During the course of 2014, the New Zealand Council of Education Research for the Association of Boys' School of New Zealand conducted a study into the achievement of boys in monastic boys' schools in New Zealand. Although the research is obviously country-specific, the researchers identified eight characteristics which they believed to be common amongst high performing schools. It is a very interesting list and one which I find myself using to measure St Benedict's performance. The eight characteristics highlighted include:
1. A consistent focus on academic achievement as the key goal.
2. A strong emphasis on effective staff professional development.
3. A high engagement with, and involvement of, parents in all aspects of school life.
4. A dedication to a strong co-curricular programme.
5. The provision of robust pastoral support structures.
6. The clarity of, and belief in, a central vision.
7. The deliberate, focussed crafting of the culture of the school.
8. The recognition of the spiritual values base of educating the whole man.
I invite you, the reader, to pause for a moment and consider your own personal experience of our school against these criteria. Certainly, there are a number of the areas at which we excel; likewise, there are one or two of these characteristics which we can still further enrich. In all areas, however, the challenge must remain to strive for excellence through constant improvement and change. We remain a Christ-centred community that seeks to foster holistic excellence and the achievement of personal and social influence through exceptional teaching and dynamic learning opportunities.
We commenced the 2015 academic year with 1466 boys enrolled: 396 in the Junior Preparatory, 378 in the Preparatory and 692 in the College - 24% from previously disadvantaged communities. Catholic enrolment remains steady at 42% with boys from over 25 parishes attending the school.
Early in May, we reached news from the Oblate Provincial that Fr Vitalis Marole would leave St Benedict's to take us the position as Novice Master at the OMI Novitiate in Germiston. Fr Tony Daniels resumed duties as the school's part-time chaplain.
Simon Curtis joined the school as Headmaster of the Preparatory School at the start of the year. His leadership of the Preparatory school has proved purposeful and re-invigorating.
During the course of the year, a number of whole school staff appointments were made: Miquel Caldeira was appointed as the resident sports scientist in the Ravens Sports Centre. Mr Caldeira replaced alumnus Dwight Egelhof who was the Gym Manager and played an instrumental role in Rugby at St Benedict's. David Upman was appointed as Head of Swimming and commenced duties at the start of Term 3.
At the start of the year, Basil Bibis indicated that he will not be renewing his contract with St Benedict's. Basil and his catering have become somewhat of an institution at St Benedict's since he took over the Nino's franchise in the Tony Dobson Pavilion in April 2003. We thank him and the Bibis family for the great contribution made to our school community over the last twelve years and wish him well in his new venture.
The Board of Governors have decided to use the opportunity to review current catering practices at the school with the intention of self-managing this vital function in-house. It is hoped that we will be able to enhance the quality and service provision and that the profits generated can be reinvested in the school. We welcomed Leon van Deventer to the st Benedict's staff as Food and Beverage Manager in September 2015 and wish him well as he embarks on this exciting new venture at the school.
At the start of the year, the school took delivery of a fifty-seater Toyota bus and an additional Nissan 16-seater. An extra 16-seater was donated by a generous rowing parent. The expanded fleet has limited the number of occasions during the course of the year that we have had to hire in additional buses.
Additional noteworthy improvement projects undertaken during the course of the year include:
- Renovations of the external downstairs bathrooms in the Tony Dobson Pavilion
- Installations of awnings over the Bennies boys' stands at the main Rugby field
- Minor renovations of the Preparatory Art Room
- Installation of additional e-Beams and Smart boards throughout the school
- Additional lockers were purchased for the Preparatory and College boys
- The hall curtains were replaced with blinds
- The LV substation next to the Basketball courts was moved into an LV room in the Galloway Centre; and
- A new entrance was erected at the Junior Preparatory school to better secure entrance to the classrooms during the academic day.
- All geysers in the boarding establishment were replaced with heat pumps
- The new water feature installed at the corner of Harcus and Concorde Roads is a fitting welcome for visitors to our school
- Some aesthetic changes were made to the school's chapel. The costs of these changes were covered by the fundraising efforts of the Class of 2014
The new Galloway Centre was blessed on 21 October 2015. The centre provides 12 modern, well-equipped classrooms for English, History and Geography. Two specialist Art classrooms will greatly enrich the cultural life of the school and will, we believe, secure the future viability of Visual Arts as an academic subject.
A number of new and revised policies and procedures were adopted during the course of the year: Procedures for the Billing of Parent's Accounts, Conditions of Service and Codes of Conduct for academic, Sport, Auxiliary and Administrative Staff, Recruitment and Selection, Guidelines for the Receipt of Gifts and a Lightning Protocol.
The school's website was refurbished and brought in line with the school's revised corporate image. In addition the following innovations were added to the site: online applications, an online ticketing and a document management system. In addition to these technological advancements, for the first time this year, the school emailed reports home.
A St Benedict's Strategic and Futures Council was launched at the start of 2015 to focus and deliberate on the strategic future of the St Benedict's. The Futures and Strategic Council took place as planned on 16 and 17 July. The process included school governors and staff throughout the school.
I believe the process has been a remarkable and valuable one and must certainly be sustained as we take the school forward. The process, I believe, has empowered staff across all three schools; promoted communication and networking between the schools and "silo-thinking" is being abandoned in favour of whole school discussions. The process has also cascaded strategic and "futures" thinking to the lowest possible level. The school's new Strategic Plan - due to be tabled at the end of 2016/start of 2017 - will be built from the bottom up and will be the end of an extension process of debate and consultation.
The Executive Indaba took place after the Council sitting (Monday, 27 July 2015). The purpose of the Indaba was to review on school's current Strategic Plan and to consider Futures and Strategic Council process and the input received.
Our Diversity and Transformation initiatives - driven through our ongoing partnership with Life College SA Unlimited bore fruit on Tuesday, 7 April 2015 when we formally published the report at an executive Headmaster's dinner. We were delighted to welcome back Mrs Joan Fubbs - erstwhile History teacher and now ANC-member of Parliament. Mrs Fubbs shared her delightful memories of St Benedict's which - even from its very earliest days - welcomed boys of all races. At the start of Term 2, all staff completed the "Nelson Mandela - The Champion Within" Programme.
In 2016, our partnership with Life College Unlimited will extend to our Grade 8's who will be involved in a programme that focuses on Sustainable Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship.
Towards the end of 2014, our initiatives as an Eco-School were recognised when the school was successfully awarded its Bronze Medal. Our partnership with Eco-solutions has seen St Benedict's established as an owl-release site. Much credit must go to Mr Craig and Mr van der Linde who champion this worthwhile causes.
At the start of Term 3, the school was visit by Umalusi, the legislative body which accredits Independent Schools and Private Assessment Bodies. The full-day site visit took place on Monday, 28 September. The site visit is designed to verify the implementation, monitoring and evidence submitted by the school with regard to internal policies, procedures and processes; curriculum (including assessment) and learner support. The panel who conducts the site visit will make recommendations to Accreditation Committee of the Umalusi for the accreditation of the Preparatory and the High School. The school will receive a seven year accreditation.
I would like to thank and congratulate the editors of our three school magazines – Margarita Nichas, Francene Kapp and Candice Peterson. 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 2015.
I wish to thank our staff, the Executive Committee and the Board of Governors for their fantastic contribution to St Benedict's throughout the year. I must also thank our wonderful parents and each and every one of our super boys – you are the lifeblood of our school; the very reason why we exist. Without you nothing we do or achieve would be possible or worthwhile.
And so, rather abruptly, the end of another school year is upon us. For some, it may come as a relief. For others, there may be some sadness. As the season of Advent and Christmas approaches, St Augustine's reminder that "peace is the tranquillity of order". As we enter this precious season, let us remember that peace is not a private affair: it is a whole lot of good will from a whole lot of people. We are meant to live together in a harmony that we have to build among ourselves. The brightest light this season should be that light that shines from within us. These inner lights become almost visible through the love and joy that we manifest to each other when we are together. Let us be "a light in the world".
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very blessed 2016.