Wednesday 8 February 2017

Into the Groove

While the first days of the year hold their own share of excitement, apprehension and anticipation, they move quickly into routines that form the cadence of school life. I am pleased to report that the boys have settled quickly into the rhythm of the year: familiarity with the location of classrooms, knowledge of and response to expectations of teachers, the meeting points during lunch and recess, as well as the many subtleties that underpin the complex operations of the College. The first major assembly in the form of the School Mass, was an exercise of logistics in itself, with the better part of 2,000 staff and students moving in orchestrated fashion to and from the Ramsay Hall. Home Rooms in Regis and Mentor Groups in the Senior School are consolidating into their own comfortable units and it is encouraging to see the boys open to new friendship networks that will become their close community over the years ahead.

Last Friday evening in the Ramsay Hall the Parents and Friends (P&F) held their Welcome to 2017, with large numbers in attendance. The purpose of the evening was primarily to provide a social event for new parents to meet each other but also to outline some of the key priorities and goals for the year. It was particularly pleasing to see so many new parents come along to the function and be part of the social engagement. Included among the many who attended was a sizeable contingent of parents from overseas who, over the early part of the week, travelled down from Hong Kong and Singapore with their boys to take up enrolment as boarders. Thanks are extended to Mr Rick D’Amico, Chair of the P&F, as well as the members of the Executive who coordinated such an enjoyable evening of conversation and engagement to begin the year.

There was much excitement on the Regis campus on Wednesday morning as the Year 5 boys gathered to pack the buses with the clothes and effects that they would need on their camp. This ‘adventure’ camp, held at Collaroy on the northern beaches, contained many activities – swimming, bushwalking, abseiling, surfing and of course – the big swing, as well as a wide range of team building exercises as the boys consolidated their new friendships and began to set goals for the future. For some boys it was their first night away from home so, as to be expected, there were a few apprehensions at the outset. However, with the busyness of the program any uncertainties were quickly dispelled, leaving the boys to experience a very engaging and enjoyable camp to begin their schooling at the College.

At the other end of the school, the boys in Year 11 were involved in their Reflection Days as they embark upon the early weeks of the year and the entry point to the HSC. Integral to Ignatian spirituality, Reflection Days ask the boys to go inwards to consider the big questions – faith, friendships, family and futures. Because life is so very busy with many commitments, preoccupations and events, particularly at the senior secondary level, time is taken out of the intensity of the school program to make sense of it all. That the time was positively received and productively spent can be seen from the following one of the many comments from the boys in their evaluations of the day:

[The maze] was to be a metaphor for our relationship with God … the boys could empathise with the meaning of this convolution, which took us to the middle then agonisingly lead us to the outer edge of the circle. It was trying to show us how we must show unconditional trust with God, and show patience even through adversity.

Two very special events that speak to the importance of scholarship are conducted today. The first is the Laureate Assembly, which acknowledges those boys in the graduation class of 2016 who secured Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores of 90 or above, placing them in the top 10% of the cohort in New South Wales, and through the process of interstate conversion, the top 10% of the nation. All present were moved by the exceptional result profile of the graduates with 96 boys out of a class of 237 earning Laureate status. This represents 41% of the cohort which is extraordinary in itself, but when one analyses the calibre of results within the top band, it is truly exceptional. Congratulations are extended to all of the boys on their results and on securing entry to such a wide range of highly competitive courses at the nation’s top universities. Special congratulations are reserved for Mark Rothery, who topped the state in Classical Greek and was awarded Dux with an ATAR of 99.95, and to Max Mills who was Proxime Accessit with and ATAR of 99.9.

This evening will see the launch of the 2016 edition of the Kircher Collection in Cova Cottage. This publication, eponymously named after the prodigious intellectual achievements of Athanasius Kircher SJ, profiles the cause of scholarship with the finest works of the students in Year 12 from selected disciplines – Literature, History, Art, Music and Drama. Rarely do those so young have the opportunity to publish their own creative work but such is the case with the 22 graduates whose works form this compendium that captures the outstanding scholarship of their year. Special guest for the occasion will be renowned artist Alex Seton (OR 1994), who currently has works exhibited in many galleries around the nation, including the National War Museum in Canberra. Should any member of the community be interested in procuring the Kircher Collection, copies are available for purchase from the Advancement Office.

It was wonderful to see the co-curricular program for 2017 in action on the weekend. While the season is yet to get fully underway, it was instructive to watch the boys in Year 5 and Year 7 pull on the blue and white for the first time. Over the years ahead there will be many triumphs and disappointments in a variety of codes and sports in those activities that promote skill development, team work, fitness and, of course, the mateship of experiences shared in common purpose. Sincere thanks to all – staff, students and parents, who commit to the holistic education program for the appreciable gains that are experienced along the way.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine