As I write this newsletter, the sun is streaming into my office, there is a distant sound of mowers preparing our lawns and football finals are about to begin. Spring is a great time of year in Gippsland and whilst the weather will undoubtedly go sour again, today’s little snippet of warmth was a great reminder that winter has passed and we can be optimistic about the seasons ahead.
Our students have been enjoying the weather as well and I am sure that they will be looking forward to the upcoming holidays and an opportunity to gather their senses before the end of year comes upon them. For our senior students, the warm weather is a stark reminder that the end of their time at School is quickly approaching. With the warm weather comes the realisation that the amount of time they have to prepare for their exams is reducing rapidly.
How are our Year 12 students feeling at the moment? My quick survey of their morale would suggest that they are tired, feeling flat and looking forward to the holidays. Most of them will complete their final internal assessment (SAC- tasks) next week and that will provide some relief as they then turn their attention towards exam revision and preparation. Whilst the end of their year is approaching fast, I doubt many of them have had time to think about celebrations or final days at School. This is normal for Year 12 students and part of the cycle that is the VCE.
I wish all of our students well for the holidays; however, my thoughts will be firmly with the senior students as they prepare for their trial exams and then the ultimate countdown as they begin completing their end of year exams. I will be thinking of them as they move through the current state of anxiety that comes with continually completing SACs, into a more controlled and self-regulated state of revision and finally into a state of confidence as they begin their exams knowing that they have done all they can do to prepare. The holidays and an end to SACs cannot come soon enough. Their emotions in Term 4 will fluctuate from stress to controlled confidence to absolute joy as they progress through these stages and I know that we will all ride this roller coaster with them. The ultimate sense of joy they experience when they finish is a satisfying moment for them, their parents and our teachers.
For our parents who are supporting students during this time, I pass on a comment my mother made to me when I completed Year 12, “I will be here to support you, I will lighten your load wherever I can and I will bring you endless cups of tea; however, you are still a member of our family and we expect your love and respect in return for our support and kindness”.
I wish our Year 12 students well during the upcoming weeks and I look forward to formally thanking them for their leadership and contribution to our School. I encourage them to plan their time well and remain in control of what has to be done and when they are going to do it. I know that they will all give their best and we will be proud of them regardless of their results.
This week I was fortunate to be invited to the Annual Principal’s dinner with the Vice Chancellor of The University of Melbourne, Professor Glyn Davis AC. This event is held annually and is an opportunity for the academics from within the University to reach out and connect with Principals from across Victoria. It is a strong relationship that is valued and nurtured by the Vice Chancellor. Professor Davis spoke about the future directions for tertiary education in Australia and made note of the increased ranking places of Australian Universities in recent years. In particular, Australia can now boast 6 universities in the top 100 universities in the world. Two of these universities, Monash and Melbourne University are both within our own capital city. Melbourne as a city is now rated as one of the great university cities in the world.
It is reassuring to know that we have access to such high quality education within our own state and that so many of our own Gippsland Grammar students are currently and will continue to gain qualifications from some of the world’s best tertiary institutions here in Victoria.
How do we as a School capitalise and connect with these Universities in ways that will help us to give our students insight and hopefully inspiration to pursue further education? In particular, how do we inspire our girls to pursue careers and further education in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths areas - STEAM? At the dinner on Wednesday, I was indeed lucky to be placed next to Rose Hiscock, the inaugural Director of the Science Gallery of Melbourne that will be opening in 2018.
Science Gallery International (SGI) aims to be an innovative venue for science and art collaboration planned for the heart of Melbourne’s new innovation precinct. Science Gallery is an award-winning international initiative pioneered by Trinity College, Dublin that delivers a dynamic new model for engaging 15–25 year olds with science. Planned to open in 2018, Science Gallery Melbourne is a flagship engagement project of the University of Melbourne and once established, will be part of the Global Science Gallery Network - a network of eight Science Gallery locations developed in partnership with leading universities in urban centres. Melbourne is hoped to follow London, which is due to open Science Gallery London in 2017, with Science Gallery Bangalore also planned to open in 2018.
Whilst I am sure that Gippsland Grammar students will visit the Science Gallery, once it opens, my question to Rose was, how do we engage with the Science Gallery in an ongoing and sustainable manner with students from a regional setting and would it be possible for our students to have access to and connect with other Science Galleries throughout the world? Her answer was resoundingly positive and she was excited by the prospect of using the Science Gallery to inspire students, no matter where they live. I am hopeful that when the Science Gallery is completed, we can find a way to incorporate its exhibitions into our own programs and develop a long and sustainable relationship.
Last weekend the School’s Board and Executive team came together to begin planning for our next strategic plan - ‘Towards 100’. This was an exciting opportunity for the leaders of our School to spend time together thinking about the future and developing long term strategic goals. We were privileged to hear presentations from Mr Stephen Higgs - previous Principal of Ballarat Grammar and also Sharee Johnson, parent, past P&F President and expert in the field of mindfulness.
Members of the Executive and the Board led the group through activities designed to make us think strategically and explore some of the key questions confronting our School.
When is our School at its best?
What is the purpose of a Gippsland Grammar education?
Where do we want to be in 3 years, at our centenary in 8 years and in 30 years?
The discussions were truly inspiring and I am thankful that we have such a talented Board and Executive team. I look forward to sharing the draft version of our plan with the School community next term and inviting feedback.
As many members of our community may be aware, the School has been working hard for the past six months to ensure that we are compliant with ministerial order 870- Child Safe Standards. I have mentioned this order in previous correspondence and explained that the standards and two accompanying principles are a direct response to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations. The order stipulates that Schools are required to address the seven standards and two principles by August this year.
As a School we have been fortunate enough to have the support of CompliSpace, the VRQA, VESS and ISV to help us meet these standards and I am happy to announce that we have begun training with our staff and Board regarding the standards. This training is currently taking the form of online assessments that are completed through the CompliSpace site.
One of the key requirements for the order was for the School to develop a child safe program that includes a child safety policy and a code of conduct for staff. Both of these documents have been developed and approved by our School Board and form the foundation of our Child Safety Program. Both of these documents can be found via the link below. I encourage all of our community to read these and understand the role that parents and guardians play.
As part of our Child Safety Program we need to consider the role of volunteers and third party contractors. As a School we will require all volunteers and third party contractors to hold a current Working With Children Check and also to read and understand our policies. For volunteers who have direct supervision of students either at a camp, coaching a sporting team or other activities, will be required to complete our online training module. I will email parents this in the following weeks to outline the procedures to follow; however, an immediate action would be for all parents who volunteer or are likely to volunteer to obtain a Working With Children Check and nominate Gippsland Grammar as a place of contact with children. Instructions on how to apply for your Working With Children Check can be found by following this link.
Direct Contact Volunteers
All Direct Contact Volunteers, as defined in this policy, are required to be familiar with the content of our Child Protection and Safety Policy and our Child Safety Code of Conduct and their legal obligations with respect to the reporting of child abuse. This would be achieved through completion of the eight Child safety training modules.
Direct Contact Volunteers are those volunteers that are involved in providing support, guidance and supervision directly to students and could potentially have direct unsupervised contact with students during the normal course of providing the volunteer service.
Indirect Contact Volunteers
Indirect Contact Volunteers (or 'indirect volunteers') are those volunteers who are involved in providing support and services whilst not directly assisting a specific group of students. Indirect contact volunteers are not responsible for supervising students and would not have "unsupervised" contact with students during the normal course of providing the volunteer service.
It was a somewhat nervous and disappointing moment this afternoon, when I opened a newsfeed and read a story about a pornographic website that has been operating in Australia. The site contained many pornographic images of young female students from across Australia including students from a school in our direct vicinity. The images had been posted by male students who had somehow entrapped the girls to send them these images and then used them to blackmail the girls involved. Each image named the girl, their address and their school. Apparently visitors to the website could search for images by area.
As a teacher and an educator, I often believe in the wonderful potential of the students within our community and the unbelievable ability they have to engage with our world in a positive and moral manner. Our students in particular, always amaze me with their attitudes and responses to those who need help. I believe that young people today have a strong sense of social justice and believe in their own efficacy. When an incident such as this occurs, I am amazed by the lack of understanding and empathy those involved have displayed. How could a young person treat a friend or acquaintance in such a disrespectful manner and not fully understand the consequences of their actions. In an age where social injustice and in particular gender inequity are regularly highlighted in the media and within schools, how could their judgement be so poor?
What can we do? As a school community, I implore you to discuss this topic with your sons and daughters, highlight the absolute lack of respect and empathy shown by those involved and warn them about the dangers of engaging in such activities. Every school in Australia would have a strong Cybersafe message and students have been warned of the dangers of sending inappropriate images and messages via social media, yet it is still happening. The messages from schools and parents have been drowned out by a need to be accepted and a need for attention.
As a School we encourage deep thinking, we encourage students to explore issues, develop critical understandings and to think beyond popular influences to develop their own opinions. This is an example where we as a School can work together with parents to push our students to think more deeply about this issue. What was the motivation of the students involved? What caused the students to send the images? Once the images were sent, how were they used to blackmail the girls involved? What level of threat did this website pose to the girls and their privacy and what is the impact on the wellbeing of the girls involved?
We all have a strong desire to protect our children and as the father of two daughters, I am not sure how I would respond if they were involved; however, I was reassured, when we had this discussion in our home, by how strongly my daughters understood this issue and most importantly how appalled they were by this website. I am sure most of our students would react in a similar manner.
On another note, I was fortunate to watch Australian Story this week and the story Georgie Stone. I found her journey to be absolutely inspirational and it helped me to really understand the challenges facing young people experiencing gender identity issues. Her story highlights the need for schools and families to understand and protect young people who are confronting similar issues. I have attached a link to this episode of Australian Story and encourage you to watch.
It is amazing to think that we are already half way through the term and well on our way towards the end of 2016. Our Year 12 students are moving closer to the end of their courses and will soon have completed all of their internal assessments for the year. Once they reach that stage all of their efforts will be directed towards preparation for exams. During the September holidays they will complete their practice examinations and amongst graduation activities remain focused on their revision.
Our Year 11 students have chosen subjects for next year and similarly to our Year 12 students, are beginning to focus on their final examination assault for the year.
This time of the year is critically important for our Year 10 and Year 9 students as they make choices regarding subjects for next year and beyond. They have attended information sessions, with their parents, consulted with their teachers, attended the VCE subject expo and they are beginning to think about options beyond School. I think the most important aspect of our senior program is that we start looking forward to what life will be like for our students post School. Will it be attending University, will it be moving straight into a vocation or a trade, will it be to take a gap year, will they go straight into the work force etc.? The good news is that if they don’t know the answer to any of these questions, they are not alone and we don’t expect them to have any answers yet. What we do expect however, is that they start to think about these questions and begin formulating in their mind what life will be like as an adult.
This is an incredibly daunting prospect for a 15 or 16 year old student and imagining a world beyond parents and School can be unsettling. Mrs Ripon has developed a comprehensive careers program that helps our students to synthesise their thoughts into realistic options and our goal for all of our students is that they have options available to them upon completion of School. For many of our Year 10 students this process begins with vocational testing and the Morrisby test. For many others it begins with an interview with Mrs Ripon. Throughout their senior years at Gippsland Grammar our students will be exposed to many opportunities to explore and discover the vast possibilities available to them and the myriad of pathways that can enable them to create wonderful lives for themselves.
I would like to congratulate Josh Dunkley who was recently awarded the NAB Rising Star award from the AFL. In his first year of AFL football, Josh has made a positive impact at the Western Bulldogs and become a regular senior player. We are very proud of Josh and his achievements and look forward to watching him play finals football.