince Alfred College.

Remembering our Philanthropists

Author: David Cornish, Executive Officer, Prince Alfred College Foundation.

Prince Alfred College was established 150 years ago through philanthropy; men and women with the shared vision of a Methodist school for boys. Fifteen decades later, the College continues to enjoy strong support in its mission and thanks its community, for showing their faith through a philanthropic gift.

However, in the last few months I have been saddened by the deaths of several major donors to the College, men and women I’ve been privileged to know and to work with in furthering their philanthropic visions. Let me tell you about them.

Two years ago Murray Evens (1939-40), established the Murray Evens Scholarship for an all-round achiever and was pleased that the first recipient commenced at the College this year.  Murray was the grand age of 94 at his death in March.

Jean Lang, who died in May aged nearly 98, was a member of the well-known Davey family and wife of Jim Lang (1927-33), in whose memory she had recently established the Jim Lang Scholarship.  Jean also presented the College, in 2017, with a fine painting of Victor Harbor by Sir William Ashton (1889-97).

I was also saddened by the death of Marjorie ‘Spook’ Hassell aged 98 in June. Mrs Hassell, established some years ago, the Colin Hassell Scholarship, in memory of her husband Colin Hassell AO (1919-28). Since its inception, five boys have benefited from her Scholarship.

I also pay tribute to Peter McBride (1935-42), who died two weeks ago and would have turned 93 this month.  Peter gave generously to the RED Centre project, and dedicated his gift in memory of his brother Keith (1927-35), who was killed on active service in the RAAF in North Africa during World War II.  Peter also strongly supported the College’s vision of a new boarding house and gave a significant gift towards its construction. I was proud to speak about his Prince Alfred College links, at his memorial service.
(Photograph from L-R: Peter McBride, Marjorie Hassell, Jean Lang and Murray Evens).

I give thanks for the lives and generosity to Prince Alfred College of Murray, Jean, Marjorie and Peter.

Fac Fortia et Patera.

David Cornish
Executive Officer, Prince Alfred College Foundation.
Prince Alfred College

Single sex schools, not disappearing.

Single sex schools, not disappearing.

Author: Bradley Fenner, Headmaster, Prince Alfred College.

In the February issue of Education Review, I was interested to read in the table of contents of an article titled “The end of segregation: Research shows single-sex schools won’t exist by 2035”. As Head of a single sex school, this came as news to me. I was immediately reminded of Mark Twain’s famous comment after his obituary was mistakenly published: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Turning to the article itself, I noted that the provocative sub-title had been softened to a question: “Are we seeing the last of single-sex schools?” I would suggest the answer to that is a resounding “No”.

I was interested to note the references within the article to the ACER analysis of NAPLAN data, which was released late last year. ACER presenters who reported on the data at the Regional Conference of the International Boys’ Schools Coalition, held at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide in September 2017, painted a different picture from the one presented in the article. In fact, the data they presented showed that single sex schools outperformed co-educational schools in both reading and numeracy at Years 3, 5 and 7.

The reading scores of single-sex students did not “decline” in comparison to those at coeducational schools, as reported in the article. The coeducational students improved in reading at a slightly faster rate than the single sex schools, but the results still remained well behind their counterparts in single sex schools.

Moreover, the suggestion that ABS statistics have tracked a “steady decrease in independent same-sex secondary school enrolments since 1985” is also misleading. The statistics actually tracked the percentageof students in independent schools who are in same-sex schools during this period. The last 30 years have of course seen a significant growth in the number of coeducational independent schools, which has led to a decline in the percentage in single-sex schools.

Yes, there has been a small number of single sex schools during that period who have gone coeducational, but there are many more schools which have no intention of doing so. Moreover, there are many single sex schools that are growing, or full, and achieving outstanding educational outcomes with their students, including some of the highest-performing schools in the country.

One of the things I find puzzling is that proponents of co-educational schooling often seem to have trouble accepting that there might be a place for single sex schools. I do not see the same views expressed by those in single sex schools, who invariably see an important place for coeducational schools as well. Moreover, what a terrible thing it would be for education in this country if all our schools were the same, even in being coeducational.

I have been Head of three schools: a coeducational school, a hybrid school which was coeducational at senior levels, and now a boys’ school. I have seen students who definitely belong in coeducational schools and I have seen other students who have thrived in the single sex environment.  As I always advise parents looking at schools, what is most important is to find a school that is the right fit for parent and child.

Most people involved in education are aware that girls are outperforming boys in various aspects of education. In Year 12 completion, Year 12 results, university entrance and university completion, we see females in advance of males. Moreover, with most students being educated in co-educational institutions, the genders are receiving the same inputs, but are achieving different outcomes.

There is an increasing body of research indicating that overall, there are differences in the ways that boys and girls learn and perform academically, connected in part with the different rates of development that we see overall amongst boys and girls.  This then provides some basis for treating boys and girls differently to achieve better overall outcomes.

Moreover, I do not believe it is a coincidence that boys’ schools achieve some of the best results for boys.  The vast majority of the boys who come to our school do so from co-educational schools. We regularly hear from prospective parents that they are seeking an educational environment that understands and caters for boys, as they feel that has not been a focus in their co-educational school.

I also believe the lack of attention to the differential in boys’ and girls’ performance is a major shortcoming in current educational policy and theory.  I am currently experiencing considerable difficulty in gaining accurate data from those responsible for the South Australian Certificate of Education about the relative performance of boys and girls in Year 12.  There appears to be a reluctance to acknowledge, research and address these issues.

As the Head of a boys’ school, regardless of the achievements of our own students, I believe there is a need for advocacy for boys overall, who have emerged in recent years as disadvantaged educationally.  I believe there is an important role for single sex schools of both genders and I look forward to them continuing to flourish in the years ahead, as I firmly believe they will.

Bradley Fenner
Headmaster Prince Alfred College

Reading – Knowledge Tests in Disguise.

Author: Ben Evans, Director of Teaching and Learning, Prince Alfred College.

“Reading – Knowledge Tests in Disguise.” – This title is from the cognitive psychologist, Daniel Willingham. He does for edu-soundbites what Oscar Wilde did for epigrams and witticisms. The quote in full is: “reading tests are knowledge tests in disguise” and I first came across the line in E D Hirsch’s book Why Knowledge Matters, presented as an argument against the existence of a ‘main-idea finding’ skill. The point is that to derive genuine meaning from reading, one needs a canon of specific background knowledge, able to be accessed in order to present oneself as a good reader. When it comes to reading tests, children appear better readers when the topic they are reading about is familiar.

Perhaps this is unsurprising, and imagine the frustration one would feel reading a book where you did not possess the knowledge the writer had assumed. All text contains some assumed knowledge – it wouldn’t help the flow of a novel if the author needed to break from narrative to explain that Moscow is a city in Russia, or that a frigate is a warship.

We have introduced ‘tutor group reading’ this year at Prince Alfred College, across all Year levels. The list of titles across Years 7 to 10 are listed here: It is interesting to note where success has occurred. Several of the books have boys captivated, with The GiverMaggot Moon and A Monster Calls being standout favourites. The language is simple in The Giver, and there’s very little background knowledge required to give context to the story. The story is told from the point of view of children, and without giving too much away, one needs to have an appreciation of colour, memory, pain, basic societal structures etc. It is safe to say that most children by the age of 13 will be familiar with these concepts without having been taught them explicitly. The language in A Fortunate Life is even simpler, but without some knowledge of Australian geography, the pioneer life in the early Twentieth Century and Australian involvement in World War I, a certain richness of the book is lost.

In Year 9, The Fight has presented the greatest challenge. I think I knew this would be the case. For those unfamiliar, it tells the story of The Rumble in the Jungle – Ali vs Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974. The book delves into some Bantu philosophy too, and I’d be surprised if any boy had come across the central tenets here. Putting this to one side, and having re-read the book recently, I made a list of the characters one needs to know before being able to glean depth understanding of what made the fight so important:

  1. Muhammad Ali
  2. George Foreman
  3. Joe Frazier
  4. Don King
  5. Ernest Hemingway
  6. Hunter S Thompson
  7. Patrice Lumumba
  8. Mobutu Sese Seko
  9. Joseph Conrad
  10. King Leopold II of Belgium

Without some knowledge of these people – who they were, what they did and why this is relevant – one is only able to read the book as a story of a heavyweight boxing contest at best. The book is reduced to an exercise in waiting for the fight to begin, and then seeing who gets knocked out. No deeper meaning is possible; enjoyment is limited and replaced with frustration, akin to listening to a person telling a story about a film you haven’t seen. There may be snippets of sense to grasp, but most of the time you feel like the only person in the conversation who doesn’t get the joke.

If asked to justify why this text was chosen, I was keen to see if we could instil a sense of curiosity amongst the boys – the exotic names of places such as Kinshasa or Nsele, the rhythmic language of Ali, the names of former heavyweights. Even if one needs to halt the story every few pages, the opportunity to veer off down less-trodden paths (Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now being obvious diversions) is one to be embraced.

Knowledge begets knowledge, and every new character or situation can be a springboard from which to dive into a different world. Whether this happens will become apparent in time, but presenting something that all boys will relish suggests we are pandering to pre-developed interests. A more ambitious (if higher risk approach) will mean that some need to pedal quite hard to keep up, but the views will be all the more spectacular once the summit is reached.

Ben Evans
Director of Teaching and Learning, Prince Alfred College.

 

The key advantage for the boarding pupil is time: there is so much of it! Boarders benefit from 24/7 access.

Author: Ben Evans (Director of Teaching and Learning).

Schools are institutions functioning not as static monoliths, but as organic, living, breathing, developing bodies. All Schools rely on strong communities existing within their walls, and these communities are interconnected – through academic subjects, musical ensembles, sports teams, drama troupes, clubs, societies and friendships. Every boy should feel the benefit of being part of several communities. They find their place somewhere; they are a single point in a complex Venn diagram, and in this way, they make their own unique mark.

One of the most important communities, and one linked to all others, is the School’s Boarding Community. Most of my teaching career has been spent in Schools that are predominantly Boarding, and the ethos of these Schools places boarding at the very heart of the community. Boarding is more than just a part of one’s life; for 38 weeks of the year, it is one’s life, and the natural overlap between the life of the boy and the life of the School is one to be cherished. There is no ‘end’ to the School day, there is simply the rhythm of the day, with its ups and downs, its pressure points and down-time. Life does not exist in seven hour blocks of time and neither should it; the day’s flow for a boarding pupil displays a far more relaxed amplitude.

The key advantage for the boarding pupil is time: there is so much of it. Access to teachers, technology, equipment, the library and other like-minded pupils means that individual learning and personal development can occur at any time during a 24-hour period. The ‘official’ teaching time is common to all, but the extra opportunities for those in the boarding community are palpable – all one needs to do is avail oneself of those opportunities and the educational experience is much richer for it.

Many of the truest friendships I know have been developed through time spent together as boarding pupils during one’s formative years, and as we change, we rarely remain on ‘parallel lines’ with those around us. Some people we naturally gravitate towards, and the positive influence of strong friendships on academic achievement should never be overlooked. True friends will generally spur you on to greater things, and will delight in your success. True friendships are developed and nurtured over time, and when one spends up to 24 hours in another’s company, we have all the time in the world.

The Princes Man Program: a virtues-based approach to the development of character and wellbeing.

Author: John C. Kinniburgh (Head of Secondary School & Deputy Headmaster).

As a parent of three young children (aged 5, 7 & 9) commencing their journey through school life, I am obviously concerned that they make the most of their time at school. Learning the foundational knowledge and skills that will enable them to fulfil their potential is certainly a priority that resonates with my wife and me, and I’m sure with all parents. Most importantly, however, I am concerned that my children are equipped with the skills to succeed in a world that is complicated, unpredictable and challenging, even for the most able.

There are already enough issues facing young people today without them having to worry about whether to attend university or have a gap year, what jobs might suit them, buying a house, protecting the environment. Concerns about adolescent mental health, academic expectations, social acceptance, personal health and cyber safety are just some of the challenges that students face today and not just at school. It certainly isn’t easy growing up as a young person in the 21st century.

Belonging to a school is a deeply formative experience for all children and the quality of the individual that they will become is greatly influenced by the experiences that they have whilst at school. I fundamentally believe that a child’s education should focus on developing the holistic needs of the individual and the skills that they need to thrive, and ultimately be successful in life. I certainly want my children to be independent, feel secure and supported as an individual, and respond well to challenging situations. I also want them to show resilience and learn from their mistakes, to develop a moral and social conscience that enables them to make a positive, and valuable contribution to society in the future.

Key to achieving the development of the whole child is an effective partnership between all key players involved – the child, the parents, and the school. All must play their part and be aligned in their belief that all this is possible. If we are successful in achieving these outcomes, it is possible to help our children develop their own understanding of what is excellent in all domains of human endeavour – and in turn to develop their true purpose in life both at school and beyond.

Prince Alfred College is an environment in which we want boys to extend themselves. We want our boys to develop the confidence to risk error, explore the unknown and have the courage to persist with an idea that just might make a difference to themselves and others. It is importantfor boys to be self-reflective, to recognise their motivations for, and benefitsgained, bymoving beyond their comfort zone and extending themselves. We should never be satisfied with mediocrity but instead strive to be achieve our best in all endeavours.

The motto of Gordonstoun School in northern Scotland, which was founded by the German educator Kurt Hahn in the 1930s, is ‘Plus est en vous’, which means literally, ‘More is in you.’ Those at Gordonstoun usually translate it more loosely, but more expressively, as ‘There is more in you than you think’. It is our desire that all our young Princes Men take intellectual risks by exploring and asking, ‘what if?’ questions; that they all challenge themselves in a co-curricular setting to learn new skills to be better athletes, a better musician, a better chess player; to support each other, show kindness to others, to respect all and be a good person.

A core underpinning of a boy’s education at Prince Alfred College is therefore to focus on the development of character and this is reflected in our core beliefs that guide our actions as a school:

Our goal is to nurture and develop Princes Men.

Men who know who they are, work hard and value their roles and contributions.

And at the same time, to develop men with kindness, who care and support others.

Men with empathy, humility and a respect for diversity, spirituality and the beliefs of others.

Men who form strong networks and enduring relationships.

Men with a sense of duty, honour and integrity. Men with courage and emotional strength.

Men with a good sense of humour, confidence and self-reliance. Men with purpose and a capacity to contribute to a better world.

Prince Alfred College Core Beliefs (Strategic Plan 2016)

Focusing on these beliefs provides a mechanism through which our boys learn how to act ethically and that doing so for the right reasons is essential if they are to become independent, resilient and successful. This prepares them to be able to respond well and appropriately when faced with challenges, be able to live, cooperate and learn with others, and perform in whatever area they choose. By focusing on the College core beliefs and the notion of character in all aspects of school life, we can help our young Princes Men to be more attuned to what it takes to truly flourish in life,

Few would argue that a focus on student wellbeing is one of the most important priorities facing a school today. Our College appreciates each child is unique with individual needs, potential, limitations, circumstances, feelings, opportunities and expectations. Our philosophy centres on the child as an individual and in developing the maximum all-round potential that is inherent in every boy. Being clear in our own understanding of wellbeing and how we can provide a transformative experience in which a boy can acquire the skills for long term happiness and fulfilment, is extremely important in implementing this philosophy

In a 2008 report from the UK Government Office for Science, The Foresight Report, Wellbeing is defined as:

‘…. a dynamic state, in which the individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others, and contribute to their community. It is enhanced when an individual is able to fulfil their personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose in their society.’

UK Government Office for Science (2008)

This definition resonates with our own philosophy of service to others and which places a strong emphasis on not only the development of a student’s potential, but the skills that will allow them to contribute to others and the world around them. In a contemporary educational setting, the notion of wellbeing can and should be situated within the broader narrative of preparing boys for life beyond school and equipping them to flourish in life, a view supported by John White, author of Exploring Well-Being in Schools: A Guide to Making Children’s Lives More Fulfilling, states:

‘Education for wellbeing involves preparing children for a life of autonomous, whole-hearted and successful engagement in worthwhile activities and relationships.’
John White (2011)

Societal perceptions of what promotes a state of wellbeing, however, vary greatly with some associating the notion with activities such as aroma therapy, herbal teas and mud baths. A glass of wine in front of a fire on a cool winter’s evening will certainly strike a chord with many including me! Whilst each of these have their place, wellbeing is of course a much richer concept that relates specifically to an individual’s experiences and how they function.

There are largely two conceptions of wellbeing that revolve around two distinct, but related philosophies:

  1. Hedonism
  2. Eudaimonism

A hedonic view of wellbeing associates wellbeing with pleasure and happiness, and focuses on subjectively determined mental states. A eudaimonic view of wellbeing on the other hand focuses on self-realisation, the extent to which a person is fully functioning, acting in accordance with one’s deeply held values and contributing to the greater good via experiences that are objectively good for the person. Eudaimonic theorists attest that many desired outcomes that are pleasurable are not necessarily good for the individual and therefore do not promote wellbeing in the long term.

To illustrate this, consider the differences between dining at a fine restaurant and participating in the ‘Tour Down Under’ cycle race. Both activities are likely to yield similar hedonistic qualities, for example the experience of enjoyment and pleasure. The experience of dining in a restaurant provides physical pleasure that will dissipate in the short-term (and at its worst be replaced by guilt of overindulgence). It is likely, however, that taking part in a cycle race would provide an individual with the opportunity to achieve personal growth, self-development and feelings of self-confidence and achievement. This activity is inherently good for the individual and associated with enduring wellbeing

For many students, success (or happiness) is likely to be measured by the quality of the job they will one day have, the amount of money they earn or the type of house they will one day live in. This is a rather limited concept of happiness that is based on hedonism. Careful distinction must be made with the things that make us feel nice – having a good house, nice car, quality clothes – and the deeper, more important aspects of the way we live life; the view of the eudaimonists.

Eudaimonists believe that happiness and wellbeing comes from living well and that it does not come as an end-point or when one meets certain criteria. This is not a new concept –  the Greek Philosopher Aristotle argued that true happiness is achieved by leading a virtuous life because it is the right thing to do and that realising human potential is the ultimate human objective. Many of our modern-day values are based on Aristolean virtues, which are explained as follows:

‘A virtue enables us to act or feel in the right way, about the right things, toward the right people, at the right time, for the right reasons: what Aristotle called the doctrine of the mean, or the middle way.’

Ian Morris (2016) adapted from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (n.d.)

Helping boys, and young men, to understand that acting with ‘good character’ is the right thing to do and is an important focus for the pastoral care program at Prince Alfred College. To do this means placing a strong emphasis on teaching boys about the virtues of good character and this is an area in which we believe we can add the enormous value. The following definition of Character Education from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham in England supports this philosophy:

‘Character education is about the acquisition and strengthening of virtues: the traits that sustain a well-rounded life and a thriving society. Schools should aim to develop confident and compassionate students who are effective contributors to society, successful learners and responsible citizens. Students also need to grow in their understanding of what is good or valuable and their ability to protect and advance what is good. They need to develop a commitment to serving others, which is an essential manifestation of good character in action.’

Jubilee Centre statement on character education

There is much discussion about character education within Australia and abroad. Indeed, the teaching of character now forms part of the political agenda. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (December 2008) promotes the notion that all young Australians “develop personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others” and that they, as active and informed citizens, “act with moral and ethical integrity”.

In the UK, the former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan focused attention on the teaching of character in UK schools. She noted that lessons to build character of pupils should be as important as academic subjects in preparing students for life in modern Britain. Following on from this she introduced awards to celebrate excellence and diversity in character education including a £3.5 million fund to promote classes and extra-curriculum activities that build ‘grit’ and ‘resilience’.

Not only is, Our own character, and the character of othersis constantly being called into question, the media showers us daily with a barrage of examples of poor character.– riots, financial crises, mistrust of authority. We are experiencing global political unrest at an unnerving level. These stories remind us about why character matters in a local, national and international context.

The challenge for us is to make the building of character  relevant for the modern age. Our responsibility is to develop the environment at both home and school so that boys can flourish, make mistakes, learn how to behave and respond to challenges. To enable opportunities for character to be both ‘taught’ and ‘caught’. At school It is caught through the interactions with all students and in the language, that we use with them. We also teach students about the virtues of good character through our ‘Princes Man Program’. This is an explicitly taught course that all students in years 7 to 12 undertake during timetabled lessons. The program is one aspect of the broader Pastoral Care offering at the College and this year it has been re-developed to focus on the explicit teaching of virtues.

The Princes Man Program focuses on the following core virtues and associated character behaviours:

  • Civic virtues
  • Spiritual virtues
  • Moral virtues
  • Performance virtues
  • Intellectual virtues

The pastoral and wellbeing themes and topics that we explore within each of these virtues include:

  • Manhood – exploring masculinity, sexuality, emotions and relationships
  • Safety and risk taking – exploring the benefits of taking risks in developing character but also in harm minimisation within adolescence
  • Transitions – exploring changes between learning years, curriculum, careers, vocations and post-secondary opportunities
  • Personal Health – exploring physical, spiritual and mental factors which encourage human flourishing and maximising one’s potential
  • Leadership and Service – exploring opportunities to serve, support, inspire and empower self and others within school as well as global environments
  • Connections – exploring opportunities to connect with peers, with House, with College community and with old scholars
  • Learning Performance – exploring opportunities to maximise learning performance through developing sound habits of study and effective approaches to learning

It is our belief that a virtues approach to the teaching of character has significant potential in developing the long-term wellbeing of the boys at Prince Alfred College. We believe that character can be ‘taught’ through the deliberate teaching of virtues and also ‘caught’ through the implicit actions of students, staff and parents, all of whom are aligned to our College ethos. As we strive to develop boys of good character, we expect that they will recognise virtuous behaviours as the middle ground between deficiencies and excesses, and that they identify the limited value in pursuing hedonistic pleasures which do not add value to one’s life in the long-term. Through our Princes Man Program we are helping our boys to focus on achieving long-term wellbeing by living a life that is healthy and prosperous, and that they have the skills to succeed in life. We have a responsibility to develop young men who are imbued with the knowledge of how to respond the right way at all times, so that they can flourish in life and manage their own wellbeing.

‘…the function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.’

Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a13