St Andrew's Cathedral School

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What makes a 5-star employer?


We were delighted to receive the 5-star employer of choice award for 2022 from industry magazine The Educator, last month. In this interview, we spoke to Heath McPherson, our Director of People and Culture, who shared his insight into what makes working at St Andrew’s Cathedral School so special.  

Firstly, what do you think makes a 5-star employer?  

I believe a 5-star employer is one that lives out its values. Does your employer commit its time, money and policy to delivering on its values? If it does, a few things will be true of your experience; you’ll know what your organisation stands for, its values will be represented and resourced in a strategic plan, and you’ll notice that recruitment and people development takes place with the key values in mind. At the same time, a 5-star employer will allow its staff the freedom to express their own individual values and strengths. It’s a balancing act and we’re juggling both balls here at St Andrew’s Cathedral School, all the time.  

What does St Andrew’s Cathedral School value?  

Our staff values can be best summed up as:

  1. Attracting and developing the best people –  we recruit, develop and retain staff who are deeply committed to the School and its Christian mission
  1. Embedding a culture of collective efficacy – our rich professional learning community is supported by high quality evidence and coaching resources to inform practice and measure progress 
  1. Authentic Christian leadership – we challenge a pervading cultural narrative that focuses on self; instead showing unity in diversity and modelling Christian love and grace towards others 
  1. Staff wellbeing – our staff feel supported and empowered to work in the city, and their wellbeing is a high priority for School leadership 
  1. Infrastructure that enhances learning – we creatively use our city location to access best-in-class facilities for teaching and learning

What are the unique challenges and opportunities an employee faces within a school environment? 

The best place for student learning is in a classroom with a teacher, which puts obvious constraints on workplace flexibility. The corporate world, on the other hand, can run with a hybrid model where its employees alternate between home and office. This is a challenge for us. However, it’s also an opportunity. We function as a physically present community which breeds strong relationships and leads to all sorts of good things, including a thriving workplace experience.  

The biggest plus side for us is that teaching is a calling, not a job, so our teachers really believe in what they’re doing. But not just our teachers. Many of our Support and Operational staff, myself included, have left billion-dollar profit-driven organisations to work here. People want to do something with real substance, and it means we have a workplace which is unified, purposeful, and engaged. 

What do you think makes working at St Andrew’s Cathedral School different to working at other schools?  

We did some research in 2020 into the experience of our employees and this is what we found: 

  • Staff engagement was rated at 92% (7% above the industry average) 
  • 91% of our staff are positive about organisational performance (15% above the industry average) 
  • 85% of our staff agree that senior leadership keeps them informed (23% above the industry average) 
  • Our staff rate their Wellness at 76% (10% above the industry average) 
  • 79% of staff believe the school is good at learning from its mistakes and successes (22% above the industry average) 

What can St Andrew’s Cathedral School staff expect in the future?  

We’re in a world that’s dealing with the shock of COVID and fatigue sets in earlier than ever before. We’re going to listen, listen, and listen some more to our staff, and then act with the goal of carving out some breathing space in areas that will make a big lifestyle difference. The challenge here is the lack of flexibility in our education system at large but we’re keen to tackle this project.