Newington College

Announcement on behalf of the Council of Newington College

Announcement on behalf of the Council of Newington College

Dear Newington College community,

We write to you today to set out several matters we are considering as we look towards the College’s future, and to convey our plans for further exploration of these matters.

The College Council has been focusing for several years on what is best for the long-term future of Newington and for each one of the young people we educate. Our current strategic plan expects us to consider the future of work, mental health, democracy, truth and the planet itself when thinking about the society our young people will go into. This combination certainly disrupts assumptions that our current settings will be as appropriate in the decades to come as they are now.

There is much to be done at an educational level using our ‘Minds/Hearts/Wings’ philosophy. Critical thinking, academic rigour, wellbeing programs, ethics development, co-curricular programs and service learning are all areas being tackled by the College Executive. However, the Council has also been considering change at the demographic level to ensure we continue to be a thriving school that properly prepares its students for the world beyond its gates.

We have been concentrating on three overlapping elements in particular.

Firstly, we are considering how to maintain socio-economic and cultural inclusiveness in a College that has always prided itself on its diversity but finds itself in a gentrifying area. Indeed, many of our current parents say diversity is one of the key attractive features of Newington. We would like to examine how to maintain and strengthen it.

Secondly, we have been asking whether Newington should become co-educational. There is much to be considered. This includes young people’s preparation for a world of work, academic attainment, and open-eyed, respectful, realistic social connection. We do believe that in society there should be both co-educational and single sex school choices for parents, but we are most interested in what works best for our own school in the decades to come.

Thirdly, we believe we need to make decisions about the size of the College. With government projections showing approximately 42,000 additional school-age children joining the surrounding area in the next 20 years, are there ways of offering a Newington education to more young people while maintaining individual connections with students and families? What are the potential advantages – and possible disadvantages – for all students at Newington if there are more of us?

To consider these questions we have commissioned several expert papers, read widely, produced modelling, consulted and written papers of our own. We have used as touchstones principles from our DNA since Newington opened in 1863, including diversity, balance, academic focus, our Christian heritage, life-readiness, character and service. We continued to ask how these features could be delivered in the face of the potential changes outlined above. We think we have been considered, respectful and deliberative.

Council has now determined that it is appropriate to transition to a community discussion and research period. This will give us as many perspectives as possible to help make decisions. It will involve multiple consultative sessions with parents, alumni, staff, current students, prospective parents and education experts. Members of Council will be involved in many of these discussions, and we have asked the Headmaster, Michael Parker, to facilitate them with assistance from Mark Kennedy of the specialist insights group Kantar. You will receive more information from Michael about how to provide input in the coming days. We expect this discussion and research period will take approximately three months.

With our strong academic results, vibrant culture and long waiting lists, we believe we are in the fortunate position of being able to make any decisions guided purely by what would be best for all students at Newington. Of course, all models have their advantages and disadvantages, but we believe our commitments to our current students make a very rapid change untenable. Whatever the outcome, the Council, the Headmaster and the College Executive are committed to a high-quality, holistic education now for our current boys, and this will continue to occupy our time, passion and commitment.

Although we are persuaded sufficiently by some of the arguments for change to open a broader community discussion, we have not made decisions. We will await the distillation of the public investigative phase before we move to this decision making. Whatever happens, we have an excellent College that we are proud of.

We look forward to engaging with many of you in the months to come on these key issues for Newington College.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Tony McDonald (ON 1976)
on behalf of the Council of Newington College