EXECUTIVE HEADMASTER’S WELCOME
Dear boys, parents and staff
Welcome back to St Benedict’s for this new year. I hope that you all had a great holiday and are ready for another significant and fruitful year at our wonderful school. 2017 is going to be an exciting one and we are pleased to have each of you participating in it.
Let me also convey my sincerest thanks to you for 2016. As we reflect on the past year, I believe that we have so many reasons to be satisfied with our accomplishments. All must share in the credit: our fantastic boys, our supportive parents and our phenomenal staff. We are making excellent progress in all areas of the school and I am confident that the effort, innovation and drive enacted across the course of 2017 will ensure that we will be able to celebrate the school’s 60th anniversary in 2018 with a sense of achievement and pride.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding and so many of our boys produced such exceptional academic results at the end of 2016. I was particularly pleased with the results achieved at Grade 3, 7 and, of course, Grade 12 level. I want to congratulate all our boys - in particular the matriculants of 2016 - and wish them the very best with their studies in the new year. I am exceptionally proud of the results produced by our English, Maths, Science and IT Departments and I must commend all our academic staff on the exceptional work they do on a day-to-day basis to ensure that each of our boys is able to achieve to the best of his ability.
I would like to welcome all our new boys who formally became part of the Bennies brotherhood this morning. Whether you joined us at Grade R or 8 level (or maybe somewhere in between), know that you are warmly welcomed into our community and we anticipate the contribution that you will make to our school.
It is exciting to be able to welcome all our new staff to each of our three schools. We look forward to the contribution you will make to St Benedict’s, to new relationships and exciting conversations. Your diverse areas of expertise will build upon the remarkable dedication to excellence that characterises our staff community.
On Monday and Tuesday, we spent two fruitful and exciting days with our staff as we prepared to receive the boys on Wednesday. Spirits have been high and I have certainly been motivated and inspired by the “vibe” that has prevailed. I reminded staff that the “fruits” of a St Benedict’s education lie in its “roots”. Whilst innovation in methodologies and advancements in technology are (and have always been) the order of the day at our school, our strength lies in being (a) a distinctly Catholic school that (b) implements the best educational practice for boys whilst (c) remaining firmly focused on academic excellence.
Congratulations to Mrs Sillman and Mrs Povall on starting their 20th year at St Benedicts.
2017 Theme - What do you want from me?
It is nearly 100 years ago that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, appeared six times to three shepherd children near the town of Fatima in Portugal between May 13 and October 12 1917. In commemoration of this centennial, we have adopted as our annual theme, the question What do you want from me?
Whenever Our Lady appeared, one of the children, Lucia Santos, always asked her: ‘What do you want from me?’ Lucia clearly understood that she herself was responsible for receiving Our Lady’s requests and for taking any action that was called for. Her question echoes Samuel’s response to being called “Speak, Lord; your servant is listening”
The theme is designed to prompt each of us to display the same unconditional commitment and willingness with regard to the important vocation to which we have been called. By displaying an active attitude of prompt willingness, let us each make St Benedict’s a great place for staff, a happy place for parents and the absolute best place for boys .
The question is also a proposal that this year we commit to giving God and the silence in which we can hear Him speak, more time. We live in a society and in an age that is so noisy and cluttered with information. The greatest irony of our technological advancement is that although more and more machines are able to do the work for us, we are increasingly using them to consume our time as we become busier and busier.
Let us use this year to display a generous attitude of being open to God’s will and - through the light of our example - act as lanterns illuminating the way for others.
I would encourage parents to set aside some time each week to peruse the newsletter that ispublished by your section of the school (and if you have some time, possibly check what is happening elsewhere in the school?)
We are planning a few changes to the way we communicate with our community:
- A hyperlink reminder will no longer be emailed on a weekly but rather on a fortnightly basis. It is, however, safe to assume that the newsletters on the respective websites are always current. If you are unsure about an event, a fixture, a starting time, a venue etc., the newsletter is always a good place to check.
- We will also be introducing a “Quick Calendar” for each section of the school which will be accessed from the main site at www.stbenedicts.co.za This will be an easy-to-use overview of upcoming events.
- During the course of the year, we will launch a St Benedict’s app which will make accessing information - particularly when one is away from one’s desktop - a whole lot easier.
- Parents are welcome to communicate with staff. Email addresses are surname followed by initial @stbenedicts.co.za e.g. email@example.com
I would like to thank those parents who have paid their school fees upfront for the year. A gentle reminder to those parents who have opted to pay fees on a monthly basis that payments must reach the school a month in advance by the 1st day of the month. January payments were due on 15 January 2017.
St Benedict’s is a not-for-profit organisation and we do not have access to excess funds. On a monthly basis, we are entirely dependent on the income received from parents. When our parents neglected to meet their financial obligations, the school’s ability to meet its monthly commitments is compromised.
A reminder too that when payments are made, either by cheque or EFT, that they should be made payable to “St Benedict’s Trust”.
Traffic flow through the school during “peak times” has always been a challenge at St Benedict’s and we are constantly looking at ways in which it can be improved. Please bear in mind that in addition to our Junior Preparatory School, there are a further three schools in Kings Rd and there is a great deal of traffic congestion, particularly in the mornings.
We have on numerous occasions made suggestions to the relevant authorities regarding how we believe the situation can be improved. Our suggestions have not been successful and we have to rely on our parents’ willingness to adhere to our requests and to obviously always be polite and courteous.
I request that you read this document carefully and that you adhere strictly to the traffic rules that it sets out. Also consult the attached diagram.
Peak Times at St Benedict’s
The Kings Rd gate is used as an exit during the following peak times:
All weekday mornings: 06h30 – 08h00
Monday, Tuesday & Thursday afternoons: 13h15 - 16h00
Wednesday & Friday afternoons: 12h45 - 15h00
Travelling through the school grounds
During the “peak times” indicated above the following traffic regulations will apply:
- A one-way system is in effect from beyond the left hand turn into the gym car park up to the Kings Rd exit.
- The left hand lane of the main driveway is used as a stop-and-go drop-off/pick-up zone. Moving traffic should keep to and pass on the right in the main driveway of the school. This drop-off zone is to be used by College parents only.
- Parents may choose to turn right into the parking lot at Cafe 58 and use this as a drop-off/pick-up point. Please note that a one-way system is in effect around the island and parents who choose to use this parking lot as a drop off/pick up zone should travel around the entire island and re-join the main traffic flow by keeping right at the Four Pillars and exit into Kings Rd. We ask that parents do not park in the first ten bays closest to the school buildings as these are reserved for staff parking.
- Parents exiting the Cafe 58 car park should not attempt to turn left and head down the main driveway.
- At the duck pond near the top of the driveway, parents must start favouring the right hand lane. Staff who need to turn left after the gazebo need to keep to the left hand lane at this point. Beacons are set out in the morning splitting the road in two.
- Parents may not turn left immediately after the gazebo. This is a left-hand turn for staff only.
College and Preparatory parents are encouraged to use the gym and Cafe 58 car parks to drop off and collect their sons.
Parents driving in the gym carpark are requested not to cut straight across the parking bays.
There are 19 parking bays reserved on the western side of the central island in front of the administration blocks. The island runs parallel to Kings Rd. These bays should be used as a stop-and-go drop-off/pick-up zone by Preparatory parents only. Preparatory boys should move up and down the paved central pathway on the island and should cross at the zebra crossing in front of the St Benedict’s statue.
Parents are requested not to stop or park in the bays that have been allocated for staff parking. Each bay has been allocated to a specific staff member who has nowhere else to park should they discover that a parent has used their bay.
Moving traffic should keep to and pass on the right of this drop-off zone in front of the administrative blocks.
Parents exiting the school into Kings Rd are encouraged preferably to turn to the left.
FOR THE SAFETY OF OUR BOYS, PLEASE FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE SECURITY GUARDS ON DUTY AND ADHERE TO THE 20KM/H SPEED LIMIT THAT APPLIES WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THE SCHOOL PROPERTY.
I thank you in advance for your willingness to cooperate with the school in this regard.
On behalf of the St Benedict’s Trust, Board of Governors and the Executive Management of the school, I would like to wish you all the very best for the new year.
Executive Headmaster's Newsletter 10 March 2016
The St Benedict's Board of Governors met on Thursday, 25 February 2015. Together with our bursar, Coleen Mowatt, I was in a position to table the 2015 Financial Report. Included below - in the interests of transparency - are the major threads of that discussion:
2015 FINANCIAL REPORT
The main source of income for St Benedict's is - of course - school fees. We are a registered Public Benefit Organisation and we operate on a not-for-profit model. We do not have cash reserves or an endowment upon which to rely - this is largely due to the fact that the school has been funding substantial development projects since 1999. Our annual budget planning does not accommodate "profit" i.e. we set school fees at the minimum required to ensure that the school is able to operate effectively and efficiently.
The school received a net income of R95 149 092 for 2015: 54,9% of which was derived from College fees, 24,2% from Preparatory fees and 20,7% from Junior Preparatory fees. Income from other sources (After School Centre, Application and Enrolment fees, rentals and boarding) amounted to R3 125 891.
2015 Operating expenses amounted to R92 971 179 and were distributed as follows:
General Running Costs R30 657 447 32,9%
College Running Costs R32 486 532 34.9%
Preparatory Running Costs R14 238 165 15%
Junior Preparatory Running Costs R10 290 236 11%
Technology R2 453 978 2,6%
Transport R1 406 709 1,5%
Interest on Overdraft R512 697 0,5%
The bulk of our expenditure remains dedicated to sourcing and retaining the best and most suitable teachers. Staff salaries comprise 70% of running costs. Other major expenses include insurance (R 1 004 469), security (R 1 480 354) and lights and water (R 3 393 119).
Last year, the school reflected an operating surplus of R 5 303 804 before development costs and bank loan repayments are taken into account. The construction of the Galloway Centre, however, cost R 9 620 000 and furnishings and equipment for the Centre amounted to R 3 446 000.
The school continues to rely upon an overdraft facility and our greatest financial challenge remains the management of our monthly cash flow. Parents can assist in this regard by ensuring that fees due are paid timeously as monthly "late payers" potentially compromise the effective functioning of the school.
ENROLMENT AND ATTRITION
On the 10th school day, St Benedict's had 1467 boys enrolled: 674 in the College and 793 at Preparatory and Junior Preparatory level. College enrolment is slightly down with only 78 boys having moved from St Benedict's Preparatory School into Grade 8. College enrolment has, however, grown by 12.7% over the last five years and 4% over the last three years.
Excluding the 2015 matriculants, a total of 87 boys left St Benedict's during the course of 2016. The top five reasons cited for attrition are: Academic rigor too high (21); Private & personal reasons (15); Relocation (18); Financial (10), Emigration (7) and Discontent (2). The attrition percentage of 5.93% is, however, slightly lower than that of 2014 (6.76%) and compares most favourably with similar schools.
Catholic enrolment at St Benedict's continues to hover at the 40% mark. Of the professional staff, 45% are Catholic.
The number of "previously disadvantaged" boys enrolled at the school has risen from 23% in 2012 to 30% in 2016.
St Benedict's currently has 257 employees. These staff are distributed as follows:
Full-time "academic" staff
Sports-specific staff and interns
The support staff – shared by all sections of the school - are distributed as follows:
Parnassus Farm 21
Food and Beverage 10
Ravens Park 4
The support staff complement increased by 35,4% at the start of 2016 when Basil Bibis' staff and the part-time staff at Parnassus were employed on a permanent basis.
Costs of staff development for 2015 was R632 611. I would like to thank our Board of Governors for their generosity in this regard. Staff development in today's rapidly changing educational environment is essential. Our staff are in a position to attend many workshops and conferences throughout the course of the year and are constantly improving their skills and practices.
In addition, the school was able to provide nominal financial assistance to seventeen staff members who spent the year improving their qualifications. I would like to congratulate Mr Byron Tennant and Mrs Sharon Sillman - both passed their B Ed Hons degrees. Mr Ryan de Reuck completed his Honours degree in English and Mr Chris Couperthwaite, Mr Katlego Lynch and Mrs Shanleigh Pegler all successfully completed their PGCE's.
The learner/teacher ratio at College level is 10.21. The Preparatory school ratio is 14.2. The combined learner/all staff ratio is 6.2. This has shifted from 7.1 in 2013. This shift is attributable to the introduction of additional specialist subjects at College level as well as the increase in our support staff complement.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
I would like to congratulate Cameron James in Gr 7E who won the competition to rename the College Tuckshop which was formerly known as "Basil's". There were 179 entries in the competition and I was astounded by the creativity of our boys (and parents!). In the end, the list was narrowed down to:
"The View" - Nicholas van Niekerk
"Daily Bread" - Luca Neves
"Friar Tucks" - Dale-James Dunkerley
"The Raven's Nest" - Liam Zackey
"The Touchline" - Dale-James Dunkerley
"The Up & Under" - Sean Kruger
In the end, however, Cameron's suggestion of "Café '58" proved to be the most popular with the St Benedict's Executive and Board of Governors as it suitably sums up the purpose of the facility and also doffs a cap to our school history. Congratulations, Cameron and enjoy your term's supply of free lunch.
I am sure that boys and parents would have noticed that the menus in all three the tuckshops have been streamlined and costs revisited. Our aim is to provide choices which not only find favour with the boys but that are also nutritional. Whilst it would be unsound to run Café 58 at a loss, our main purpose if to offer a service as opposed to make a profit. For this reason, we have been able reduce costs on a number of items.
Parents and boys are invited to share feedback regarding the menus and or service with our Food and Beverage Manager, Leon van Deventer at vanDeventerL@stbenedicts.co.za
ST BENEDICT'S DEBIT CARDS
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be issuing each boy at St Benedict's with a "debit card". Once cash has been loaded onto the card, boys will be able to tap the card to make purchases at any of the tuckshops.
Initially, cash may to be loaded onto the card at the point of sale or by making use of one of three cash-loading machines that will be installed on the campus. Within the next few months, parents will also be able to load cash onto the card remotely via the school website and EFT.
We have also implemented SnapScan as a payment option at all the tuckshop venues.
FIBRE OPTIC CABLES
Over the course of the last two months, we have been able to increase our internet speeds by installing an additional 200 Mb fibre connection. The line will be solely for internet browsing and day to day usage in classrooms across the campus. It will greatly alleviate the previous constraints we faced in terms of bandwidth.
I would like to commend our Head of Technology, Chris Breetvelt, on this leadership and hard work in this regard.
I am pleased to be able to report that our school clinic is now fully operational. The clinic is situated at the base of the bell tower in the Galloway Centre and our dispensing nurse, Sr Beverly, is already being kept very busy by boys and staff.
Across the course of Term 1, academic conversations have been shaped by Ron Ritchhart's recently published book Creating Cultures of Thinking. Ritchhart has been a researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education since 1994 and his team's research focuses on understanding how to develop, nurture, and sustain thoughtful learning environments for both students and teachers.
The subtitle "The 8 Forces We Must Master to truly Transform Our Schools" highlights what the focus of the research project has been: how expectations, language, time, opportunities, routine and structure, interactions and relationships, modeling and environment. The first three of these forces have enjoyed our attention this term and parents and staff are invited to download my Creating Culture of Thinking ppt should they wish to follow the major threads of our discussion.
The College has moved from summer to winter sports. I still find it remarkable that boys and staff are able to manage this change in less than twenty-four hours. As the winter season rapidly approaches, it is an opportunity to look back on what has been a term filled with many highlights. Personally, I was enthralled by the enthusiasm of our Junior Preparatory staff and boys as they celebrated Dr Seuss's 112th birthday. Our Preparatory school hosted their 10th Rugby Festival and did so most successfully. At College level, I was thrilled by our boys' second place at the Interhigh Swimming Gala as well as our rowers 23rd consecutive win at SA Rowing Championships.
I would like to thank all our boys, staff and parents for their contribution to our school over the course of the last two and a half months. I often wonder around the school buildings when no-one is here and it really drives home how - without you - the school is simply a set of buildings. We are who and what we are because of you. You are all superstars!
Earlier this year I asked Mrs Chalmers to teach our College Choir a gospel song called "Greater" by MercyMe. They debuted the song to the College during the First Friday Mass in March. There are three lines from the lyrics of that song which I leave with you for the upcoming Easter season:
There'll be days I lose the battle
Grace says that it doesn't matter
Because the cross already won the war
I extend my very best wishes to all our boys, staff and parents for a happy and holy Easter. May the peace of the Risen Christ bless your homes, your hearts and your families.
Executive Headmaster's Newsletter January 2016
Dear Boys, Staff and Parents
The promise and potential of a new academic year has started to unfold and I take this opportunity to wish each one of you the very best for 2016. Be visionary and brave in the goals you set for yourself and ensure that they are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
I welcome the Grade 8 boys to the start of their high school career. Irrespective of whether you have journeyed to this point through our own Preparatory School or joined us from elsewhere, high school presents you with the prospect of a fresh start. Your high school career is a "tabula rasa" – a clean slate. I encourage you to make the best of the many opportunities St Benedict's will afford you; get involved in all four cornerstones of the school and never be content with giving anything less than your very best.
I extend my very best wishes to the matrics of 2016. The Grade 12 year requires diligence and commitment from the very start. Although the year is filled with many challenges it will also be the most rewarding year as much of the hard work you have put into academics, sport and cultural activities over the course of the last twelve or thirteen years will come to fruition. Remember that your teachers, coaches and parents are your partners and not your opponents: they would all prefer to work with you - as opposed to against you - to ensure that you reach your true potential. Know that you are always in my prayers.
A SPECIAL YEAR
2016 is sure to be an extraordinary year for St Benedicts:
The Catholic Church is celebrating an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy which started with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 2015 and ends on the Feast of Christ the King on November 20, 2016.
It is a year during which we are called to examine the strength of our own faith and to draw closer to the Mercy of God while being challenged to live in the light of the word of the Lord. We are all called to “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”. We are all called to participate: by praying Pope Francis' Year of Mercy Prayer daily; by going to Confession; by forgiving someone; by taking a pilgrimage; by praying the Divine Mercy Novena and by reaching out to others through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
This year, we also join with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate – our founding fathers - in celebrating their bicentennial.
Two hundred years ago, on 25 January 1816, St Eugene de Mazenod "impelled by a strong impulse from outside of himself" invited a group of priests to join him in his life of total oblation to God and to the most abandoned of Provence. That group – initially called the "Missionaries of Provence" would later become the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Without that meeting two hundred years ago, our school would not exist today and we are called to celebrate with our founders to express our appreciation and gratitude for God’s guidance and blessings during these past 200 years.
Our staff commencement mass was celebrated by Fr McGreal, an erstwhile chaplain of St Benedict's. Fr McGreal reminded us all that while it takes a long time to build something, it can be destroyed very, very quickly. The bicentennial celebrations provide us with an opportunity to continue to build on the rich traditions established over the last 58 years. God has taught us that the way of progress is the way of fellowship and service; may we realise our responsibilities as members of this school and may nothing we do or say tarnish its good name.
Heads of Schools have welcomed new staff in each of our three schools and it falls to me to welcome staff who have a particular "whole school" focus:
Garradene Rooskrans joins St Benedict's as an Aftercare Assistant and I am sure will quickly become a well-known face to boys and parents making use of the Joseph Gerard Centre.
Buhrmann Steenkamp joins our Music Department as a fulltime guitar tutor. We are very pleased that the growth in our Music Department and the demand for individual tuition lessons has reached the point at which we are able to justify and afford the salary of a fulltime tutor. Mr Steenkamp's appointment will undoubtedly ease scheduling and logistics as boys will be able to attend their lessons during the school day.
I am particularly excited to welcome Sr Beverly Ferreira to St Benedict's. Sr Beverly is a registered dispensing nurse and joins our school with the responsibility for establishing an onsite health care service for our boys and staff. The clinic will be situated in a purpose-built room at the base of the bell tower in the Galloway Centre and will be open from 7:30 to 16:00 daily. Sr Ferreira will work closely with Dr Roussouw, a well-known personality in the Bedfordview community, who has agreed to assist us in this new venture. We are in the process of "fitting out" the centre and if all goes according to plan, the clinic will be fully functional by the midterm break.
The Department of Basic Education has determined that from Grade 1 in 2016, the Incremental Introduction of African Languages must be implemented in all public and independent schools that follow the National Curriculum Statement.
This means that from 2016, all schools offering the National Curriculum Statement must offer three official languages from Grade 1, one of which must be a "previously marginalised indigenous African Language". At St Benedict's, we have already commenced with the introduction of IsiZulu.
Starting at Grade 1 level this year, St Benedict's will offer English Home Language, Afrikaans First Additional and Zulu First Additional Language. It is planned that the current cohort of Grade 1 boys will then choose – at Preparatory School level - to take either Afrikaans and Zulu as a First Additional Language with the third language been offered at Second Additional Language level.
This will allow for two options:
English Home Language
English Home Language
Afrikaans First Additional Language
Zulu First Additional Language
Zulu Second Additional Language
Afrikaans Second Additional Language
At this stage it is unclear how the policy will impact on instructional time and how the additional language will be assessed. It is clear, however, that as the Grade 1's move through their school career, promotion requirements across all phases of schools will be changed to accommodate the third language. These promotion requirements will impact on all schools at Grade 12 level in 2025 when a third language will be a requirement for a National Senior Certificate.
I encourage all parents to remain fully informed by engaging regularly with the many forms of communication that flow from our schools. The most important of these is, of course, the weekly newsletters written by the Heads of Schools. These are published on the school website and a link is emailed home to parents early on a Friday afternoon. If your email address changes, please remember to log on to our parents' portal to keep your personal details updated.
In addition to the weekly newsletter, you are encouraged to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Clamour is published each half term and is a "celebration" of the achievements over the preceding six weeks.
One of the challenges our Marketing Department faces is the "pulling" of content from boys and coaches. Parents are invited to assist us by forwarding any content they deem "newsworthy" using our online News Submission facility:
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
From the start of 2016, Food and Beverage services at St Benedict's are no longer outsourced and will be overseen by our new Food and Beverage Manager, Leon van Deventer. Given the vital nature of this service, we will be introducing a few changes but in a slow and measured way.
Over the course of the Term 1, we will be introducing of a cashless card system which will allow boys to load credit at the point-of-sale or parents to load credit onto their son's card via EFT. The card will also allow parents to alert sales staff to food allergies or to shape the purchases permitted for the card. We are in the process of revising menus and reviewing prices. The College tuckshop will also require rebranding. Our intention is not to chase profits but rather to offer a quality service to boys, parents and staff.
2016 DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
The following capital development projects are planned for 2016:
Conversion of College auditorium into a box theatre (R250 000)
Conversion of art classroom into a dual-purpose laboratory (R300 000)
College Library (R2 100 000)
Waterpolo entertainment area and sports storerooms (R 350 000)
Waterpolo stands roof (R 200 000)
Second floor extension above Prep D & T Classrooms to commence (R 1 000 000)
FUTURES AND STRATEGIC COUNCIL
Staff throughout the school are currently involved in an extended process of discussing and debating the strategic future of St Benedict's. A realigned strategic plan is due be adopted at the end of September 2016 and the Futures and Strategic Council is an initiative which was launched during the course of 2015 to inform this plan. The Council allows stakeholders at all levels of the school to have some input into the strategic future of the school.
Parents and boys are invited to share any thoughts that they may have in this regard with the following chairpersons:
Academic – Mr S Curtis
Religion, Community Wellness and Advancement – Dr D Oerson
Sport – Mr D Jeffrey
Cultural activities – Mrs M Mackinnon
I was excited to be able to address our Grade 8 boys at the close of a very successful camp on Friday, 15 January. I shared with them some advice from the work of Mark Sanborn, the author of The Fred Factor and Fred 2.0. It seems fitting – at the start of this new year - that I close with the same "checklist" that I shared with them:
- Go beyond what is expected
Do not be content with being "normal"
- Do ordinary things in extraordinary ways
Love what you do
Care about the people you work with and for
A C Oosthuysen