Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Opening the new facilities (2017 Term 3 Week 1)

One of the perennial dangers in talking a lot is that you end up repeating yourself. It is a particular challenge for me as Principal to remember what I have said, and to which people. My family have commented that my dinner-table conversation can bear too close a resemblance to assembly speeches and blog posts! Nonetheless, some ideas bear repeating because they are so important, and sometimes that which was said to one group needs to be reiterated for others. For this reason, the remainder of this blog post will consist of the speech that I made at the formal opening of our new facilities last Friday, which was a very significant event in the life of the school. My thanks to those who were able to join us; it was a memorable occasion.

Welcome. I am delighted that you have been able to join us for this ceremonial opening of our new facilities.

As I begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land upon which this event is taking place – the Dharawal people of the Eora nation – and pay my respects to their elders – past, present and future.

I also want to thank those people who have contributed to our event today, particularly Mr Andrew Coote, the Head of the Junior School, who has led the organization of our event, and the staff and students whose musical gifts we have already enjoyed so far. I am delighted that our main music performance today has been composed by two people who are present: our school captain Grace Easton and the composer who we commissioned to create a piece for our ceremony today, Rowen Fox.

If we were to rank all the elements that combine to make a school, buildings would not be at the top of the list. A school is about people, and about relationships, before it is about buildings and facilities. As a Christian school, we believe that people – made in the image of God – have inestimable value. The reality is that you can put a price tag on buildings – quite a big price tag, as it turns out!

Having said that, school facilities are immensely significant. They have symbolic value, in that they demonstrate priorities and those things that matter in a school. They have emotional value, in that they are the theatres in which the dramas of growing up are acted out. They have functional value, in that they enable teaching and learning, interaction and play, the ups and downs of daily life. They contribute to the culture of the school – segmented or connected, open or closed, welcoming or forbidding, neglected or cherished.
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School facilities are a legacy from one school generation to the next. In this, our 35th year, Inaburra School has been blessed by those buildings and facilities bequeathed to us by those who have gone before. I am delighted that some of those are able to be with us today. In turn, these facilities being opened today will remain as a legacy to those who will come after us.

We have gained a lot through this project. We have a lot more generally usable space, greatly added to our carparking capacity, improved the access paths for movement around the school and provided more covered breakout space for students.

However, the extra facilities that we are gaining are noteworthy not just because they are new and because they are extra, but also because they are different. Upstairs we have one classroom with more than 100 students and five teachers. On the ground floor we have a learning commons equipped with a variety of furnishings that are a world away from traditional school desks and chairs. We have a principal’s office designed like a fishbowl. We have a playground that moves in the opposite direction to current trends to sanitise, smooth and insulate the play experience.

Why have we done things differently?

Our young people need an education that will be fit for purpose. That is to say, one that will equip them for the unpredictable and complex world into which they are growing. In this new world, the soft skills and capabilities will be of primary importance – we express these things in our Inaburra Learner Profile.
The buildings don’t produce these capabilities, but they do provide an environment that encourages them. Our new facilities enable student agency in choosing their study environment. Our new rooms enable teachers to utilize a wider range of strategies in teaching and learning. Our new playground provides context to develop the resilience to cope with bumps and scrapes, the creativity of play in a varied environment, and the responsibility to know how best to exercise freedom and opportunities.
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Our hope is that these new facilities will help us, in partnership with our families, to shape life-long learners who can face their future with confidence. However, recognising the importance of academic achievement, and the importance of 21st century skills, I also want to underline the importance of character. That’s why we chose the Bible reading that was just read for us – the reading which will be on the plaque. It also happens to be the one passage of the Bible that contains the three words of our school motto – faith, knowledge and love.

It is a passage that speaks of the importance of character – Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:6-7) In the Christian understanding of the world, who we are matters more than what we can do. The good life is ultimately found and lived in the imitation of Christ, who grants to us forgiveness for the past, grace for the present and hope for the future.

From its inception, our school has steadfastly trusted in God and his goodness as the foundation upon which we have built. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate now for us to pray.