Headmaster's Speech Night 2016 address - image  on https://www.johncolet.nsw.edu.au

Headmaster’s Speech Night 2016 address

Thank you Mr Wolfers.

It gives me great pleasure to be before you this evening and to have the opportunity to speak at my first John Colet School Speech Night. I would like to begin by giving my heartfelt thanks to the entire school community for the trust and support you have given me. From the Board, teachers, office staff, parents and most importantly students I have felt welcome from the first day I arrived.

Before joining John Colet School, I did my research, as many do these days, online through Google. Here was a small school, in a lovely bush land setting that took the time, in what is an already packed national curriculum to include such things as Mindfulness, Sanskrit, Philosophy, Choir and a full Shakespeare program for the entire school…..and was with all these ‘extras’ managing to outperform almost all schools across the country.

Had these children been handpicked from the most elite nurseries in Australia? Did they spend each day practising a battery of tests? Was there something in the water in Wyatt Avenue? Or was it a secret experiment in genetic engineering, and perhaps the secret sister school of the Xmen?? I was very relieved upon arriving to find everyone to be just regular humans who were passionate about quality education. 

I have really enjoyed this year in unpacking the different elements of John Colet School. Each event, celebration and performance has been a first and I have been continually astounded at how rich and diverse an environment this is for our students. The whole is certainly greater than the sum of the parts though, and for me this has been evident on a daily basis through the character and actions of our students.

Many schools have a set of values that they aspire to, very few actually imbed their practical application into the life of the school, let alone have the same approach with staff. John Colet School has a proven approach to holistic primary education that is undertaken by passionate and committed teachers. These teachers are in turn supported by our parent community who have chosen this school because they too share in our values and are dedicated to ensuring the very best environment for their children. Schools are all about people and it is our shared vision which enables ours to flourish.

When you have even a small community such as ours, engaged within a shared vision, amazing things can happen that go beyond what should reasonably be possible:

Just a few quick examples include:

Our Second Class students, whose combined artwork of the plant Grevillea Caleyi, an endangered species growing in a protected area behind our school, came second in the Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition.

Our 6th Class combined artwork becoming a finalist in the Gallipoli Art Prize.

An honourable mention with the Eisteddfod competition.

Our chess team came 6th in the Sydney Academy Chess Challenge, and were only 1 point behind 3rd place in the NSW Primary Schools Tournament.

Naplan results showing JCS to be equal 5th in NSW and 9th Nationally.

Taking first in the inter school Debate Championship.

 Placing in almost all areas within the PISA Sports Competitions throughout the year.

 Competing within the International Sanskrit Competition set and marked in London.

 Not to mention our standout events this year such as Open Day, Shakespeare Festival, Science and Book Week.

Now when I did start that Google search, not that much more than a year ago, one of the items that popped up were the Youtube recordings of school speeches from previous years. I was extremely impressed then as I am sure you will be tonight by the speeches of the Head Boy and Girl. I had to check again that I was not in fact looking at a High School rather than a Primary. I was also pretty impressed by Mrs McKendrick’s speech.

Speaking is something we learn very early on. It seems simple, yet doing it in front of a large audience can be incredibly difficult. Research studies show us that adults find public speaking up there with the top rated fears like snakes and spiders. It takes skill and practice…… As you may now be wondering, I did not have the opportunity for public speaking or debating in my early education and as you hopefully cannot tell, I am still working on it. Any improvement has only come through multiple times of butterflies, sweats, shakes and heart palpations.

Speaking publicly is a great gift and is just one of the outcomes of the work of our school through our excellent literature program, debating competitions and performing arts program. Students here become confident, resilient and caring citizens. Even more than the individual results or events during the year, the true mark of a school comes down to the students and I am very proud and honoured to be learning with such a wonderful group of children.

As we come to the end of 2016 we are at an exciting time in our schools journey. Our Masterplan was approved this year allowing us to plan for growth and enhance our facilities. We have begun the building of two new classrooms and the creation of a new play area above top house, both of which will open next year. Along with a large cohort of new Lower First children we will also be welcoming new students across many of our year levels. As our community grows so does our ability to support continued improvement for our school.

This is all very positive, however sadly, (as I am often reminded and encouraged to address), we do not have a high school. Because of this it is with sorrow that we are saying goodbye to our current 6th Class.

6th Class remember that making mistakes is learning as long as you don’t do it twice, do try and learn to keep your shoelaces done up, respecting others is the right thing to do (especially your parents, you don’t how hard a job it is), be true to yourself and act to help others, and remember a ‘pause’ a day keeps the doctor away (I think that’s how it goes). Lastly, remember to stay in touch and visit us in the school. We want to hear of all your adventures from now right throughout your life.

I would like to mention two critical volunteer support groups that are invaluable to our school. The first is our Parents and Friends Association who give up so much of themselves to enhance our school. If you are not already involved I implore you to join the group or perhaps just support an event. They are a great group of people and it is fun! The second group I would like to thank is our Board of Governors. They have been of particular help to myself in this first year and have also consistently guided the school over the years as committed volunteers.  

I would like to end in the same way as I begun…..by thanking all students, parents, staff and Board Members for making me so welcome this year. I trust that you will extend the same John Colet friendship to all our new families who will be joining us in 2017.