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Garrath McPherson


Marsden State High School (MSHS) student wellbeing initiatives spearheaded by Deputy Principal Garrath McPherson have been singled out for national recognition in The Australian Education Awards this year.

Garrath has started a collaborative culture involving students, parents and teachers and developed partnerships with outside organisations. In 2019 the Wellbeing Matters Project involved students, staff and parent groups working with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers to create a school-wide wellbeing project.

Garrath created in collaboration with university researchers the Marsden Makos Mentoring program where every student was able to meet with a mentor every week. The playground duty roster now places mentors with their assigned year levels, too, for access throughout the week.

The Passion Project (M-Line) saw students collaborate across year levels on similar interests outside of the standard curriculum but with clear learning outcomes. Over 80 per cent of students enjoyed participating in the project.

Peer and fellow Deputy Principal Michael Smith says partnerships with the University of Queensland (UQ), QUT and local business Fizzio for Life have given students weekly access to physiotherapy, exercise science interns and a sports psychologist. In 2019, these services enabled students to return more quickly to the athletic field or dance floor than they would normally have been able to do after an injury.

“The partnership with UQ is an Australian first – we are the only school in Australia offering a Sports Psychology service in partnership with a university. Other schools engage the services of a sports psychologist but not in a mutually beneficial partnership between parties,” Garrath says.

Student leaders now lead the Mates Talk Change wellbeing program, driving 10 strategies for positive mental health. This grows students’ confidence that they can approach someone to talk to when facing challenges.

Garrath seeks to link students to organisations that will provide employment pathways for them including the Brisbane Roar, the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) and the Logan Chamber of Commerce.

After 12 years of teaching, Garrath is an innovative educator, works to keep staff future-focussed and leads study tours to International Conferences as well as presenting at such conferences.

During the past year Garrath has led a school-wide review of the professional learning of all 175 staff members and facilitated the design of communities of practice. These communities have worked with Dr Mia O’Brien, an expert in communities of practice from Griffith University, and educational neuroscientist Dr Jared Cooney Horvath, to develop a weekly learning cycle.

Garrath coaches football teams, takes drone footage for other coaches at the school and develops coaches through his QAS and Roar relationships too.

Congratulations Garrath on being shortlisted for the TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to School Community Award.

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