What are the major challenges facing schools? How might we best prepare the youth of our society for the world?
These are incredibly relevant questions that are no doubt shared by Principals across the world. These, too, were the exact words of our School’s former Principal Campbell Bairstow from the 1990 edition of Claresco, which was the year Campbell was appointed Principal of what was then known as ‘St Anne’s and Gippsland Grammar School’.
Campbell returned to our Garnsey Campus last week to look through our new Art & Design Centre – which he was very impressed with! – and his visit prompted one of our Garnsey teachers Marc Bain to bring this article to my attention. In an amazing coincidence, Marc had been reading the 1990 edition of Claresco recently as it was his wife’s graduating year at our School and it had piqued his interest. Clearly the universe wanted this new Gippsland Grammar Principal to read and reflect on the wise words of one of her predecessors. What struck me about Campbell’s words was that even though they are now more than 30 years old, they feel as relevant today as they did then.
Campbell spoke about the challenges facing students with the changes to technology and that these changes must be approached “in a critical fashion”. Campbell wrote: “It would be irresponsible of educators if this new technology were to be explained without pointing out to students the wider moral questions for society raised by it.”
Obviously Campbell was referring to the imminent introduction of computers into mainstream society but of course with a more modern lens on his words, they are just as applicable to the more recent advances in technology with regards to social media. How right he was, both then and now!
Campbell also wrote: “In a School such as ours we have an important opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to make a clear statement on values and appropriate behaviours.”
He continued: “If Schools are to succeed in promoting good behaviour and an appreciation of responsibility to others, they will need to create a school climate in which students trust the advice and acknowledge the purpose of the discipline given to them, and in which students are surrounded by appropriate role models.”
“(Schools) must continue to be centres for communicating civilization, teaching students about their cultural heritage and history, encouraging them to participate in arts and music.”
It was that final paragraph of Campbell’s column that has really stayed with me in the days since reading it. Firstly, because it is so clearly reflective of Campbell’s time at our School when he shifted the focus of our School from that of solely academic excellence to also include art, music, sport and leisure programs. But it mostly struck a chord because I feel it could be me saying those words to our School Community today; they are as relevant and insightful now as they were then.
Of course, it is the role of a school and its teachers to guide our students as they learn to read, to write, to conduct science experiments, to learn how to play sport, and music and, as they develop, to apply critical thinking to everything they are presented with. But it is also an incredibly important role of a School to provide a holistic education to its students and to guide them as they grow into young adults of good character.
Coincidentally (yes, another coincidence!), Bishop Richard also spoke to this at yesterday’s St Anne’s Year 6 Valedictory when he said, “the test of any Anglican school is the character of its valedictorians”.
Indeed our current Strategic Plan also pledges to offer a ‘holistic education’ to our students and our current Mission and Vision is as follows:
Our School Culture is centred around our core values of Compassion, Leadership, Excellence, Responsibility and Respect and develops people of character who act with integrity and wisdom.
Clearly our School has a strong and passionate history when it comes to guiding our students and I would like to take this opportunity to make a commitment to our School Community that this will indeed remain our focus in 2023 when our Leadership team develops our School’s new Strategic Plan which will guide Gippsland Grammar from our Centenary year of 2024 and beyond.
I can only hope this new Strategic Plan will be reflected on in 30 years’ time to have as strong of a legacy as what today we realise the words of our School’s former leaders have had in the past.
Wishing everyone in our School Community a restful break with plenty of family time and happiness.