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Be curious and courageous

Chris Ivey / Insights

On around this day in 2003, St Andrew’s opened to the community. The stories from that first day and indeed the first couple of months of our College are still remembered and Steve Robson, Head of Sport and Nicola Britten, Teacher Aide - Learning Support, are our two remaining founding members of staff. Dr Sue Simon was the founding Principal, and serves on our College Council today. This year we also welcome Ms Ella Evans as our new Head of Commerce who was a foundation student on that very first day in January 2003!

20 January 2023

This week, as a staff, we took a moment to remember the work, effort, changes and growth of the 20 years of St Andrew's. I asked staff this week, what were you doing in 2003? For me 2003 was the year I first became a Principal in Grafton, NSW at Clarence Valley Anglican School. We moved from the Gold Coast had just two young children, our one TV was a heavy, solid thing and by choice we had no computer in the house, which wasn’t unusual. Our main phone was a cordless handset from the wall. When we consider what was happening in 2003, you can begin to appreciate how much the world has changed. John Howard was our Prime Minister, George W Bush was the US President and due to the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction, they invaded Iraq in 2003.

Apple created the first legitimate music downloading service in 2003, namely iTunes. Millions of customers started buying their favourite music online without any concern about piracy. The movie Finding Nemo was released and sadly for some, the TV show Dawson’s Creek came to an end. Those who had a mobile mostly had Nokia phones – there were no iPhones. The first mobile phone video call in Australia happened on 15 April, 2003, between NSW Premier Bob Carr and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks. Unlike Apple’s FaceTime, the call itself used the brand new 3G network.

I could keep going, but it sets a clear reminder that things change! This year I will enter my 17th year of service as Principal. Our College has grown from 163 students on day 1 to 1450 students today. The campus has grown and developed; the educational programs we offer have changed, grown and evolved. Along the way we have held true to our Vision and Spirit, our Mission statements, about valuing people, relationships, connections, about providing opportunities, to allow students to learn more about themselves, and about encouraging a culture of striving for personal best.

But we have also tried new things along the way, always reviewing to strive for the best for our students. Some things we have trialled and not continued. Some things we have tried, reviewed, embedded and are now a key part of St Andrew’s. Some things have simply been refined as time has gone on. But at the core of what we are doing, we are focussing on the young people who come into our grounds each and every day, our St Andrew’s students.

Over the past couple of years we have spent a lot of time talking about Personal Capacity, understanding the reality that we are about the whole child or the whole student. That when it comes to educating young people, we recognise it is a multi-faceted approach. We don’t seek to push any one area of education or academics over another, or value one co-curricular activity over another, but rather offer a balanced approach and value each student for wherever their passion and skills lie. There is not a one size fits all approach and that is why over the past 20 years we have adapted, changed, refined and improved. We have wanted to ensure we reflect the fact that each student deserves to be offered a broad range of opportunities, and also experience a supported, rigorous approach to their education, recognising that there are many ways to forge a successful pathway forward in life.

When the College first opened in 2003, we had a focus on seeing each student as an individual, recognising learning and developmental needs are different. We have embraced and supported that, within one school’s own limitations.

So now as we enter 2023 we continue to strive to view each student as an individual, so that each student is known and ‘seen’. We will build into each student their own personal capacity to help them to know and see themselves, and to set goals based on enabling them to achieve their personal best in whatever context we offer both within and outside the classroom. And our vision for 2023 is that I believe we all need to focus on being curious and courageous .

It’s my challenge to our community, both staff and students that as you roll into 2023, you ensure you do so with curiosity and courage. Curious about your practice, how you work, how you study, how you learn, how you relate to others. Curious about how you approach what you do and then how are you going to apply that reflection…the finding out about what works best, about how others approach things, about what is going to have a positive impact or a negative one. And then being courageous enough to change, to improve, to try different ways.

As I shared with our staff this week, sometimes it’s hard to break habits, old ways of thinking, old ideas, and biases but as we know, we need to keep reflecting, not doing things the same as we did previously, but always being open to improvement, feedback and change. Some things don’t change, I acknowledge. Our students will always need to have thoroughly strong foundations in literacy and numeracy, but in 2023, we know their education encompasses so much more. The capacity to ponder, discern, digest, review, reflect and analyse. A back pack of skills, to enable our students to succeed beyond the environment of school.

When our staff get together, this is what we talk about all the time, building capabilities, building Personal Capacity within our students, adapting, aiming to think and reflect on what we offer.

So as our College community heads into the new year, the celebration of 20 years of St Andrew’s, I hope everyone is as keen and energetic as I know our staff are, to take up the challenge of being curious, and being courageous. It was a key part of who we were 20 years ago in 2003 and it is integral to who we are at St Andrew’s in 2023. And ultimately it’s why I love working here!

At St Andrew’s, I know our staff are committed to our value statements of encouraging learning, building connections and creating opportunities. This desire to provide the best possible opportunity for all permeates everything we do; from the quality of staff we employ, to the buildings we build, to the breadth and quality of the programs we offer. We’re not a good school, we’re a great school!

I am so excited by what 2023 has in store, and such confidence in the direction we are going. I’m encouraged by the potential, the energy and the expectations that all our staff, including our College Council have for this College. Thanks for being a part of our journey into 2023!

Author Profile

Chris Ivey

In his own words, Chris “enables things to happen” at St Andrew’s. As Principal of the College, he leads the development and progression of St Andrew’s by enabling staff and students to achieve their personal best. Chris is a Reverend and has been the Principal of St Andrew’s for more that 15 years. He also represents and advocates for Independent schools across Australia as the National Chair of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Australia).

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