From the Principal – 27 July 2017
A warm welcome back to a busy term. I sincerely hope all families got some time to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company over the break.
For my part, I had a very busy holidays and it was my great pleasure to represent the School internationally. I started on the Friday school broke up with a family 21st at my house from where I went straight to the airport to go to China. On my return, there was some media involvement and then I needed to present for my PhD confirmation (I believe it is crucial to model the importance of learning to our students). I can assure you I was as nervous as any student.
An array of things conspired to conflagrate over the break: the thinking about our Strategic Plan, the China trip, the PhD work. When viewed all together it confirmed to me that we are on the right track. I would like to share some reflections borne from sitting in a country some thousands of kilometers away. There is, after all, nothing like perspective.
To start, I believe it is important to question our own attitudes and values – otherwise we do not know ourselves and cannot really know others 1 . There are some terms adopted by UNESCO that are powerful in this space. The South African term UBUNTU – seeing ‘ourselves’ through others, encompassing ethics, and human connectedness and human relationships is one such term. Likewise, UCHI-SOTO – what distinguishes our ‘group’ membership (while noting that the groups to which we belong may change over time and across situations).
So, who ARE we – St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School – as individuals and as a group? Nothing sharpens the mind as much as explaining ‘us’ to those in another country.
This is how I explained St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School:
- We have a unique model of education (coeducational until Year 6 and then single sex with opportunities for boys and girls to work together as we see fit and there is personal and educational benefit).
- We are a high achieving and prestigious school.
- We have small classes.
- We have outstanding participation and success in the STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
- We house the Victorian School of Performing Arts.
- We have the International Baccalaureate PYP in the Junior School and are leaders in this space (many of our Junior School staff are IB workshop leaders and teach other teachers around the world).
- We have excellent academic results (SMS is in the top 10% of all VCE schools in VCE and BGS is in the top 25% of all VCE schools) and we are top or second top for ALL measures in Year 7 and 9 NAPLAN results when grouped with similar schools.
- We have a truly stunning environment (grounds).
- We have an increasing emphasis on teacher learning and research.
- We have a mixed demographic including English, Irish Scottish, Indian, Sri Lankan and some Chinese, as well as local Australian students. This makes for a rich, celebratory environment.
- We have reflective, compassionate and thoughtful students and we exist in an area away from city temptations and dangers.
- We offer a broad range of sports and co-curricular activities including equestrian and Human Powered Vehicles.
- We have a proclaimed commitment to the development of the whole person
- We have a recognized commitment to global citizenship, and we place great importance on our relationship with Australia’s First Peoples
The people with whom I was talking confirmed the fact that we are a very special place. I took two films made by Year 10 Media students Alana Geremia and Phoebe Sinclair that featured Yutong (Tracy) Bu and Yun Zou regarding their perceptions of Australia and our school. The fact that our students made the films was considered incredible. Similarly, conversations that were meant to only go for 30 minutes went for 90. Frankly, people are impressed.
The next stage of the Strategic Plan was released last Friday to the Strategic Plan Reference Groups (staff, parents and, shortly, students). A warm invitation to anyone who is still keen to contribute. It is not too late. Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the material.
Warmest wishes to all for a great term!
Ms Annette Rome
- Byram, M. (2013). On Being ‘Bicultural’ and ‘Intercultural’. Intercultural Experience and Education. G. Aldred, Byram, M. and Fleming, M. UK, USA, Canada and Australia, Multilingual Matters. 2: 50-66.