Honorary Life Membership for Dr. Paul Brock

NSWSPC President Christine Cawsey presenting Dr Paul Brock with his
Honorary Life Membership

Dr Paul Brock was awarded an Honorary Life Membership with the NSWSPC on Friday 9 September. Dr Brock supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – watch the video

His Honorary Life Membership citation reads:

Dr Paul Brock is a most worthy recipient of the first Honorary Life Membership Award from the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council. His outstanding commitment to secondary school students, his unswerving support of public education, and his tireless work are the tremendous attributes that he brings to his life as an educator. His leadership within public education in NSW has helped numerous schools and principals, and his passion for doing what will bring about “an Australian society that is fair, just, tolerant, honourable, knowledgeable, prosperous and happy” make him worthy of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council’s highest award.


He has taken risks to ensure that the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council was properly informed on important matters. He has also used his office to influence successive Directors-General to appreciate the importance of the work being done by the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council and to help them to understand the depth of policy development in which the members of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council have been involved.

Dr Brock has been a regular contributor to NSW Secondary Principals’ Council’s activities for over a decade. He has willingly accepted every invitation to present at Professional Learning Days and to speak informatively at State Assembly meetings. He has rated highly with NSW Secondary Principals’ Council members because of his openness, intellect and wonderful skills in oratory. Generations of principals in NSW secondary schools acknowledge his contribution, and all members take great pleasure in recognising Dr Paul Brock as an Honorary Life Member of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council.


Paul Brock accepted the award and said:


Those many of you who know me well, indeed are my friends, would not be surprised that I would like to say just a few words. Really, just a few!

I am profoundly moved by this great privilege you have bestowed on me.  As Christine knows, when she rang me a few months ago to ask if I would accept such an honour it produced a few tears.

Yesterday I read the SPC Bulletin – which I do as soon as it arrives.  As I said many times to Jim McAlpine and more recently to Christine, the Bulletin is my best regular form of continuous professional development in the field of secondary school leadership.  Not only does it provide me with a rich and wide canvas of awareness, so often do I find real nuggets of insight that resonate so strongly with my own thoughts and feelings.

For example, in the current Bulletin Christine reflects on a speech made by Greg Prior to the SPC Executive – which contained the following gem:  “The lens of the principal should be on learning and instructional leadership. Principals are educators – this is much more than is sometimes suggested in poorly constructed management documents.”  This reminded me of a deceptively profound remark by Linda Darling-Hammond which went something like this: no, educational leadership is not rocket science – it is more complex, challenging and demanding than rocket science.

I know that I am not the only here today who believes that the time has come for a revitalisation of and a refocusing on the importance of secondary education in NSW.  The debates and discussions that have swirled around the agendas driven by ACARA and AITSL provide a significant context, indeed a strong catalyst, for such considerations.

The book that John Hughes and I wrote, Reform and Resistance in NSW Public Education Six Attempts at Major Reform, 1905-1995, which was published in 2008, critiqued some significant attempts to revitalise secondary education in that period.  Of course the most prominent were the reforms generated by the seminal report of the extraordinary 1953 – 57 Wyndham Review of secondary education, generally known as “The Wyndham Report”.  Incidentally, during those four years two men who were appointed as secretaries to the committee died!  Wyndham’s Report was not implemented until the start of 1962 (following the passage of the Public Education Act of 1961) when the then Form 1 (now known as Year 7) commenced the reformation.

The only truly major reform of secondary education since then – apart from the recent decision to extend the school leaving age of 15 (in place since 1943) to 17 was that following the McGaw Review of Years 11 and 12 (which produced reports in 1996 and 1997).  The subsequent reforms were implemented by the NSW Government in 2000 for Year 11 – with the first ‘new’ HSC examination in 2001.

In any such forthcoming renaissance of secondary education, I would urge all of us to remember that it should not start with any simple ‘green fields’ / ‘blue sky’ set of assumptions.   I believe that this was one of the mistakes made by the National Curriculum Board – at the direction, obviously, of the then Commonwealth Minister for Education.

We have so much to draw upon when considering secondary education reform.  Just to take one example, I would argue that any such process should draw upon the An Exceptional Schooling Outcomes Project (AESOP) $1M Australian Research Council (ARC) project chaired by Professor John Pegg and myself.  In 2007 the AESOP project produced 7 books publishing the research into the modus operandi of outstanding secondary school subject departments (and any other significant groupings of teachers) in helping to produce the exceptional value-added student learning outcomes we were able to identify at the outset of the research project and which thereby enabled us to start to answer the research question – which I put rather colloquially as – “what is humming in these departments?”.

Our seven books focused on: English; Mathematics; Science; ESL; Student Welfare; Equity; and Leadership.  A complete set was sent to every public secondary school in NSW.  I have to say that I, at least, am unaware of any serious systemic attempts to apply in our secondary schools what was learned in this research project and published in the books.  So could I modestly suggest that within any process of renaissance of NSW public secondary education, the findings of the AESOP project should warrant due consideration.

I promised that my words would be few and that my call on your time would be brief.  So, thank you again Christine, your Executive and all of my colleagues in the SPC for this great honour which you have conferred on me today – and which I will cherish for the rest of my life.

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