As I sit down to write the Executive Headmaster’s Report for 2012, my mind turns to the words of Linsky and Lawrence in the opening chapter of “Leading and Managing Schools” (H O’Sullivan and John West-Burnham, SAGE, 2011)
. They state that “…this is an extraordinary moment to be caring about education. The challenges have never been greater, the opportunities never more present, and the need for success never more critical.”
As I lead St Benedict’s, together with Mr Edwards, our deputies and staff, we encounter many such extraordinary moments on a daily basis: sometimes those moments take the form of a challenge, more often they take the form of opportunities. I believe, however, that despite the challenges and through the opportunities, the St Benedict’s community continues to achieve remarkable success. We can all be justifiably proud to be associated with this fine institution.
There is no better indicator of success in independent education than enrolment and we are blessed with unprecedented growth. This growth is particularly focused at Grade 8 and 9 level. A total of 193 prospective Grade 8’s wrote the College’s entrance exam. St Benedict’s moves into 2013 with 1401 boys enrolled: 400 in the Junior Preparatory School; 379 in the Preparatory School and 622 in the College.
We were privileged to have a number of new staff join St Benedict's during the course of the year.
In the College, new staff included Mrs G Cook (Mathematics & Head of Mathematical Literacy), Mrs K Ashworth (Afrikaans), Mrs A Dunn (Head of Accounting and Economic Management Sciences), Mrs M du Plessis (Afrikaans), Mrs C Esterhuizen (Head of Physical Sciences), Ms M Coetzee (Head of Visual Art), Mr P du Plooy (Physical Science) and Mr D Edwards (History). Three additional interns were also employed: Mr R Stonier (Religious Education and Drama), Mr S Edwards (Accounting and Religious Education) and Mr Oliver Guyonnaud. I would like formally to congratulate Mr S Edwards on successfully completing his PGCE and wish him all the very best as he resumes his duties as a first year teacher next year. Our sports department has also been strengthened through the appointment of Mr L Thaba and Mr G Mbangeni as fulltime sports coaches.
Our Preparatory staff welcomed Mr W Mallalieu (Sports Department), Mrs C Maaren (Grade 4 Maths) and Mrs E Mattheus (Grade 6 Afrikaans) to their ranks and Mrs L Beattie joined the Junior Preparatory school as an intern.
During the course of the year, the Board and Governors approved the appointment of Dr Deon Oerson as a Senior Deputy Headmaster of the Preparatory School.
Mrs J Brooks joined the school’s Finance Office and Mrs S Grispan joined the Aftercare Centre.
We bid farewell to Mr Malcolm Chalmers who left St Benedict's to fill the post of Headmaster at St Martin's Preparatory School. We will certainly miss Mr Chalmers’ wonderful sense of humour and the fantastic contribution he made to the cultural life of our Preparatory School. Mrs Carmen Kelly retired from the school at the end of Term 1 after nineteen years of loyal service. For many years, Mrs Kelly was the “face” of St Benedict’s and she will be fondly remembered by boys, parents and staff. Mr G Mowatt left his internship after being awarded a music scholarship to the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in Kilburn, London.
The matriculants of 2011 produced excellent results in the National Senior Certificate Examination of the Independent Examinations Board. One hundred and twenty two boys sat the exam and the results they achieved are ample proof of the calibre of teaching and learning that boys attending St Benedict’s receive. The College achieved a 100% pass rate for the 37th consecutive year with 92.6% of the candidates achieving University Entrance passes. The 122 matriculants produced 214 distinctions. Yifan Li, our top achiever, obtained a record ten distinctions and featured on the IEB Outstanding Achievers’ List together with Jedd Harris and Matthew Curtis who produced 9 distinctions each. Fabio Areias who was recognised by the IEB as a Commendable Achiever also produced 9 distinctions. Seventeen boys achieved overall distinction averages and 45.9% of group achieved averages above 70% and higher.
It was most gratifying to host representatives from Wits University at a Headmaster’s Assembly late in June. They presented the school with a certificate recognising St Benedict’s as one of the University’s top feeder schools. It was also pleasing to note the 82% pass rate from St Benedict’s old boys registered at the University of the Witwatersrand.
I would like to thank all our staff – whether they teach Grade R or Grade 12 – for the fantastic contribution they make to our boys’ academic development.
On the sports fields, our boys across the school have continued to do us proud as they hold their own against the toughest of competition. We may not win every game or every race but increasingly our boys win and lose with great dignity and humility. Culturally, we have also had an extremely busy year and we are pleased with the growth that has occurred in both the College Drama and Music Departments. Extramurally, highlights included our Preparatory School’s production of “Smike”, the College’s performances in the finals of the RAPS One-Act Play Festival, the annual major production hosted this year by Assumption Convent and our Unified Cultural Showcase which included a debut performance from a unified choir. Our Pipe Band is the strongest it as ever been and will travel to Scotland next year to participate in the World Championships.
Thank you to our sports coaches and cultural facilitators throughout the school for the time and effort you have put in to ensure that our boys are able to participate and compete in our rich and varied sporting and cultural programme.
More comprehensive reports on St Benedict’s endeavours and achievements in these different areas are reported elsewhere in our respective magazines.
A number of innovative and special events have taken place during the course of the year. We were delighted to have Bishop Buti Tlhagale as well as the Oblate Provincial Fr Terry Barnard celebrate Holy Mass on St Benedict’s Day. After mass, the Bishop officially unveiled and blessed the new statue of our patron saint. We were honoured to host the Bishop Hans Brenninmeijer Memorial Lecture delivered by Dr Mamphela Ramphele at our Junior Preparatory School on 24 July 2012. Our Preparatory School sports festivals and tournaments continue to draw participating schools from across South Africa and certainly go a long way in building relationships with other schools. Our Preparatory School also hosted a very successful Fun Day which coincided with our annual Pipe Band Gathering and our Junior Preparatory School a wet but well-supported Art and Wine Festival.
Under the leadership of Dr Oerson, our Religious Education Departments completed Statements 1 and 2 of “Signs of God’s Presence”, the appraisal tool used to measure the Catholicity of schools. The tool was prepared for the Catholic Schools Proprietors’ Association by the Catholic Institute of Education. In addition, the school completed an Umalusi Monitoring Report during the course of this year. A full-scale whole-school evaluation – conducted by the Independent Quality Assurance Agency – is planned for 2013.
A number of policies have been formulated and adopted during the course of the 2013 Academic Year. These include A Child Safeguarding Policy (currently under final review), a Policy governing Cautionary and Grievance Procedures for Parents, a Religious Education and Sexuality Policy. The school has also moved increasingly towards formalising and regularising relationships with corporate sponsors. Much time has been spent implementing a new Parents Contract based on a template provided by the Independent Schools Association of South Africa. It is hoped that by the end of the year, structures will be in place to allow parents to complete the annual registration of their son – which includes acceptance of this contract – online.
From the start of 2012, the Board of Governors set aside funds to provide for Group Accident Insurance Cover. This insurance is designed to provide some financial assistance to parents when covering the costs of medical expenses incurred by boys who are injured at school, particularly while playing sport.
Our Health and Safety Committee has continued to meet throughout the year and I am pleased to report that the school campuses and their facilities, Ravens Park and Parnassus are all moving increasingly to full compliance in this regard. As part of this process, across the school 27 staff members completed the Level 1 First Aid certificate. In addition, six staff passed the Level 2 Certificate. This brings the overall count of Qualified Staff 1st Aiders at St Benedict’s to 52. From the start of Term 3, the school became a smoke-free zone.
During the course of the year, 92 College boys have undergone random testing for recreational drug usage. All these boys tested negative. Steroid testing has continued on a regular basis and we are pleased to report that no boy has tested positive. We firmly believe that our zero-tolerance policy in this regard continues to empower our boys and assists them in resisting temptation when it comes their way.
During the course of Term 1 and Term 2, the Executive Committee approved a new Staff Appraisal Tool which has been implemented in the second half of the year. Initial reports indicate that the revised process has been well received by staff. Throughout the year, staff have attended a wide variety of workshops, seminars and conferences. St Benedict’s is always well represented at the annual IEB Subjects Conferences and this year St Benedict’s convened the English Conference. In March, 18 Junior Preparatory and Preparatory Staff travelled to Maritzburg College to attend the National Boys School Conference. In July, Mr Edwards and Mr Jeffrey attended the International Boys School Conference in Melbourne, Australia. In March, a number of our Board Members attended a Governance Workshop hosted by ISASA at Holy Rosary School.
Following the successful launch of our refurbished school website last year, we introduced facilities to enable parents to pay fees and purchase photographs online. Our website also now includes a social networking platform for St Benedict’s Old Boys.
We were extremely proud to be able to officially open the Joseph Gerard Aftercare Centre on 3 February 2012. Boys using the centre now enjoy first-class facilities.
On 14 March, the Ramon Di Clemente Rowing Centre was blessed and officially opened. The facility has greatly enriched the training programme that we are able to provide our rowers.
The school took transfer of property at 3 Zeeman Rd which is now the residence for the Executive Headmaster.
In addition to these major additions, physical improvements and developments have taken the form of a number of smaller projects around the school. These projects included:
- The installation of 32 security cameras in and around the campus;
- The addition of “kitchen spaces” to three Boarding Masters Quarters and minor renovations to two dormitories;
- The establishment and upgrading of campus gardens;
- The unveiling of the statue of our patron, St Benedict;
- The aesthetic improvements of the entrance to the Junior Preparatory School;
- The wrap-around balcony, sports storeroom and small amphitheatre at the Tony Dobson Pavilion;
- The refurbishment of the “Top of Basil’s” in the Tony Dobson Pavilion;
- The first-floor extensions to the Preparatory School Music Room which have added three music tuition rooms, two offices and a Preparatory School boardroom;
- Funds raised by Parent Support Groups ensured that we could erect six concrete grandstands alongside the Hockey Astro and build a cricket hut to host two bowling machines and nets;
- Two staircases – one in the central College quad and another leading out onto the D-Rugby field – were erected and have greatly eased congestion on the corridors;
- The conversion of the Preparatory prop storeroom into a tuition room for drumming; a prep storeroom into a second-hand clothing shop and a College storeroom in offices for the school’s PRO, Tanya Vogt;
- The provision of directional signage throughout the campus.
- A cosmetic upgrade to the hall toilets;
- The installation of a digital projector in the school hall and
- The establishment of two smoking areas for staff.
The “Four Pillars Portal” – a gift from the matric class of 2011 – was completed during the course of the year and is a fitting welcome to boys, staff, parents and visitors arriving at St Benedict’s and is also a constant physical reminder of some of the core principles in our school’s vision.
I would like to thank and congratulate the editors of our three school magazines – Mrs Margarita Nichas, Mrs Francene Kapp and Mrs Terry Edwards. There is no more time consuming and thankless job in a school than editing the annual magazine and I commend you all on your sterling efforts in capturing the spirit of 2012.
As the 2012 academic year draws to a close, the important thing to remember is that every boy, every teacher, every parent who passes through St Benedict’s, for however short a period, is a contributor to the building up of the traditions and name of the school. This tradition has been firmly and soundly laid since 1958 through a very worthy succession of headmasters, teachers and boys, all of whom have been rightfully proud to be association with this school. Those of us who are currently here must regard ourselves not only as the guardians of those traditions but also the builders of the future.
To God be the Glory.
A C Oosthuysen