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Report 2016

St Benedict's Executive Headmaster's Annual Report 2016

St Benedict's was home to 1467 boys for the 2017 academic year: 674 in the College and 793 at Preparatory and Junior Preparatory level. In my mind, each one of those 1467 boys is special and should always feel welcomed and nurtured at our school. Each one brings his own distinctive personality and talents to our community and we are all the richer because of his presence here.

One of the primary goals of a socially and culturally responsible education - at St Benedict's and schools of similar or lesser ilk - is to help all students become respectful of the multitudes of cultures and people that they will interact with once they exit the educational setting of the school.

This is a daunting task for any school but it must be an integral part of the day-to-day focus of every teacher at our school.

This is a daunting task because there are a myriad of influences impacting on the beliefs, behaviour, character and thinking of our boys.

This is a daunting task because the world beyond our school's gates is infinitely more complex and diverse than the microcosmic environment that they inhabit on a day-to-day basis as a boy at St Benedict's. That world is also far less forgiving.

This is a task that is made even more daunting within the South African context where each one of us - boy, parents and staff member - arrives at St Benedict's with our own "backpack" of beliefs, perspectives and prejudices.

The only way to counteract our human tendency to avoid the unknown is to recognize and appreciate the essential humanity and value of each boy. This recognition and appreciation must be a matter of the heart before it can be a matter of the mind. It is only once we learn to appreciate, love and cherish the viewpoints and culture of others that we are in a position to move away from fear and judgement. The truth is that people who don't look like you, people who don't sound like you, people who don't behave like you are all essentially people like you.

This is a challenge that so many adult South Africans have struggled to meet and yet on a day-to-day basis, I see it happening in our classrooms, our sports fields and in the cultural arenas of our school. Our boys are a source of inspiration and hope and I would like to thank each one for reaching out, supporting and caring for his "brothers" at St Benedict's. Of course, there will be times when we do not get it right - we are human, after all. One of the dangers of a headmaster's position is that more often than not, you find yourself continually dealing with conflict and problems. In my position, one has to deliberately find the time to celebrate the good that is being done in a multitude of places in countless ways throughout the school on a day-to-day basis.

During the course of this year, I introduced "Skip A Level Teas". These meetings are an opportunity for me, as Executive Headmaster, to meet one-on-one with members of middle management. It is a chance for me to commend laudable work that is being done and also to "lend an ear" to staff regarding the successes and frustrations that they may be experiencing. I have been very impressed by the general happiness of the staff and their commitment to St Benedict's and all that it stands for. A common thread is an explicit appreciation for the collaborative approach being adopted in the leadership and management of each of our schools - staff certainly feel appreciated; that their voices are heard and that they are in a position to contribute meaningfully to the success of the school. Such happiness stems from the successful management of a diverse set of factors, most notably interpersonal relationships, and I must commend the heads and management teams of the three sections of our school on the sterling work being done in this regard.

I must thank Dr Deon Oerson, Lindi Ntontela, Tonia Lennox, Sr Beverly Ferreira and Sr Sandy Kohler for their daily and deliberate focus on the wellbeing and happiness of staff and boys. In this regard, I cannot but mention the steadfast presence of Fr Thabo Mothiba OMI. Early on in the year, we were delighted to welcome Father to St Benedict's when he joined our ranks as a fulltime chaplain. The appointment of Fr Thabo as our fulltime chaplain is proving to be "a stroke of genius" and he is having a significant impact on the spiritual life of the school.

The Board of Governors approved the appointment of Coleen Mowatt to position of Business Manager from the start of Term 3. The main focus of this new position will be to promote and safeguard the highest standards of business ethos within the administrative function of the school and to strategically ensure the most effective use of all resources in support of the school's educational objective. I congratulate Coleen and look forward to working with her in this new capacity. I would also like to thank our administrative and financial staff on the commendable work they do.

The English, Geography and Visual Art Departments of the College began the 2016 academic year in the new Galloway Centre. The facilities provided in this complex have greatly alleviated the congestion in high school classrooms and has eliminated the need for staff to share classrooms. During the course of the year, the final stage of the Galloway Centre - a 600m2 library for the College - was completed. This project included the provision of an entertainment area at the waterpolo pool as well as extensions to the waterpolo pavilion roof.

Facilities for Dramatic Arts have been greatly improved with the conversion of the Robin Lydall College auditorium into a box theatre. The inaugural performance staged by the Drama department was a performance of Dipou - this year's homegrown RAPS winning production.

Orison Swett Marden said that "There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your establishment." I would like to commend Dave Jeffrey, the auxiliary managers, the ground staff as well as our Food and Beverage staff under the Leadership of Leon van Deventer for constantly "scatter[ing] sunshine and good cheer" throughout our school. Whilst a lot of the work that you do is "behind the scenes", in many ways you are the backbone of our school.

I would like to thank the members of the St Benedict's Board of Governors and Trust for their continued involvement in the governance of St Benedict's. The development of the strategic direction of St Benedict's is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the Board of Governors. In the life of our school, it is vital that there is a clear and agreed statement of purpose; a common understanding of who we are and why we exist. I thank the members of our Board for their positive focus and their constant nudging to take our school to new and greater heights.

I would also like to thank the members of the School Executive who acted as the "drivers" of the Futures and Strategic Council. This includes Simon Curtis (Academics), Toby Craig (Boarding), Marion Mackinnon (Culturals), Dave Jeffrey (Sport) and Deon Oerson (Wellness, Advancement and RE). An Executive Indaba took place on 6 and 7 September 2016 and the Futures and Strategic Process has provided the School Executive with far richer and deeper input from the "rock face" regarding the strategic future of St Benedict's. Next year, 2017, will see us begin the process of filtering the information and selecting and prioritizing certain strategic threads and giving feedback to staff and parents.

I am pleased with the progress that our school is making on all fronts. Staff are being continually challenged with new and innovative ideas on the academic front and staff development is an ongoing priority. Academically we are as strong as we ever have been; sport continues to thrive and music and cultural departments throughout the school have also produced some exceptional work.

None of this is possible without the daily contribution and commitment of our staff and I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Board, to acknowledge and thank our staff, academic and non-academic, for all of their contributions to our community throughout the year. What St Benedict's continues to do on a day-to-day basis is produce young men who not only have a high-quality education behind them but also young adults who understand themselves to be global citizens who have a spiritual awareness and who are well-rounded members of the wider community.

Thank you to our parents for your continued faith in St Benedict's. We are grateful that you have chosen St Benedict's as your son's school and thank you for the many ways in which you have volunteered and given us help and support when needed during the course of this year. We look forward to continue working with you as we focus on your son's academic, spiritual, sporting and cultural growth.

In conclusion, I would like to thank and congratulate the editors and their respective teams that have produced our three school magazines – Linda Oosthuysen, Francene Kapp, Candice Peterson. There is no more time consuming and thankless job in a school than editing the annual magazine and I commend you all on your sterling efforts in capturing the spirit of 2016.

To one and all, may God hold you and your family ever in the palm of His hand.