NGS News

Doctorate acclaim for Deputy Head and lifelong learner, Dr Alan Parsons

Newcastle Grammar School would like to congratulate Dr Alan Parsons on the recent completion of his Doctor of Education. Dr Parsons has been a part of the Newcastle Grammar community since 2016, playing an integral role within the school’s Leadership Team and epitomising what it means to be a lifelong learner, a committed and caring person and an outstanding teacher.

Throughout his career, Dr Parsons saw the need (and the opportunity) to learn more about Indigenous students and the role that scholarships, boarding and current education practises have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. In essence, his research concluded that most Indigenous students “… have learnt to live comfortably in two worlds … without compromising their cultural values or their academic pursuits. Others continue to navigate this journey.”

In his thesis, opportunities for the schools that support these scholarship programmes are also identified. Dr Parsons states, “These schools have made a commitment to providing a highly efficacious educational experience for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote, regional, and rural communities. Through reflecting on the experiences and stories of these students, these partner schools and, possibly, schools considering participation in one of these scholarship programmes, can continue to evolve and improve their pedagogy and residential boarding practice.”

Dr Parsons commenced his teaching career in 1980 at Aquinas College in Southport, Queensland. Like many early years educators, he ‘cut his teeth’ teaching across a range of subjects including Business, English, Religious Education and Senior Biology, as well as his specialty subject, Mathematics. During his time at Aquinas, he held a variety of positions including Year Coordinator for Year 8 and Year 9. He also developed a passion for co-curricular activities including coaching the open rugby league team which toured several times, and forming the Aquinas Bushwalkers’ Club with a colleague to hike sections of the Scenic Rim and Lamington Plateau with their students. These formative years taught him the centrality and importance of relationships in teaching, confirming his belief that teaching is very much a relational profession.

As his career progressed, Dr Parsons moved on to St Michael’s College, Carrara, where he was able to focus on teaching Mathematics in the Senior School. He remained passionate about co-curricular opportunities and formed an Amnesty International Group and Interact Club (a school-based branch of Rotary International). These affiliations led to his selection as a member of a Rotary International team, through the Group Study Exchange Program, for a six-week study tour of South Africa and Namibia in 1994. During this time, Dr Parsons was privileged to attend Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as President of South Africa in Capetown. Reflecting on the event, Dr Parsons said “Meeting with Bishop Desmond Tutu and visiting schools across the Cape region gave me insights into the circumstances that impact individual educational opportunities and the challenges to be overcome.” While at St Michael’s, he completed further studies in Theology, acquiring a Diploma of Applied Theology and a Certificate of Systematic Theology. 

In 2000 Dr Parsons moved to The Southport School on the Gold Coast. While there, he completed his Masters in Educational Studies through the University of Newcastle and travelled to the United States to complete the “Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership” course at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He served as Deputy Head of The Southport School for ten years, living on campus with responsibilities that included the wellbeing of the 350 boarding students and approximately 40 residential staff in addition to the day-to-day running of the Senior School. Dr Parsons also took on the role of leading the Indigenous Education Program at the school, charged with caring for the academic and social-emotional wellbeing of 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boarding students. Over several years, his work with these students, their parents and the organisations that sponsored their education, heightened his awareness of the challenges that so many young Indigenous students in Australia face during their childhood and adolescence. This contributed to his decision to investigate the academic and cultural impact that boarding has on the sense of identity of students from remote and regional communities. In 2015 following on from his work in this programme, he was a finalist in the Queensland College of Teachers Professor Betty Watts OBE Memorial Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Teaching.

Dr Parsons joined Newcastle Grammar School as the Deputy Head of School in 2016 and commenced the field research for his doctoral studies in 2017. In addition to his responsibilities as Deputy Head and classroom teaching (which he still loves), he has led three tours to Vietnam in support of Newcastle Grammar’s ongoing Vietnam Project, a programme which gives NGS students the opportunity to experience a lifestyle that sharply contrasts their own while supporting the Long Hai School and Vung Tai orphanage. He also led a tour to Oxford University in 2018 for Newcastle students to study a range of courses under the tutelage of Oxford scholars. While at Oxford, he completed a course through the Oxford University Summer School for Adults on adolescence and adolescent development – an area of great interest to him. Finally, after six years of study, Dr Parsons completed his doctorate in education, and was conferred in February 2022.

Dr Parsons, on behalf of Newcastle Grammar School and the many students whose lives have been impacted by yours, we congratulate and thank you. You represent excellence in education by inspiring students, colleagues and the broader community with your generosity and commitment to lifelong learning. 

Newcastle Grammar proudly selects teachers for their professionalism and expertise and supports their ongoing development, to create an unrivalled standard of education to inspire young people to craft their own outstanding futures. 

For further details of Dr Parson’s research, please see his thesis abstract HERE.