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Faye's Speech

Hierarchy of Values – How Fitzroy Community School is Different From Many Traditional Schools
(excerpt from Speech Made by Faye Berryman, Principal, at Graduation Concert)


FCS is not an ordinary school. While I say this, I have to admit that I usually feel most uncomfortable when people remark, “Oh, you’re an alternative school, aren’t you?” Having had a child here for some time, no doubt you would know that everyone outside the school is an expert on the subject of alternative schools generally, and FCS in particular, - and all this, usually, without having spent a moment here.

But it is true that FCS is not an ordinary school. As these lovely young people are on the point of leaving us, let us reflect on what it is that they have received at FCS. I intend to take a few minutes to dwell on what it actually is that makes FCS different and thus identify a sense in which we can be enormously proud to say that we are a genuine alternative to what is offered elsewhere.

What is the FCS ethos? Two fundamental tenets underpin this ethos:

We believe in explicitly engaging in the social, emotional and ethical dimensions of child development.

We believe that it is the unique, deliberately-constructed lifestyle of FCS allows us to do this.

From the moment of birth, and even before, children develop by absorbing and incorporating a myriad of different influences. They are born with certain personality propensities. Their immediate family exerts the greatest influence on these innate characteristics. But as well as the influences of the immediate family, there are many other impacting forces: We have the extended family; we have play groups, crèches and kindergartens and all the various influences of the big and little people that our children meet there; we have chance encounters; we have momentous emotional events – births and deaths etc; and, of course there is the all pervading influence of the media.

The lifestyle of FCS is a very deliberate choice. I want to draw your attention to why the particular lifestyle of FCS is so important in the development of the whole child. We spend less time than most schools in the formal classroom. Why? Why do we give camps - our sort of camps – such an emphasis? Why is free time such an important part of our day?

Children spend many hours each day, over a period of 13 years, at school. These years, particularly the primary ones, are the significant years in a child’s social, ethical and emotional development. Positive development in these areas most strongly determines a person’s holistic success. It is for this fundamental reason that FCS believes that the school hours each day are far too important to devote to just achieving academic proficiency. Academic excellence is wonderful, but this aspect of schooling is straightforward. We enjoy high academic standards. However in a hierarchy of values, FCS places goodness and viability ahead of academic levels.

At FCS we have established a way of life which more closely reflects life in the ordinary world. It allows each child to be seen and so to come to be known by those of the community. It gives the young people opportunities to come to know themselves as they relate with a variety of others, young and old - to learn which behaviours result in positive exchanges and which get them into unhappy situations.

What are children like when they are not being told what to do? What are their strengths and weaknesses? With this information they can evolve and we can encourage their personal growth. This is the true meaning of education and is a great deal more than mass-production schooling.


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