2023 Fellowship awardee announced

The Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia / 16 June 2023

We are pleased to announce our 2023 Fellowship awardee, Ysabella Chambers Dawson, Director of Pastoral Care at Loreto College Coorparaoo, Queensland.

The annual Fellowship, worth AUD10,000, supports outstanding educators from member schools to investigate and/or implement original, creative and inspiring practices to benefit the education of girls and support the strategic priorities of the Alliance.

The Fellowship aims to:

  • support ground-breaking initiatives,
  • inspire innovative pedagogy,
  • explore disciplines and experiences outside of schools, and
  • forge strong links among educators, Alliance schools and/or community, business and educational institutions.

Pastoral leadership growth

Ysabella was awarded for her interest in supporting the professional practice of pastoral leaders so that they may develop the full academic potential of the girls in their schools and manage their welfare with confidence and capability within the scope of their role.

Here she shares her views on being awarded this Fellowship and what she hopes to discover during the project.

“In my experience, pastoral care roles can at times be viewed through a traditional lens that casts pastoral and academic care as operating in structural divide, the former responsible for the nurturing of the student’s wellbeing, with the latter overseeing the cultivation of their mind. Such binary views contribute to the myth that to be a pastoral leader is to hold innate ‘pastoral’ qualities that lend themselves to nurturing and care, rather a position of leadership that requires specialised support structures and competencies that respond to the complex duties of the role.”

“This assumption is perhaps even more prevalent in the way that it affects girls’ schools given the cultural schema that they are fundamentally prone to emotional vulnerability and should expect an adolescent experience reflective of this belief. My project seeks to unpack the operational aspects of these roles within their varied contexts, acknowledging that there is a notable lack of current literature relating to pastoral leadership.”

“I believe there is also opportunity within the remit of this project to develop a network of pastoral leaders in girls’ schools that will foster interconnection and disseminate findings beyond the schools directly involved in the research project. In this way, the project will connect a group of pastoral educators who will be brought into a developing network to disseminate these innovations amongst Alliance schools.”

“It is a great honour to contribute through this fellowship and a wonderful opportunity to engage in research that I am deeply passionate about.”

“Taking on this project, I can’t help but be reminded of my late grandmother, Marjorie. Growing up, she dreamed of being a teacher, but her opportunities were restricted by a lack of financial support, and the entrenched expectations of a young woman growing up in regional Queensland. In spite of overwhelming challenges, my grandmother never lost sight of her love of learning. She was eventually able to complete her senior certificate through distance education; receiving material in the mail and listening to tapes while she folded laundry and cared for her children. Finally, in that splendid Australian moment when Whitlam made tertiary education free, she enrolled in university, obtained an Arts degree, and fulfilled her lifelong ambition of becoming a teacher.”

“Three generations later, our young people have more freedoms and more opportunities; yet they also face an entirely new raft of challenges and complexities. In my work as a school leader, I observe daily our students grappling with complex challenge and a fast-evolving cultural landscape. Correspondingly, I see educators in need of policy and procedures which they feel supported in enacting, and which sufficiently meet the needs of these students. I believe it is only through the vigilant pursuit of knowledge, and the examination of existing practices and structures, that we can fulfil our vocation to enrich our students and usher them into the future with confidence and care, and so I am delighted to be afforded such an opportunity through the Alliance Fellowship.”

“I am very fortunate to have the support of my Principal, ]who is acutely aware of the need for research to guide the professional development of pastoral leaders and to inform wellbeing and care models in girls’ schools. She is also a highly supportive leader and mentor and is naturally encouraging of teachers and leaders modelling the practice of lifelong learning within their communities. Further to this, the philosophy of professional learning Loreto is one that emphasises the importance of rigorous research, innovation in teaching, and evidence-based programs, objectives congruent with the aims of the Alliance fellowship.”