Friday 16 August 2019

Looking Ahead

There is a temptation, understandably, to become consumed with the present to the exclusion of the past and the future. I am mindful, in a school like Saint Ignatius’, that a very rich history and tradition has informed the present, which in its own way gives shape to a future that needs discernment and purposeful thought. We are approaching the latter stages of the Strategic Directions 2015-2020 that were the object of wide consultation and consideration back in 2014. These will need review, renewal and calibration moving forward over the next 18 months. Next week the Saint Ignatius’ College Board will convene in Sevenhill, the nativity of Jesuit endeavour in Australia, for a planning forum to review the major developments over the last five years and to foreground the priorities that lie ahead over the coming period. This is something that is not left to chance, for schools such as Saint Ignatius’ have been able to maintain their position at the forefront of the educational landscape by a respectful acknowledgement of the past, a deep and abiding appreciation of the present, and a measured sense of vision that responds to the signs of the times and projects into the future. There are manifold influences to balance between the central priority of Ignatian spirituality in a contemporary context, significant changes in teaching and learning, the primacy of pastoral care and the prescient stewardship of resources. The key determinants of the next five-year plan will need to be in place in just 12 months from now, as the College moves into the next stage of its very proud and distinguished history.

There is ample evidence around the College at the moment that while the intensity of the educational program unfolds with its own compelling momentum, there is a sightline on the future. Late last week, subject selections for various year levels were countenanced and these need to be submitted by 5.00 pm today, Friday 16th August. This will enable timetable construction to begin and the grid for 2020 put firmly into place before the year is out. At the same time, the boys who will be entering in Year 5 and Year 7, respectively, completed the testing that will inform the provision that needs to be made in advance of their arrival in late January next year. These are essential steps and to a smaller or larger degree, will impact on every boy as they move purposefully into the year ahead.

Last weekend, among other things, saw a turning of the page in the boarding community. Our newest arrivals, the boys who will take up residential living in Year 7 next year, spent their first sleepover in Charles Fraser House. There was that compelling mixture of excitement, apprehension and uncertainty as the boys entered their dorms, those that will become their daily retreat over the six years ahead. On Sunday, the boarding community from far and wide came together to acknowledge and congratulate the Proctors and the Beadle who have been elected to office for the coming 12 months. Parents not only drove hours to the city to be with their sons during this significant time, but our more distant families flew from places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and London to be present during the ceremony that conferred office in the Dalton Chapel. This process complements the election of the senior leadership team and the House Leaders who were invested with office at a whole school gathering in the Ramsay Hall last week.

Amid the grounds of the Rose Garden, where so much history of the school has been captured over recent decades, the Student Leaders elect for 2020 gathered on Wednesday with the outgoing Student Leaders of 2019, to capitalise on the experience that has seen the College led in such a fine manner over the last 12 months. Amid the gracious and historic grounds of this College, flanked by the panorama of the Lane Cove River, the boys sat and reflected: the 2019 cohort on what they had achieved during their period of office; the 2020 Leaders on how they would embrace the challenges that lie ahead. These are moments in time not to miss, for at the deepest level in student life, the past shapes the present and the future. Looking ahead to what can be accomplished, for the greater good of all, is something that is part of the Jesuit DNA, and it was instructive to watch these leaders of our school go about their ministry – one cohort moving out in the metaphor of tomorrow, one stepping into the breach to provide shape and direction into the future.

In a symbolic way, Term 3 in schools is not unlike spring is to the seasons. It is a time of planting, when the relative health of the yield will be in due proportion to the integrity of thought and effort that is mounted at the outset. What is not in place by November of the preceding year will not yield in the subsequent year. And there is so very much to put into place between now and then. Trial HSC Examinations, Valete and Graduation, the Year 9 Challenge, Reflection Days, more detailed orientation for new families entering the College, formation of leaders, a full and final calendar of events and the list goes on – this is all part of looking ahead and anticipating the future – both immediate and distant.

And, we do this to ensure that our boys will have the best opportunities available to them so that they will be able to fulfil that Ignatian vision of becoming ‘a man for others’.

Dr Paul Hine