Friday 8 February 2019

Strong Foundations

Over the summer I had cause to visit the Sydney Cricket Ground and along the way I marvelled at the immensity of the Moreton Bay fig trees that act as a protective ring to the hallowed and much vaunted precinct. These marvels of the tree world have root systems that anchor massive trunks to the ground and intricately feed and nourish the incalculable network of branches and leaves dependent upon them. They stand as a silent witness to the beauty of nature, the sophistication of bio-engineering and the incomprehensible strength of the bond between earth and organic life. In essence, they are the foundations upon which the health, the vitality and the future of the plant depend: a salient reminder about the need for foundations as another year of growth and development unfolds for each of the boys at the College. In the case of the latter, the efficacy of the outcome will be in due proportion to the attitude, the commitment, the intensity and the planning that is entered into over the early weeks of the term. This is something not to be assumed, for the 248 new boys who join the College nor for the vast majority who return to calibrate aspirations and goals for the coming year. 2019 is a new year and it will hold its own discrete set of challenges and demands, each of which needs to be the object of genuine discernment for optimum outcomes to be realised. I exhort all, as we begin a new year, to be very clear about priorities and to have action plans to see them come to fruition over the coming months, for as we are reminded by a litany of Jesuit scholars, there is no place for mediocrity in an organisation that follows the teachings of St Ignatius and the pursuit of the magis. Strong foundations enable appreciable outcomes to be realised for all.

The consummation of strong foundations was amply displayed at the College this morning on the occasion of the Laureate Assembly. High achieving graduates of the Class of 2018 gathered to be honoured by the school community for their outstanding achievements in the HSC: those who secured Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores in the top 10% of the graduating cohort in New South Wales and, by implication, the nation. These young men are beacons of achievement and act as encouragement and inspiration for the younger boys to follow. Among the very noteworthy performances were the Dux, Mitchell Hope who achieved the highest result possible (99.95), and the Proxime, Richard Rutherford who secured the penultimate score (99.90), respectively. The boys who were awarded subject places in the state and those who were acknowledged with All Rounder Awards for Band 6 and E4 results in every one of their subjects, also received special commendation. Particularly meritorious in the latter category was Patrick Fuccilli, who undertook eight subjects and achieved Band 6 results in every one of them!! It is our understanding that Patrick was the only boy in New South Wales who achieved such a distinction. We congratulate these young men and thank them sincerely for taking the time to return to the College and encourage the younger boys in their academic pursuits.

The term has settled quickly and the boys have responded well to the expectations of teachers in classrooms and around the grounds. As we begin a new year, I remind all parents and students about the mobile phone policy; namely, that phones are not to be used during the school day due to research which is increasingly demonstrating the deleterious effect that excessive use of digital devices has on young people. Parents are aware that this has been the object of considerable media attention over recent times and schools are progressively delimiting access to digital devices during the day to encourage the very fabric of community to be formed through social interaction and play. A new device has been procured by the College for those who need support to manage their devices, one that electronically impounds the phone for a designated period in order to facilitate detachment and less dependence. Ultimately, digital devices that are not aligned with the learning program impede progress, those very foundations upon which aspirations and achievement is predicated. If there are any queries or concerns about the mobile phone policy, please contact the respective Head of House in the secondary school.

Many thanks are extended to the legion of parents who attended the Welcome Function last Friday evening in the Ramsay Hall. It was a powerful statement of community to have so many parents in attendance, enjoying the conviviality and the friendship, some of which is seminal for the new parents and for others an association spanning many years. Sporting an oriental theme to coincide with the Chinese New Year, and in recognition of a number of families in boarding who live in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, it was a chance to draw upon the rich cultural influence of our Asian neighbour and its unique expression in an increasingly multicultural Australia. And, the jazz band added its own atmospheric touch to what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Many thanks to Jacqui Hayes, Penny Whiteing and the Executive of the P&F for coordinating such a rich celebration to begin the school year, one that weaves the tapestry of community that this College is renowned for.

As the boys settle back into classes, let us be mindful of the need for strong foundations. These will not happen without discerning planning, disciplined routines and thoughtful execution. Whether a young man is in Year 5 or Year 12, they are encouraged to embrace the primary impulse of a Jesuit school and to work to fulfil their true potential. I look forward to seeing that in action over the weeks and months ahead.

Dr Paul Hine