Leanne Higham is working with Melbourne’s St Mary’s College to promote and help to develop an ethical school culture.
The co-educational school was established in 2021 when Presentation College Windsor (a girls’ school) closed and Christian Brothers’ College St Kilda (a boys’ school) stepped up to meet the need of girls in their local community.
Committed to creating an inclusive space for students, St Mary’s College asked Higham to assist with their transition away from a single-sex schooling model.
She is working with St Mary’s College students and staff to develop an evidence-based framework for enacting ethical educational practices at the school.
“Ethical educational practices in schools encourage staff and students to think critically about the culture that is created and how this impacts the capacities of the diverse people within it,” explains Higham. “This means knowing the students and what works best for them, and recognising that approaches which may have been used in a single-sex classroom may no longer be appropriate in a co-educational setting”.
A key component of ethical schooling, explains Higham, “is actively seeking out the voices of students as well as staff, and working together to create an ethical culture.”
“Inclusion is captured in the expression ‘Nothing about us, without us’,” adds Higham. “An inclusive school consults their students about what is important, and how they can get there.”
Higham has delivered professional learning and development sessions to St Mary’s College staff to build their knowledge on gender, sexuality and identity, unconscious bias, and ethical schooling. She aligns these with high impact teaching approaches.
“Our vision for a truly inclusive school for all is fostered by a commitment to empower young people through formal and informal opportunities to hear and honour our students’ voices,” says Principal of St Mary’s College, Terry Blizzard. “The work with Leanne Higham has helped us to make this vision a reality within a new co-educational school setting. We continue the work of our parent body, Edmund Rice Education Australia, to provide a liberating education to build a better world for all.”
“I enjoy helping to create educational contexts that are more ethical, empowering and enabling,” says Higham.