Be the Bold Bystander

Chris Ivey / Academic

Some of you may know that I am a Secondary English teacher and so of course

12 March 2021

From Our Principal Reverend Chris Ivey: Be the Bold Bystander

Some of you may know that I am a Secondary English teacher and so of course I’m a fan of alliteration as you can see above! This statement about being a bold bystander is something that I have been reflecting on for a while, how is the bystander enabled to be bold enough to stand up speak when needed when they feel like something is not ‘right’. With the advent of what I wrote about last week in this newsletter and the powerful message from our guest speakers at International Women’s Day, I want us as a College to focus on this challenge in the days and weeks ahead.

My summary on Monday at the International Women’s Day assembly was to affirm the message from our four guest speakers but then to set a challenge for our students. And the challenge was actually to the students who are already completely on board with the notion of equality, it is second nature to them, that is how they have been raised and the example that has been shown to them. Their challenge is not to stay silent when they see or hear something that is contrary to their own values and expectations. This sounds easy but in the moment it is tough. It is about being bold enough to call people out when there are issues of in-equality in words or actions. And as I set this challenge to the secondary students, it cemented in my mind that this also extends to the current context in which we find ourselves; with a heightened focus on appropriate and respectful relationships. When we see or hear actions or words that don’t align with the values of respectful relationships, of consent, or of equality in relationships then we need to bold bystanders and speak out. As we hear the terrible stories in the media, I can’t help but think, where are the friends and those around who spoke out at the time when they saw or knew of these sorts of acts taking place. Where was the support, the action or the voices that said, ‘I stand with you’? I acknowledge this isn’t always possible, but more and more research through various royal commissions is telling us that there are a great number of quiet or silent bystanders who could have changed the outcome. Let’s all ‘be bold bystanders’. Let’s encourage a culture at our College where young men and women are willing to speak up and call all forms of injustice.

The same goes for us as parents. When we hear of what is happening at a party or event, we need to have the confidence, for the safety and wellbeing of our children to speak out.  Too often we think, it’s awkward or it’s not my place to ask questions or to challenge, but actually it is! Think of all those young girls currently in the media who are remembering sexual assaults which could have possibly had quite a different outcome if an adult was strong enough to volunteer or call for proper adult supervision at a party. I know it’s often not that simple but sometimes it actually is that simple.

I recognise we have a long way to go, as I said last week, in tackling this issue; however, if we all take our roles seriously, whatever they may be, then the least we can do is speak up when we know something is not right or does not align with our values. Not only are we hopefully becoming advocates for change, we are modelling to our children the strength in speaking up.

MMG survey

Each year the College undertakes a survey with Year 7 and 12 students and their parents toward the end of the year. It is in an extremely detailed survey which covers every aspect of the College from our strategic intent, right down to feedback on particular individual subjects. The College has been undertaking these surveys now for a number of years and this is incredibly helpful in tracking data on particular areas of College life.

Once again, in 2020 it was pleasing that in almost all of the criteria, the results were not only an improvement on the previous year, they continued to be above the survey benchmark. MMG who undertake our surveys represent a wide range of Independent Schools across the nation. Therefore, we are setting ourselves against many like- minded schools.

  • Our overall satisfaction was 86% for Year 7 and 85% for Year 12
  • Our net promoter score was +38 for Year 7 and +23 for Year 12, both of which are in the ‘high’ range.
  • Many aspects of the College operation are rated well over 90% in terms of satisfaction.
  • As with all surveys, there is also very helpful feedback on how we can improve the service we offer. We took the feedback in areas where there was a greater number of ‘disagree’ comments and sought to unpack these in order to consider ways to improve and I thought parents might appreciate hearing about some of these as well.
  • Communication is always a big one, too much, too little, too early, too late. There is a need for us to continually review how, when and what we communicate to parents and our Marketing and Communications team will review this for both current and new parents.
  • There was a concern about who to speak to in secondary school around some of the more challenging issues including bullying. Our Pastoral and Academic team have updated the who should I speak with document and this will now be sent as a link each term to parents and students.
  • Quite specific was the ever-present issue of vaping. The College, like many schools, continues to find this a challenge to manage both on and off site. As per my comments above, we need to work on student ownership of the issue and focus on the bystander behaviour. All of our students know it is happening and we can’t have security guards outside every classroom; however, we have the eyes and ears of so many students who simply need to have the confidence to speak out against this incredibly dangerous, illegal and addictive habit.
  • Counselling. We have asked our new College Psychologist, Ms Karen Skepper, to become more involved in year level gatherings and more importantly to begin to undertake lunch time group sessions on popular and helpful topics for our students.
  • Focus on feedback around student academic development. This was a big issue and so the Teaching and Learning team have drilled down into the data and we will be communicating with parents later this term on how to access and work with the very detailed student feedback that is being provided through our Learning Management System, Canvas. We will provide communication on how to chat with your children about their learning journey and how to access the information. This will be produced as a clip that parents can easily access.

Feedback is how we grow, how we learn and ultimately how we improve. Thanks to those parents of 2020 Year 7 and 2020 Year 12 parents (who are still with us). No school is perfect however we do genuinely listen, reflect and hopefully improve.

Best wishes

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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