Dr Ray Swann is Deputy Headmaster and Head of Crowther Centre (ELC – Year 12) at Brighton Grammar School, an independent boys’ school in Melbourne.
Ray has a background in education, theatre and performance consulting, with previous education roles at Toorak College and Yarra Valley Grammar. Since joining BGS in 2014 as Head of Senior School, he has led the development of the Crowther Centre, the place of research, learning (both student and staff) and data at the school. The role of the Crowther Centre is to drive positive changes at BGS through evidence based practice and professional coaching.
Ray has successfully led a culture change in the academic profile of BGS. He and his team created the School Improvement Tool, a valid and reliable assessment tool of school performance from the perspective of parents, staff and students. He implemented the Visible Learning framework and developed the Effective Learner Model from ELC to VCE. This was a multi-stage project involving best available research into cognitive and wellbeing spaces, student/parent and staff voice and was one of the first integrated wellbeing/academic learning models in Australia. The benefit of having a clear learning model is that all students are now aware of the key elements to learning at school. This has been evidenced in greater engagement and improved clarity school-wide. Ray created the Syndicate program which is a team study approach for students studying VCE in Melbourne. These initiatives led the school to recording its best academic VCE results in the school’s history. The improved academic results occurred concurrently with improving wellbeing outcomes.
Ray’s strategic thinking and application has come to the fore with the quality of relationships he has developed with leading experts and academics globally. Working with the Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s Centre for Positive Psychology, Ray launched the Bio-Dash project in 2019 which is a world first biofeedback and mindfulness program for students that combines wellbeing and technology. Ray connected with Tom Bennett (from researchED, a UK leader in evidence informed teaching). As a result, Brighton Grammar has hosted three researchED conferences with international speakers, as well as the Chairman of ACER Geoff Masters and Professor John Hattie and most recently CEO of ACARA, David de Carvalho. The conferences have trended in the Top 5 on Twitter, in both Australia as well as the UK.
Ray engaged world expert Dr Jim Knight to work with Brighton Grammar for the School’s coaching program, and BGS hosted a national level course at the School in 2019. In 2019, he developed and managed the Orygen Project into Positive Masculinity. This project, the first of its kind in the world, seeks to create a new framework that can be shared more broadly with schools across Australia. The project has secured full independent funding from an independent benefactor. This is a global initiative to build a framework for best practice in teaching boys healthy masculinities.
Ray had the vision to develop a positive school culture that would empower students in their studies and lives. For the past five years, he has worked with international best-selling author James Kerr (Legacy) on the BGS Legacy project which promotes student voice and leadership. His Crowther team then created a B2M (Boys to Men) wellbeing program across the Year 9 and Year 10 programs with the aim to foster healthy masculinity through a range of experiential and workshops. The pinnacle of the program is the First Horizons journey, which involves parents, students and staff and marks the period when students embark on their final years of schooling.
Ray designed and implemented a new school-wide evidence informed Professional Learning (PL) model across all staff (academic and administrative) using the GCI coaching framework. This model was presented at the International Coaching Symposium held in Sydney in 2017 (through ACEL). As part of this initiative, Ray’s team developed a measurement tool. Since implementation, evidence has shown that staff have become more receptive to feedback (particularly new staff) as a direct result. He was invited to present on the Professional Learning framework at the National Coaching Conference in Sydney 2019. Ray has also introduced key strategic elements to change the cultural climate at BGS. One example of this was to improve evidence informed decision-making (EIDM) to enable staff to better understand the process of EIDM and linked the tool to the budget process. In one year, the EIDM evaluated over $400k of new proposals and has led a culture of evidence informed practice.
He is a recognised authority on wellbeing programs in schools – he was a guest speaker at The Age schools summit on wellbeing regarding best practice for student wellbeing. He was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Educators for leading ‘generational change’ by The Educator and The Melbourne Graduate School of Education. He initiated a parent workshop program focusing on the BGS learning model, wellbeing for young people, teens and technology and holding difficult conversations. Ray pioneered the Understanding Boys podcast series in which he has conversations with a variety of guests, from academics to parenting experts, on what makes a good man these days. He is author of numerous publications on wellbeing, best practice in career education, and teaching and learning, and has produced a number of position papers on topics relevant to boys and parenting. He is a regular presenter at local and international education conferences on a range of topics including positive education, culture building, wellbeing and effective coaching.