Celebration Night Address from the Principal
Jon Charlton – Friday 2 December 2011
The Chair of the Board of Governors Mr Grant Dawson, members of the Board of Governors, Life Governors, distinguished guests, staff and students of Kilvington Grammar School, ladies and gentlemen.
As you know, 2011 has been a particularly eventful year as Kilvington embraced its coeducational future. I would like to begin by thanking all parents for continuing to place their trust in the School as we have undertaken this transition. I greatly appreciate the support you have shown.
The year began with a renewed sense of confidence and optimism, buoyed by our Year 12 Class of 2010 VCE results which were excellent and clearly demonstrated that Kilvington’s teaching and learning program is very strong. 41% of students received an ATAR above 90 and 27% of study scores were over 40 – fabulous results.
We were also heartened with 54 boys starting in the School from ELC to Year 6 – a wonderful endorsement of the School’s new direction. Next year we expect the number of boys to be just under 130, a number far ahead of expectations. Happily, there has also been very keen interest in enrolling girls.
As you heard from the Chair’s speech before, approximately 40 girls and 40 boys will be enrolled in Year 7 next year – a dream start. Also 6 boys will start in Year 10 and one very courageous lad in Year 11. How lucky is he? They all consider themselves most fortunate to be enrolling at Kilvington.
Throughout the year, enquiry and application levels have remained exceptionally strong. 160 people attended a recent Open Morning, a huge increase from when we were a girls-only school. With this highly encouraging response, Kilvington can now look forward to a bright future.
The year has been full of memorable moments. For instance in our first week of coed, I came across two Year 12 girls enjoying a game of tennis against two new Year 6 boys. Surprising? Not really, this is the Kilvington way.
Interacting with your children always leaves me feeling uplifted and so many of their comments amuse. Recently a little Prep girl came up to me on the Kilvington Green and enquired, “Have you painted your hair?” Very early in the year a teacher of three-year olds commented as I entered her classroom, “Oh here is Mr Jon. Can anyone remember who Mr Jon is? No response. So she said, “Remember he’s the boss”. A little boy then immediately chimed in, “No, no, no he’s not. My Dad’s the boss.” An interesting comment, I thought. What was even more intriguing, when it dawned on me, was that this little boy’s Dad actually works at Kilvington. So I have had to keep a close eye on this father ever since.
Recently, I was fortunate to travel to Europe on study leave. During this time, I visited schools and attended an educational leadership conference in Birmingham. One of the keynote speakers was Pasi Sahlberg, an academic from Finland – a country that is recognised as having the best educational system in the world.
Sahlberg highlighted that Finnish people highly value the role of the educator. Teachers are seen as nation-builders, with a high moral purpose, living the dream job. They are trusted, respected, paid well and empowered to use their expertise. Candidates are chosen from the best students at secondary school, and they must then complete a Master’s Degree in order to teach. As the most admired profession in the country, it is little wonder that teachers’ retention rates in Finland are very high, unlike in other countries.
Sahlberg pointed out that Finnish teachers carry out their duty with a heightened sense of responsibility. Indeed the word ‘responsibility’ takes centre stage. As a result of this focus, there is minimal reliance on the concept of ‘accountability’. The ‘accountability’ measures that are currently dominating many western educational systems, like NAPLAN tests, don’t exist in Finland. Indeed, Sahlberg said, if such measures were introduced, educators would walk out en masse – as they would see it as insulting to their professional attitude of responsibility.
It concerns me greatly that there seems to be a growing mistrust in our Australian education system. Just this week, the Victorian Government Education Minister, Martin Dixon, commented that trust in the education profession has gone missing. I understand that the recent behaviour of some high profile people has been less than trustworthy. People in politics, the financial sector and the media have made some very poor choices with some terrible consequences. This creates an environment where it is easy to be sceptical and to question motivation and intent.
Trust is like a vase. It can be fixed once it has been broken, but it will never be the same again. It takes years to build up a sense of trust – yet it takes only seconds to destroy it.
Kilvington is extremely fortunate in this respect, as we have always been blessed with a strong, trusting culture, and we don’t want to lose it. Parents entrust their children to our care, and we do provide an environment in which they flourish.
The same cannot be said of all schools. It is crucial that we weave this golden thread of trust back into the fabric of our educational system, if our nation is to truly prosper – not just financially, but also spiritually.
The Federal Government is currently reviewing the funding model for schools, and Independent Schools may find their funding reduced in real terms. The reality is, the education system requires the injection of more money, not the re-slicing of the pie in different proportions. We need to attract the brightest and best to the profession. This will cost, but the irreplaceable results will be worth every cent.
Each of us has such an important role to play in appreciating and trusting educators and valuing education. Our children, and in turn their children, and our country will greatly benefit if we choose to act now for the sake of the future.
Words of thanks
And speaking of educators, I begin my words of appreciation by thanking my trusted Kilvington staff. They are an exceptional team of people who continue to inspire with their level of expertise, care and dedication. Kilvington is most fortunate to be blessed with such high calibre people. I thank them.
I wish to thank the staff who, have or are soon to finish work, at Kilvington. I thank Ms Catherine Baillie, Ms Bianca Linklater, Mrs Sheree Montgomerie and Mrs Claire Morris for their fine contributions. I particularly wish to acknowledge the work of Mrs Jacqueline Purvis, a passionate French teacher over the last five years, Ms Julie Trethowan Academic Dean of Communications for her fine leadership and efforts over the last four years, and Mrs Kerry Rowan for 15 years of outstanding service to the students of the school as an Integration Aide. Let’s applaud these ladies.
To our Year 12 class of 2011, hearty congratulations. Thank you for contributing so wonderfully to the School over the years. I am delighted to welcome you into the Kilvington Alumni, and wish you every success in the years ahead.
I also wish to acknowledge the groups who provide invaluable support to the School. I thank the PFA for coordinating a number of key community events - the Carnival and Spring Gala - to name a couple, were outstanding events.
I particularly wish to thank Mrs Caitlin O’Leary, President of the PFA, and the PFA committee for their highly dedicated work throughout the year. I also thank Ms Lauren Matthews for her continued work with the Old Kilvonians.
I wish to thank the members of the Kilvington Board for their ongoing dedication and support. They give generously and considerably of their talents and time to ensure Kilvington is well placed to be at the forefront of education into the future. In recognition of his efforts, I thank the Chair, Mr Grant Dawson, for his leadership, guidance and support during the year.
I am deeply indebted to members of the School Executive – Ms Teresa Deshon, Mr Graham Williams, Mrs Jacqui Goldenberg and Mrs Jeanette Rawlings. They are a wonderfully talented, supportive and committed group of leaders whose contribution has been outstanding. I am also most appreciative of the support of my Personal Assistant, Ms Pia Reynolds.
And where would I be without my wonderful family. I thank my loving wife Gill, children Joanna and Zac for their unconditional support.
I close with some words from Professor John West-Burnham of London who I recently heard say, “Good levels of trust and relationships change. High levels of trust and the world changes.”
Thank you for listening.