Jackie Vaughan – Principal
What interested you in this position?
I am honoured to be the Foundation Principal of Evelyn Scott School. I have always been interested in the idea of creating an innovative school for children. The opportunity to co-design and work with the community to establish a modern Preschool to Year 10 (P-10) school is very exciting.
What do you hope to achieve as the school’s foundation principal?
I will deliver a Contemporary, Community and Connected School for the children and families in Denman Prospect and Molonglo.
- A Contemporary School is a school where teachers support students to be the architects of their own learning. I will build a school that delivers personalised and inclusive learning that is driven by play, inquiry and project-based approaches. Future Focused learning means using the Australian Curriculum so that children can engage with real-world problems that interest them and develop 21st Century skills such as problem solving, creativity and critical thinking. Learning in this way is fun and engaging.
- A Community School is all about authentically involving the community in building this school together in the heart of this new suburb. There will be lots of opportunities for community consultation, events and conversations. I genuinely believe in partnering with parents and enrolling families too. Community involvement is vital in order to cultivate important values such as altruism and sustainability. We will work together to include programs that support and prepare students to become global citizens.
- A Connected School will ensure that we establish and maintain a strong wellbeing culture for our children so that they feel welcomed and connected to their school. Teachers will build positive connections with students as well as maintaining local, national and international networks so that we remain connected to best practice. Our school will be one connected school that will cater to the needs of students in pre-school right through to Year 10. Collaboration across P-10 will be an integral element of our school culture.
Tell us a bit about your career journey.
I have been a teacher and an educational leader in the ACT for the past 22 years. I trained at University of Newcastle and began my teaching career as an English teacher at Calwell High School. I have really enjoyed my time as a teacher and educational leader in several ACT schools working with children and young people.
I led several student welfare faculties in high schools and colleges. Recently, I led a national project with Big Picture Education Australia and worked with young people, universities and schools. We designed a portfolio-based tertiary pathway that now sits alongside the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). I was a Deputy Principal and led the multidisciplinary Network Team in the north Canberra/Gunghalin region. This was a fantastic opportunity to work with wonderful staff, children and Principal and Deputy colleagues.
Most recently, I was the Principal of Flexible Education. This work allowed me the opportunity to establish an innovative community of schools and programs for P-12 students with complex and challenging needs. I leave behind a dedicated team who will continue to use future focused learning to achieve positive results for children and young people.
What has been the highlight so far?
I’ve always looked for jobs that have presented me with opportunities to innovate, creatively solve problems and work with like-minded people. I have been very fortunate to have worked with some outstanding professionals and, most importantly, some wonderful children and young people.
What do you enjoy most about being a principal?
Bringing a team together to collaborate on a strong vision is the most enjoyable and important part of being a principal. I love seeing the results of this collaboration when working with children and young people. Education is the single most important protective factor in a child’s life. Teaching is such an incredible privilege and children call upon us as educators to be their supporters and protectors. Leading a school as the principal is a huge responsibility and a job that I take very seriously.
What inspired you to teach?
I grew up in Ngarigo country near a small town called Delegate. I’m proud and lucky to live, work and raise my children on Ngunnawal country. My parents taught me the power and importance of an education and that’s something that my husband and I will continue to pass along to our children. I had some great teachers who inspired me to do well and follow my dreams. I always loved creating engaging educational programs for children and young people and working with them in my classrooms to achieve success. I have long been an advocate for social justice and teaching combines these pursuits.
Who inspires you now?
I am inspired by trailblazers who work tirelessly towards positive outcomes. Amazing women leaders like Dr Evelyn Scott, Julia Gillard, Linda Burney and Jacinda Ardern are inspirations to me. Similarly, educational leaders who continue to motivate educators and inspire real change inspire me. I have been very fortunate to work with outstanding leaders like Lee Watanabe-Crockett, Professor John Fischetti and Elliot Washor. Professor Yong-Zhao, Sir Ken Robinson and Pasi Sahlberg also offer modern visions for education. We need to reimagine learning for our children and young people and keep striving for contemporary and evidence-based practice. My own children, Spencer (11) and Archie (8) and my husband, Simon, also inspire me every day!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career?
Dream big – and dream big ideas for all kids! Children are the most amazing, capable humans and we should never underestimate them. Watching learners achieve success is the most rewarding experience for all educators.
The other important lesson I have learnt as an educational leader is something that has been recently articulated well by Mary-Jean Gallagher and Michael Fullan. It is essential to “jointly set the direction, define a path forward with some really great plans and then do the work by implementing and monitoring.” In other words, strong vision and leadership must be accompanied by an organised approach, good follow-through and management skills.
Children and young people’s education is a subject that fires up people’s emotions. What do you think is the most significant shaper of school education?
The ACT Government’s Future of Education Strategy sets out a 10 year roadmap for all ACT schools. It reflects both the community’s wishes and ideas and the elements of future focused learning currently used across the world. I am so appreciative of this Strategy because it provides the blueprint and the authorising environment for the way forward in education. This document will be the most significant shaper of school education for children of all ages because its foundation is derived from broad consultation from community stakeholders, children, teachers and young people and a research-based approach.
What was your first job?
My first job was helping my family with their farm in NSW and working in my family’s shearing shed. I also picked berries on my neighbour’s blueberry farm. These jobs certainly taught me the value of hard work!
How would other people describe you and how would you describe yourself?
Other people have described me as a hard worker, determined and loyal. I am a wife and a mother and a strong supporter of public education. I have high expectations of myself, a good sense of humour and I really love my job.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I have been lucky to have found some really great mentors who have given me lots of great advice over the years. It is a cliché but remaining true to yourself and following your own moral compass has always served me well. This can be challenging at times but if you always value the student-centred option and focus on good judgement, then this is strong leadership.
What has been your most memorable experience so far as principal?
As the Foundation Principal of Flexible Education, building a community of five schools for students from P-12 from the ground up was a huge challenge but also an extremely rewarding experience.
As the Foundation Principal of Evelyn Scott School, it has already been so exciting to meet all those involved in the building project and to begin the process of staff recruitment. I can’t wait to welcome all of the children and families when we open our doors next year.
As a Future Focused school, we will learn through inquiry and this approach connects students and their learning to the world. We will lead our community to engage with the Future of Education Strategy and all of its possibilities. Contemporary learning means preparing for a shifting future that requires skills and knowledge, citizenship, connection to culture and the environment and the capacity to solve complex problems with creative approaches.
There is lots to learn and do in the coming weeks and months and I know that creating this school with the Denman and Molonglo community will be one of the most memorable and meaningful experiences of my career.