Saturday 27 February 2016

A School That Promotes Justice

A matter that affects each and every Australian is the release of the recent Closing the Gap Report last week, aimed to reduce the disparity in education, health outcomes and the criminal justice system between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Now in its tenth year, and in the aftermath of the release of the Report last week, some important gains have been achieved over the last decade in the institution of as education, particularly graduation rates of Indigenous Australians from Year 12 courses of study. However, there is a disturbing gap in other educational outcomes such as attendance and retention, literacy and numeracy, as well as health and incarceration rates that need to be bridged going forward, ones exigent to all who hold justice as central to their reason d’etre. It is folly to believe that this is simple issue and resolvable into the immediate future, however, it does represent a national imperative. While this situation remains Australia as a nation will be impoverished so it is up to each and every Australian to be mindful of, and to work towards, a situation where the same opportunity is presented to all and the dignity of each and every member of this country is preserved and protected. And, as I pen this Viewpoint, I am acutely aware of the fact that Fr Ross and the AT TAG social justice group will be furiously campaigning for the release of 37 children in detention, casualties of an immigration system that results in incarceration. It is fair to say, that we, as a nation and an Ignatian school with a deep regard for justice, have much to do.

Today is the official ‘hump’ of the term – the midway point of what has already been a busy yet rewarding start to the year. How very quickly time elapses, particularly for the boys in Year 5 and Year 7 who seem to have arrived only yesterday, but, who are now very much in the groove of learning, study, sport programs and myriad other activities that are part of the educational program. Indicative of how rapidly the time is passing is the fact that mid-year examinations for Year 12 are on the horizon, the first of which will begin in just 15 schooling days. Already the seniors are into revision programs that account for the work undertaken in Term 4 last year as well as that which has been covered over the last five weeks.

Many thanks are extended to the hundreds of parents who attended the twilight function in the Ramsay Hall on Friday evening. Presenting a different format from previous years, the purpose of the night was to outline some of the key goals and aspirations that have been determined for the College community in 2016 as well as to share an evening of social conviviality. Particular thanks are extended to Cheryl Leotta and Virginia Thompson who coordinated the activities of the night and who made it such a memorable occasion. It was encouraging to receive a number of emails from parents who appreciated the different way of beginning the year and who, despite valuing the previous structure, were supportive of the new framework.

Over 250 parents joined the first colloquium for 2016 which was held in the Ramsay Hall with a particular focus on digital citizenship. Special guest Melissa Sevil, who works for the Federal Police in the Cyber Crime Prevention Unit, was joined by the Director of Information Technology at Riverview, Brett Houghton and experienced school psychologist Lisa Wood, to present information on adolescent use of technology, particularly social media sites that are in a constant state of change. A range of topics from bravado, brutality and balance were discussed and how these can be pitfalls for many adolescents who are yet to develop a mature and informed understanding of technology use in a virtual world. For the first time, this forum was streamed live throughout the world to enable many boarding parents to participate in an area of concern to many parents and grandparents. The feedback from parents was very positive which is heartening in light of three other colloquia that are planned over the coming terms.

Last weekend Fr Ross and I joined other Heads and Rectors of Ignatian schools from across Australia in Melbourne to consider a range of issues pertinent to contemporary education and how the schools can respond to the current environment that is supported by robust research. The quality of education in Jesuit schools is second to none anywhere in the world, be that in South America, Europe, Africa or Asia, but that is not a matter of chance – it is a matter of planning and discernment. With a particular orientation towards innovation, the schools work collaboratively to ensure that whether it be in the crucible of western Sydney, the northern suburbs of Adelaide or the sub-tropics of Queensland, those same principles that are the object of situational scrutiny apply and are adapted to the needs of the boys and girls who come forward with eager minds and hearts to experience the richness of a tradition that dates the better part of five centuries.

One of my personal highlights of Term 1 is meeting the new boys who join the College in Year 5 and Year 7. Each year our enrolment profile changes and it is valuable to talk to the boys, to hear their personal stories and their early impression of life at Riverview. Perhaps the most common remark is how big Riverview is, and how many opportunities reside both in the academic and co-curricular program. In the case of the former, the Year 5 boys are relishing their STEM activities, particularly the coding and animatics that they have not encountered before. Boys in Year 7 are adapting to the quicker pace of secondary school and the specialist teachers that are part of an integrated timetable, while it would appear that all of the boys are relishing the expansive opportunities in the co-curricular program.

There is much to look forward to over the remaining half of the term.

Dr Paul Hine