As I approach my last weeks as College Principal, I am delighted to share our updated strategy with you. It is the culmination of months of collaboration with College leaders, staff and students, as well as the College Board. This strategy, ‘Towards 2025’ represents a continuation of the College improvement journey that I have led since my appointment in 2013. Our Mission and values remain constant but we continue to be responsive to developments in our context. Whether those changes be to curriculum, technology, or the demographics of our community, our ambitious strategy is designed to be flexible and adaptable. It is not designed to set and forget for the next five years but to review each year, and to make any necessary modifications. One of our key aims in this strategy is to articulate the distinctive aspects of a Dominican education. We have a rich tradition that informs us as a faith community but also as an educational community, and we will ensure that we remain ‘distinctly Dominican’.

An important part of the strategy is the development and implementation of a College Master Plan. We will do this in collaboration with the architectural firm, PMDL, who have designed and overseen the Siena Centre, a multi-stage development. Stages 1 and 2 are complete with the creation of the landscaped amphitheatre, and the transformation of the learning spaces underneath the hall. The third stage will commence before the end of 2019 and involves installation of a lift to the second level, and landscaping of the southern aspect of the hall. This will help create outdoor learning spaces, as well as creating much more light to the south facing classrooms. The final stage of the transformation of this precinct is the renovation of the hall, and a reorientation of its entrance to St Dominic’s plot.

The Master Plan will continue to focus on repurposing our existing buildings, particularly our heritage ones to make them ‘fit for purpose’ in the second decade of the 21st century. So along with Stage 3 of the Siena Centre, the refurbishment of the Large Ensemble Room in the 1927 building will be undertaken to ensure we have an appropriate performance and exhibition space. Other priorities for the Master Plan at both the Primary and the Secondary campus include our outdoor playing and sporting areas, updating our libraries and creating more contemporary classrooms that enable collaboration between both teachers and students.

On the broader education front, the NSW Curriculum has been reviewed by Professor Geoff Masters, and the interim report is now published:

Following feedback from all stakeholders, a final report will be delivered to the Minister for Education and Early Childhood in early 2020. College leaders and staff will engage in consultation with the report but one of the reassuring features of the recommendations is their alignment with our College learning principles, particularly our focus on student agency, choice and voice. Some of the key recommendations of the interim report include a ‘de-cluttering’ of an overcrowded curriculum. The focus rather would be on depth of learning that prioritises ‘the development of core disciplinary knowledge, conceptual understandings and ways of thinking and working, together with the skills in applying these in real-world contexts’. The challenge will be to establish a shared understanding of what the core would include.

In the last two weeks we have seen examples of motivated students demonstrating expertise and confidence in their learning. The second MY8 exhibition on Friday night was one such example. Students have been working throughout the year on their diverse group projects, and had the opportunity to share them with peers, teachers and parents, reflecting on both the process and the product.

On Saturday at the Festival of Speech, Year 8 student Preethika Mathan won the junior public speaking competition, and Bella Merlino was 5th in junior poetry. Congratulations girls.

Years 1 and 2 have participated in a very special enrichment opportunity where they explored digital storytelling using stop motion animation and clay. They then used the app ‘Smash animation’ with music to communicate their ideas without using words or text – storytelling in a super creative way.

Year 5 and 6 girls will depart for Dubbo on Sunday for a week as they partner with Central West Leadership Academy School to explore sustainability. They will experience ‘roar and snore’ at Western Plains Zoo, and participate in workshops that will expose them to a higher level of cultural and specific learning, enabling them to improve their awareness of Indigenous spirituality, connection to country, Aboriginal agriculture and the importance of water in an Aboriginal society – traditional and contemporary.

We also held an athletics carnival for the children of Mary Bailey House and Prep. It was fabulous and a great way to make connections with our little ones from MBH and Prep, and of course have fun.

The Catholic Schools Choral Festival held on 24 October in St Mary’s Cathedral was again a huge success. This is the third year of the festival which was conceived by Karen Carey whilst artistic director at Santa Sabina College. It is now an established festival with a dedicated team of organisers. The schools involved this year were Santa Sabina College, Loreto Kirribilli, Riverview College, St Pius X College, St Aloysius College, St Patrick’s College Strathfield, and St Mary’s Cathedral. The mission of the festival is to sing great sacred choral music in the magnificent venue of St Mary’s Cathedral. With over 300 students involved in the orchestra and choir they performed Mozart’s requiem which was received with thunderous applause. Our students formed a large part of the orchestra and made a wonderful contribution to the choir.

In sport, students have represented the College at CGSSSA Tennis with all singles and doubles teams progressing to the finals. Due to the late finish final results on the winning school will not be known until tomorrow though suffice to say Santa Sabina will be close to taking out this championship. Our Primary Gymnastics team competed in the IPSHA Championships today and though the results did not go our way the students were extremely competitive. These results will be posted by IPSHA by early next week. Students – both Junior and Intermediate teams – represented the College in the NSWCCC Basketball championships. Students also represented the College at the NSWCCC Water Polo championships. Five Primary students represented the College at the Inner West Tennis trials and four of the five were selected to represent the Inner West Team. Our two junior teams competed in the CGSSSA Volleyball championship and were both runners up in the final.

Our 125th anniversary books are now in stock in the Uniform Shop – Weaving the Golden Thread through 125 stories. This special keepsake takes us on a journey from the earliest history of Santa Sabina right up to the present day.

Father, All-Powerful and ever-living God,
today we rejoice in the holy men and women
of every time and place.
May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Dr Maree Herrett