What we value and what we can work on
A message about what we value and what we can work on
Dear Newington families,
This year I have listened a lot to parents, staff, the College Council and the boys. In particular, I have taught many classes in which I asked what boys thought about the College and why. Much of it has rolled into planning the College’s direction for the next five years, and I look forward to sharing much more about this with you at our Annual Prize Giving.
This is some of what people told me.
What people valued
Our diversity and inclusiveness
People agreed our diversity is central to us. We value it because it is increasingly the way of the world, because cultures have much to teach each other, and because inclusion is almost always better than exclusion. We can achieve this by the nature of our welcome and by having an admissions policy that actively includes people from a range of denominations, backgrounds and ethnicities.
The quality of our relationships and our boys
I was heartened to hear that a strong majority of our students respect and like each other, and like the College too. Parents and staff told me they are really impressed with the hard work the boys put in, their humility, their friendliness, their participation in a hundred different activities, their desire to succeed and their desire to give back. Not all of the boys all of the time, but many, many of the boys for a great deal of the time.
The quality of education and staff
Boys generally felt their classes were very often interesting, exciting or at least helpful. It is clear the College also, ultimately, educates our students to be ready for the next stage of their lives through rigorous effort in HSC, IB or VET pathways.
People also liked the quality of our staff. Newington is fortunate to be able to choose from a wide variety of good candidates when roles become available. Once staff get here, they have a good conditions and good students to teach. This means that many excellent staff stay.
The range of opportunities that allows boys to ‘Discover what’s possible’.
What emerged time and again was the enormous variety of opportunities at Newington. Indeed, you could go through Newington half a dozen times and have a completely new set of experiences each time. This was linked to our pride in our balance. We are not just a school for the academics, we are not just a school for the sportsmen we are not just a school for the rock gods. We try to offer the best of education regardless of a child’s driving passion – or passions.
What to keep concentrating on (or concentrate on even more)
We are concerned some students can become overburdened, particularly in the latter years of their schooling. There has been an intensification in each area of their lives. What it takes to get a good HSC mark, what it takes to win a competitive game of football and what it takes to do a good guitar solo at RockFest have all increased. This is even more extreme for a young man who is trying to do multiple things at once, and for boys who live a long way away. We also have to be mindful of work intensification for our teachers, who spend more and more time with students as individual demands increase. We have to work to find balance, excellence and enough time to sleep for everyone.
Academic standards, motivation, excitement and rigour.
Not all our boys work as hard as they should or can. Other boys work for the wrong reason – simply for the mark instead of the education. These core hours and these core years are critical. As a result, we will be vigilant about the quality of our teaching and of their learning. We will also teach, and expect boys to display, grit. We don’t expect every boy to become a scholar, but do we expect each boy to give it a ‘red hot crack’.
Wellbeing and pastoral care
Many people worried that, in a society characterised by more prosperity and ease than the world has ever seen, our young people are reporting more depression and anxiety than we have ever heard of. While we will continue to investigate the causes, we want to do our best to ensure as many of our young men as possible have a sense of wellbeing, flourishing and purpose. Staff worry that it is difficult to get all these messages out in the very limited time we have during mentor groups. We will be looking at how to seed these vital perspectives in a way that is central, effective and long lasting.
People were concerned that the future of work, truth, learning, mental health, relationships, democracy, the planet – even humanity itself – are up for grabs. This is the future our boys are going into. We have to stare this future in the eye – as much as we can – and ask: ‘What is needed for our boys to thrive in this new world?’ Then we need to be equally brave in including these things in any new program for the school.
There is much that I have left out – but these are some common themes. I’ll be speaking more about our future direction at Newington’s Annual Prize Giving on 2 December 2019 and look forward to seeing you there.
Mr Michael Parker
We are also committed to having reasonable conversations about gender, attitudes and about what structural equality should actually look like in the world – all whilst celebrating what is good about boys. Most people I talk to have daughters and sons, sisters and brothers – and they want the best for everyone. We are interested in sustained, practical ways girls and boys can work together.