Principal’s Update 2017 – 7

We have reached a very exciting point in our IB Diploma Programme journey with a three-day verification visit next week. Two consultants from the IB will meet with the College Board, Executive, representatives of parents and students, and all IB trained teachers. Ms Helen Bitossi, IB Diploma Coordinator, and teachers are to be congratulated on their meticulous preparation for this visit. I look forward to constructive conversations with our consultants. Assessment of our readiness to undertake the IB Diploma will be based on this visit, and on the documentation already sent to the consultants. If we are successfully authorised, we join the community of IB World Schools with shared, internationally benchmarked educational standards and practices. Our learning community goes global.

Best wishes to students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 for the annual NAPLAN tests next week. As conveyed before, the significance of NAPLAN for students should not be inflated. Our interest is in how well the results diagnose strengths and weaknesses, and therefore help inform appropriate intervention. The results provide one additional snapshot of data alongside teacher observation, and all forms of school-based assessment. Please contact the appropriate Head of School (Mrs Portlock Years P-5 and Mrs Eussen Years 6-12) if you have any questions or concerns.

On the national front, proposed changes to school funding were announced yesterday by Federal Minister for Education, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham. The “Gonski Model”, named after Mr David Gonski AC, who advised the previous Gillard Labor Government, has been beset by arguments between federal and state governments, and between different educational constituencies. While the model was designed to run from 2014-2019, the final two years have been subject to political uncertainty.   

This new announcement makes clear that in the future funding will be needs-based regardless of the type of school a child attends. However, those schools that have been historically overfunded will begin to have their funding reduced, beginning in 2018. Santa Sabina College is NOT an overfunded school, and indeed we have long advocated for reform to the funding model that has resulted in inbuilt inequity. The proposed changes will need to be passed by the Federal Parliament. Until that happens we don’t have certainty but will keep you updated along the way.

In the last week we have celebrated some exceptional student achievements across different areas of College life. Georgette Bechara, 2016 highest ATAR recipient, has been awarded the Australian Lebanese Foundation Scholarship at The University of Sydney. Overall, the combination of her academic records and other achievements were highly recognised from amongst a strong number of applications.

Georgette’s ALF scholarship will be officially presented to her at a formal presentation dinner, to be held on Thursday 8 June at The University of Sydney, and I look forward to joining her family at this celebration.

In impressive sporting achievements, we had three Santa girls – Chloe Devine, Lara Muirhead and Caitlin Bettridge – selected for the 15 years and under NSW All Schools Volleyball team. Congratulations girls! As well, Alana Goodchild of Year 7 has been selected in the NSW Under 16s Basketball team. She will play for the State in Perth in July at the Australian Nationals. Alana is only 13 – this is quite an achievement!

In an exciting sporting initiative Mr Ayoub is introducing Rugby Sevens for girls. It will be a skills-based program for Term 2 followed by a proposed gala day against other schools in Term 3 at a time and date to be confirmed. We are able to draw upon Mr Ayoub’s expertise as an international rugby referee, as well as the many contacts he has. This will be a trial and its success obviously dependent on the level of interest amongst our students.

This year marks 150 years since the Dominican Sisters of Eastern Australia arrived from Ireland. While that now seems almost slight after celebrating 800 years of the Dominican Order in 2016, it is our very particular Dominican history. We will be acknowledging this history on different occasions this year, particularly on St Dominic’s Day in Term 3. It is a wonderful opportunity for our students to become further enriched by their Dominican history and spirit. Our students are concerned about the state of the world, and can become overwhelmed by the negativity and alarmism of some accounts of the news. As adults we need to support them to be active and hope-filled citizens, confident that their voice is heard, and their actions count.

Our College Mission to “educate students to achieve personal excellence, to act with justice and compassion, and to embrace the future with an optimistic global vision” is challenging and hopeful. Father Timothy Radcliffe OP (a Dominican friar of the English Province, and former Master of the Order of Preachers from 1992-2001) will be speaking at SSC on Saturday 27 May on the topic of hope: “What hope can we offer the young? Lessons from the front line of ISIS”.

Timothy is sponsored for this forum by Catalyst for Renewal, but he will also be speaking at this year’s Dominican Education Conference at Siena College, Melbourne. Members of the College Board and Executive will be participating in this conference.

If you are interested in attending the forum at SSC on 27 May, book here.

On the subject of hope, please share this most recent TED Talk with your family. Pope Frances talks about ‘why the only future worth building includes everyone’.

Dr Maree Herrett