Friday 12 May 2017

Eschewing Homogeneity

From the earliest of days, Jesuit education has valued diversity in its many and varied forms. It is why in the foundational years, St Ignatius commissioned Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci to travel to the Far East – to the very ends of the known world to see, explore and understand uncharted frontiers and their inherent complexity. In more recent times, Thomas Michel SJ, wrote: We have [opened] schools in autocracies, monarchies, oligarchies and democracies. We have operated educational institutions under exploitative colonial dominations [across the world]: from Qatar and Turkey in the Middle East, from Indonesia to Cambodia in Asia and across the Americas to Europe. Within the schools, Jesuit education has openly embraced individual needs – differential learning needs, variant pastoral needs, different sporting and cultural interests, in a way that dignifies those who comprise the rich tapestry of community. And, in each instance, the aim of the microcosm of the school is to represent the macrocosm of the community and the broader world. It is why, in a school such as Riverview, the First Nations Program is so important, refugee enrolments are actively sought, students from remote regions of the Australian bush find themselves included, along with a special group of young men who have their own distinctive psycho-social needs in the SEIP program. This is an emblem of who we are as a school. It signifies how we embrace the broader mission of the church to bring justice to a world that often finds the simplistic alluring, labels convenient and homogeneity attractive.

 Enrolment_EDITED0001Over the coming weeks, the Enrolment Committee is making final decisions about applications for entry to Year 5 and Year 7 for 2019. To be expected, the boys, their families, their contexts and their needs represent a truly remarkable diversity. Applications have been received from cities across the world including London, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore, from metropolitan and rural families, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous families, from boys of high intellectual potential to boys with significant learning difficulties, and from boys with a diverse range of talents and interests. Over the years ahead, these young men will form their own community to become the graduation classes of 2024 and 2026, respectively, repeating the cycle of inclusion that finds its expression at the College each and every year.

The fundraising target of BistroView – the P&F fundraising function held in the Ramsay Hall on Saturday night, was to support the College’s bursary program. Wonderfully hosted by Natarsha Belling, parent of Harrison in Year 5, guests were treated to an extravaganza of entertainment including the operatic voice of Georgia Melville, one of Sydney’s finest young sopranos, to the highly engaging comedy routines of Simon Kennedy. As much as the evening built the fabric of community, the financial gains highlighted the generosity of the parent body, netting in excess of $50,000 to support boys in the most need of financial circumstances. Many thanks are extended to Rick D’Amico, Virginia Thompson and the Executive of the P&F for such a memorable and successful evening that will bring educational opportunity to those who would otherwise be denied it at the College.

NAPLAN made its presence felt during the week with the standardised testing in Years 5, 7 and 9 in literacy and numeracy. As usual, there were a few nervous moments prior to entering the room, but I am pleased to report that the boys responded well to the experience and to the conventions that capture literacy and numeracy profiles across the nation. For the first time, boys in Year 9 who secure a literacy standard of Band 8 will complete the requirements that are synonymous with the HSC, those that have recently been announced by the New South Wales Education Authority (NESA). Results of NAPLAN are not likely to be released until September.

In the changing world of tertiary education and in the dynamically transformative field of the professions, the OIU Careers Expo that was held in the Gartlan on Monday evening was very timely. Over 80 stalls and exhibitions enabled senior students from the College, together with students from many other schools on the north shore, to explore various career and study options that will increasingly become a point of focus for them into the future. It also enabled students to talk informally and at length with those who are professionals in their chosen field about strengths and challenges in those professions. These insights begin to plant seeds of interest that will be cultivated over the years ahead that inform measured decisions to be made about careers that can at times, dazzle with their complexity and mutability. Many thanks are extended to the OIU, Ms Peta Bird – the Careers Counsellor at Riverview, and to the many who have worked so very hard over recent weeks and contributed to the success of the exhibition.

Early in the week, the Turnbull Government’s response to the funding of private schools was announced along with the impact it would have at Riverview. I am pleased to report that the College has received dozens of responses from parents – past and present, as well as Old Boys – that endorse the position that the school has taken. To quote one of the many emails that were received: We share the sentiment of the importance of needs-based funding. It’s great to see Riverview supporting resources going to schools in need. These values are why we wanted our son… to attend Riverview. KM

To all the mums who are part of the Riverview community, may Sunday and Mothers’ Day be a special day that celebrates the wonderful work that mums do to bring joy, love and abundance to family life. Pope Francis recently reflected: In the family, we learn to embrace and support one another … to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose one another yet are so important to each other. Mothers are the proverbial cement that enables this to happen. This was celebrated in abundance at the Mothers’ Day mass at the Regis campus on Friday: the warmth of family life and the strength of community was palpable.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine