The School of Total Education, Warwick, Queensland, Australia


photo: Shane Power

There has been a focus on “School Improvement” in the education fraternity of late — with a simplicity of expression that is quite refreshing in an age where complexity is often seen as giving an idea validity. At the local chapter meeting of ACEL (Australian College of Education Leaders) which Richard Waters, the Director of the Institute of Total Education, and I attended earlier in the year, we were privileged to hear a very down to earth approach to School Improvement.

It was by a Welshman, Ian Gamble, who had been engaged by the Toowoomba Diocese of Catholic Education to assist them with improving their schools. Ian was a school inspector in Scotland for many years, after which he came to the conclusion that the school inspection system did not improve schools. As an inspector, he felt like a farmer who bangs on the roof of the chook shed in the middle of a hot day and upsets all the chooks — then walks away leaving them to settle back down exactly as they were before.

No change or improvement occurred. The schools would celebrate his departure but not implement any of his suggestions.

Ian observed that in his experience school improvement is not:

  • Narrow definitions of improvement;
  • Numerical targets alone;
  • Student testing.

He felt these were like putting baubles on the Christmas tree, as if more is better. They became just another thing to do.

Having thought deeply about his experience, Ian Gamble concluded that the key to any quality culture is a shared professional dialogue — ideas for improvement coming through talking with teachers.

It was enriching to hear that so much of what he espoused we do as a matter of course at The School of Total Education. Weekly teacher meetings, seminars at the start of each term and a fraternal approach amongst the staff resound strongly with the core of Ian Gamble’s system of school improvement.

I talk about the collegiality of our teachers and they respect that they have for each other in the new Total Education Blog. Follow this link if you would like to read it and make a comment.

We welcome your feedback or reflections on what you read here via email at

Shane Power


Heart to Heart Storytelling

At a teachers seminar earlier this year, former SOTE Principal, Richard Waters, spoke about the value of storytelling. “Storytelling sits at the heart of Total Education. Whether it is thinking about cooperation, intrinsic motivation, nurturing the spirit of the children, valuing stillness or teaching positive values, storytelling is one of the best ways to communicate with children. Stories seem to reach a deeper level of children’s awareness. The values that good stories have as their basis — such as courage, forgiveness, kindness, patience and love — represent the human spirit, because they are about the best we can be as people.” Read more…

From the Archives: Reflections on Adolescence

Dr Richard Griffith, was a Consultant Psychiatrist based in Melbourne who took a particular interest in the School of Total Education during its early years. In this article he draws on his extensive experience counselling young people and explains why adolescence is such a difficult period in a child’s life. “Adolescence is a time of tremendous turbulence and perplexity and I would be surprised if there is anyone, who, when they think back to the time when they were between twelve and seventeen or so, can really remember accurately how they felt at that time. It seems to be something that most of us have just blacked out. I think many people can remember fairly accurately how they felt when they were children and they can also have fairly good recollection how they felt then when they were adults some time ago. But it’s very very difficult to evoke the feelings that you had when you were an adolescent.” Read more…

NEW INTERVIEW: The Focused Child with Jan Dugan and Jan Gudkovs

Richard Waters interviews psychologists and authors Jan Dugan and Jan Gudkovs about their forthcoming book titled “The Focused Child: How Yoga Can Help You Raise Happy, Healthy, Contented Children” which is due for publication in November 2012. Read more…

Other interviews available:

Michael Funder — Reflections of a SOTE Teacher

Satish Kumar — Small Schools and Nurturing the Spirit in Education

Click here to read more and download the interviews.


School of Total Education One of Top Performing Schools In Queensland

The School of Total Education was mentioned on the front page of the Courier Mail on 30th July 2012 in an article entitled “Independent schools deliver what parents pay for”. It rated the School in equal third place (along with with Brisbane Girls Grammar and Brisbane Boys’ College) amongst the top five performing schools in the State after comparing OP 1–15 results over 5 years. An average of 92.4% of graduates over the past five years got an OP between 1–15. In a follow up article in the Southern Free Times, Principal Shane Power commented: “Interestingly, we are not like most other schools in the Courier Mail article. We don’t have the high fees and we don’t academically hot house. Our students are just ordinary kids who are relaxed and enjoy learning. The great academic results are a by-product and not what we focus on.”

Students Run the School Day

An annual event at The School of Total Education is “Students Run The School Day”, which this year was conducted on Tuesday 29th May. One of the Year Nine students who participated wrote the following comment on his experience: “It is an interesting experience for the students of Year Nine because it gives them a chance to have a break from their regular lessons and teach the primary students for a day. It is a time for them to sample life as a mentor and a person to whom people turn for guidance. Teaching people is an important life skill for anyone who intends to work as a mentor, school teacher or in a job in which they may choose to take on an apprentice. Students Run the School Day also makes the students more able to cope with responsibility and the ever-changing factors of life.”

Indigenous Visitors to the School

During April, The School of Total Education had two visitors from the Indigenous Land Corporation, East Kimberley. Elder Mr Ian Trust, (director) and Mr David Galvin (CEO) visited the school with local aboriginal representative Ranald McIntosh. They were very impressed with the nature of the education and commented on the community feel of the school. They enjoyed a beautiful hot school lunch and appreciated that it had been cooked by school parents.

Some of the available books on our website

Books Available On Our Website

A range of books on Total Education and related topics can be purchased from the SOTE website. Click here to find out more.