Board Chairman’s Speech, 2015 Speech Night - image  on

Board Chairman’s Speech, 2015 Speech Night

Good evening and welcome to the Honourable Mr Jonathan O’Dea, our local member for Davidson, Headmistress, honoured guests, Board and Members, teachers and staff, parents, and children: –

Each year I have the privilege to stand up here and review the past twelve months at John Colet School.  It is always an education to see, collected together, the changes, the accomplishments and the triumphs of the School, and especially those of the children.  These cover academic success, sporting activities and cultural achievements as well as other fields of endeavour. It is a pleasure to speak of them.

Beginning with some of our academic achievements; as usual, a good number of our 6th class leavers have attained academic scholarships, as well as selective schools and Gifted and Talented placements.  This should not, however, overshadow the other scholarships our children have also secured, including in the Art, Music, Performing Arts and All Rounder fields.  We wish all the 6th class leavers well, and congratulate these scholarship winners.

In other academic areas, the Mandarin learners participated for the first time in a Mandarin language competition.  These ‘after-school-learners’, competing against students from schools where Mandarin is compulsory, performed very well: with one student achieving 3rd place in the 8 to 12 years individual competition – a wonderful achievement.

Our Sanskritists have no local competition to enter; so, apart from our own Sanskrit Recitation Competition, which is always an amazing treat to witness, our sixth class children can choose to enter the International Sanskrit 11-plus Examination.  Here they achieved 1 merit and 7 distinctions- a brilliant result.

In the ICAS external exams John Colet School students achieved: –
•    1 High Distinction and 6 Distinctions in Writing
•    2 High Distinctions and 10 Distinctions in Science
•    2 High Distinctions and 12 Distinctions in English
•    4 High Distinctions and 8 Distinctions in Spelling, and
•    16 Distinctions in Maths.

Also, in the Australian Maths Competition, where 3rd, 4th and 5th Class maths lovers entered for the first time, we achieved the almost incredible result of 2 High Distinctions and 10 Distinctions.  Please remember the small size of John Colet School while you are digesting these academic achievements.

The most gratifying and astounding academic result of all I saw when I looked into The Australian newspaper earlier this year and saw that John Colet School had achieved 8th place across Australia for Primary School NAPLAN results.  Bear in mind that two of the schools above John Colet School are highly selective.  This result is testimony and valuable confirmation that our practices of systematic teaching, respect and love, stillness and mindfulness and other strong values, which have always characterised John Colet School, are indeed a recipe for success as well as being valuable in their own right.

John Colet has never been a school in which sports are given the highest emphasis.  So it is always gratifying when the children give of their best and achieve success in this field: –
•    Our 5th and 6th class boys won their cricket competition and placed 2nd in Rugby.
•    The 5th and 6th class girls won in netball, football and softball – what a triumph!
•    Our 3rd and 4th class girls performed well and came 3rd in their soccer competition.

In cultural areas, John Colet School is proud of its tradition of participation and excellent standards.  This year, as usual, the Chess competition drew large numbers of children, with over 1/3 of the school involved in the internal competition, and with more than half of these not even being Chess Club members!  A young and inexperienced set of teams from the Chess Club won through to the NSW final of the Interschool Chess Challenge, against many larger schools, some of which are selective in intake.  It was a great achievement by 3 of our 4 teams to have a ‘podium’ finish in their divisions.

Our Debating team won the Inter School Debating Finals, defeating The Alexander School, with the adjudicators commenting that the standard of argument, rebuttal and speaking from both teams was on par with High School rather than Primary debating teams.

Before I speak of our musical accomplishments, I must note the extraordinary performance of the children tonight.  It would melt a harder heart than mine.  Mrs Miles, thank you very much for all your work.  

In Music our choir came 1st in the Small Schools Division of the Hawkesbury City Eisteddfod, and 4th in the overall ‘Year 6 and Under’ section.  4th class has worked very hard on their Recorder playing, appearing at school assemblies as accompanists, and competing successfully in the Small Ensemble section of the Ryde City Eisteddfod.  In a very close competition they came 2nd, one point behind the winners.  Congratulations.

Another area I would like to highlight is the fundraising efforts of the children, for charities.  Between their regular Market Days, a special Cupcake Fundraiser, ‘Kidpreneur’ stalls and Jump Rope, I have calculated that they have raised over $8,000 this year for charities such as The Nike Foundation, Lifeline and the Salvation Army, UNICEF, The Starlight Foundation and other organisations.  And that is before mentioning the Christmas Giving program supporting the Smith Family and an underprivileged school in Kenya brought to our attention by one of our former teachers.  This truly expresses the School’s value of “Serve and Care for all”.

Now, from the perspective of the Board’s eye view, many other areas of change are visible.  The leadership of the School is the prime example.  We have seen the retirement of Mr Mane after 25 years of great service, which could have been a significant hurdle for the School.  However, Mrs McKendrick, who is one of the founders of John Colet School and who has been with the School since its inception over 30 years ago, has stepped seamlessly into the role of Headmistress from the start of Term 2, and has led the School with dignity, intelligence, firmness and great love, so that we have not missed a beat.  Enrolments for 2016 and beyond are strong; and our community is well-knit and cohesive.  She has drawn the confidence and admiration of the children, parents, the Board and Members as well as all the staff.  We owe her an immense debt of gratitude.

This is also the time that Mrs Donald will be stepping down from the Board of Governors after serving from the beginning of John Colet School.  She will be sorely missed.

2016 will see the welcoming of our new Headmaster, Mr Wilcock, who will bring to John Colet School great experience, skill and love of education.  We eagerly anticipate the fresh energy, intelligence and warm leadership he embodies.

Now, I mentioned that enrolments for 2016 are strong; and they look to be stronger still for 2017.  I truly value the education John Colet School offers – I think it is unique.  I deeply hate having to turn away children who want our education, but that is what we may now have to do.  In order to overcome this we need two more classrooms by the start of 2017, and fortunately we have consent from the Council to build the necessary space.  So I encourage you from my heart to contribute generously to the fundraising efforts that will be necessary to secure the classrooms we need imminently.

In closing, I would like to share with you my vision for John Colet School.  Long after I have gone; long after everyone in this hall has gone; John Colet School will continue as a beacon, as a shining light of education, Bearing Witness of That Light in this country.  I see John Colet School as the best primary school in Australia, and continuing to grow in the same direction, and with the same values, for a long, long time.  When you consider the long-established schools in Europe, hundreds of years old: that is my vision for John Colet School.  Let us contribute and lend our support as trustees of what will become a great school, a leader in education, over the next 500 years.

Philip Wolfers
John Colet School Board of Governors