A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 6 - 2021

Welcome to Term 2!

We certainly know that autumn is upon us and in the words of John Snow, “Winter is coming”. As always, it is fantastic to see our students return to School, fresh and ready for the term ahead.

As you are aware, this year our School theme is to ‘live with purpose’. This term, staff and Senior School students, in particular, have been asked to adopt a new ‘purpose’. As a School, our new purpose will be to avoid making the fundamental attribution error. In essence, this error is how we attribute the cause of ‘events’ when justifying or explaining it to ourselves as opposed to how we would perceive it for others.

When things go wrong for us personally, we will usually find mitigating circumstances to which to attribute the blame. But when something goes wrong for someone else, if we make the fundamental attribution error, we could easily blame it on them or their character. For example, if I was late for work I might attribute this to traffic, or a power failure resulting in my alarm not going off. Yet, if another staff member was late and I made the fundamental attribution error, I might think “they are never organised” or “they slept in”’ or “they are just lazy and haven’t got their priorities right”.

Michael Leunig sums it up beautifully with this cartoon:


When we make the error, we can start to falsely develop the perception that we are perfect and others are imperfect. This perception can be vastly different to reality and can cause any number of personal and professional problems. Instead, we have to realise that we are all imperfect; that we need to slow down our judgment of others and be more reflective around our own actions. It is all too easy to blame others to justify our own actions and the actions of those for whom we care. Instead, we need to make appropriate and accurate attributions. By doing this, we will also help create a growth mindset around ourselves, helping us to improve our lives, whether at home, work or in the community.

With our children, because of our innate need to care for them, we have to be very careful about making the fundamental attribution error. As parents and educators, we do need to ensure that we are not making the error and that we are not allowing those for whom we care to also make the error. Instead, we need to gently and caringly help them make accurate attributions for their actions.

I hope over this term we can all embrace this challenge and make it a purpose in our lives to avoid the fundamental attribution error.

Simon Shepherd