A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school in Adelaide,
South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 18 - 2018

As this is the final eNews for 2018, I share with you an abridged version of my speech given at Speech Day, Thursday 22 November, which sums up the amazing year we have had at Westminster. We wish you a wonderful Christmas and a very safe holiday season and look forward to seeing our students in 2019, ready to take on the challenge of a new year!

Speech Day 2018

Welcome to Speech Day 2018. It is fantastic to see you here and I pass on my welcome to all of our special guests. Thank you for making the time to join us…

…Terrifyingly, each year I become more and more like my father. As a teenager, I swore I would be different; I would be cooler; I wouldn’t get fat; I wouldn’t like really bad old music; my handwriting would remain legible and a raft of other things. However, I grow more like him in many ways. I am getting fatter, I do make really bad jokes, and my handwriting is becoming harder for others to read, even with glasses.

But, is it such a bad thing becoming more like your parents? For all of us here the answer is probably no, after all, our parents are the ones who sent us to schools like Westminster. They make tremendous sacrifices to give us the best education we can have. An education they hope will empower us to be all we can be. What greater gift can they give? It is a great act of commitment and determination to help you all achieve more than you thought possible. Please don’t forget to thank them.

Last year, we challenged our students to be kind, useful and grateful. In 2018, we adopted the tagline that in random acts of kindness, kindness is an act of one. Over the course of 2018, we have actively looked for opportunities to recognise acts that espoused these values. Today is an opportunity to share some of these acts with you as they are as worthy as celebrating as the awards we present together today.

  • One morning while driving to school, one of our Year 12 students observed one of our Year 8 students in a bicycle crash on the way to School. Instead of just driving by, he stopped, taking the bicycle into a nearby shop to be ‘looked after’ until the victim’s parents could collect the bike. He then loaded the Year 8 and drove him to School taking him all the way to the Health Centre for a check-up.
  • Our Year 2s wrote a book of poetry and advice for our Year 12s, providing them with inspirational quotes and poems about our School, encouraging them to not only be all they can be, but to also reflect on the opportunities they have had and be grateful for them.
  • Just recently, a Year 10 boy noticed a Year 2 boy hobbling to the Health Centre with a friend. Seeking permission from his teacher, he proceeded over to the boys and carried the injured boy to the Health Centre.
  • Our whole School community rallied around ‘Beanies for Brain Cancer’, supporting a cause especially dear to the hearts of some of their peers.
  • Most recently, one of our students bravely interceded when they heard a member of the public speaking to our junior students in a highly inappropriate manner at the train station.

All of these acts were done without prompting, without coercion and done purely because they were the right thing to do. As a community, we need to celebrate these acts and use them as inspiration to help us all do more. In the words of Optimus Prime, the leader of the Transformers:

We can all be heroes, every one of us, if only we have the courage to try.

Thank you to all of those students and all the others, who have quietly acted kindly for the good of others, for being heroes for us all.

These examples show us clearly that as we gather today to celebrate the achievements of so many of our students, we should not lose sight of the fact that education is far more than what you learn in the classroom. While we strive to help every student achieve more than they thought possible academically, we cannot ignore the social and emotional growth that is essential for every child to enable them to be the best they can be.

Occasions such as our Cricket, Music, Ski, Round Square, Art, Duke of Edinburgh's Award, School Camps and Outdoor Ed trips to locations such as New Zealand, the UK, Canada, Point Sturt and Kangaroo Island, are all fantastic opportunities for our students.

They are opportunities that allow our students to grow in all facets of their life, improving their emotional intelligence and encouraging every student to ensure they are making the most of every opportunity.

2018 has been a year of big steps for Westminster. We have developed a new Campus Masterplan to help us vastly improve the facilities of our School in a logical, progressive manner that best serves the needs of our community.

Our Masterplan was informed by our new Strategic Plan, a plan that has its foundations deep into the community that is at the heart of our School. Thank you to all those who took the opportunity to provide input into this process and I would encourage you be actively engaged in our community, through Friends of Westminster and beyond.

As a result of both the Masterplan and Strategic planning process, we are now engaged in the biggest building project Westminster has undertaken since its opening nearly 60 years ago. We will be creating some of the best learning spaces in South Australia for our children and this is a hugely exciting project, and, of course, you can be a part of this.

Particularly, as due to public support and feedback we have already reflected on the Masterplan and accelerated the timing of the building of a new sporting facility with changing rooms, sports viewing spaces and our Golden Keys Training Centre all located close together. Fundraising for Science facilities has taken place over a number of years and is coming into fruition with the new Inquiry and Innovation hub. To achieve a sporting centre with a pavilion at the same will require both enthusiasm and generosity from our community and beyond. Already as a School, we are recognised as a having excellent facilities and this reputation will only be further enhanced as we move forward with our Masterplan.

We have launched a new website, and our Development team has worked tirelessly in helping create what is one of the most innovative school websites in Australia, let alone South Australia. While the website is an outward facing tool, in 2019 we will be fully integrating a new learning management system that will enable us to help all of our students and keep our parents even more informed about the social and academic growth of their children. Along with this, we will be launching a new app to allow for more effective personalised communication across the whole School.

None of this would have been possible without the many hours of work of our School Leadership Team and our School Management Group - thank you to all members of these groups for your tireless work and support.

Over the year, we had a number of amazing speakers present to our students and subsequently, our parents and carers. It was fantastic to see parents in attendance. However, too often it is the same parents at every evening presentation. A challenge for all of our parents and carers is to make it to these sessions. It is hard while working to find the time to do this but time invested in learning about what influences our children’s lives is never wasted. Too often we have nationally acclaimed speakers talking to small but dedicated parents. We need to role model our commitment to learning for our children and, like them, we all need to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn in every aspect of our lives.

2018 has seen the reintroduction of a musical at Westminster, a chance to bring together our outstanding Drama, Dance and Music students and give them the opportunity to showcase their skills to us all. I hope that they garner your support and that every performance in Term 1 2019 is to a full house.

Of course, the musical is just one co-curricular offering in what is an enormous array of offerings this year. We, as community supporters, have witnessed incredible dance, music and theatre productions and notable sporting success. Particularly, in the Intercol where we were victorious in the Football, Netball, Basketball and Badminton and an admirable second in the Tennis, Cricket, Table Tennis and Soccer.

Huge successes have been witnessed in other endeavours too, from Future Problem solvers, where Bradley Daniel won a World Championship, through to Sailing where our team won an Interdominion series against the Kiwis in NZ, which is the equivalent of beating the All Blacks in rugby at Eden Park!

As we have focused on kindness in 2018, in 2019 we will focus on gratitude. The power of gratitude is incredible and its impact on our mental health remarkable. We live in a world that is consistently encouraging us to acquire more and be more but, at times, we just need to stop and reflect and be grateful for all that we do have.

Today, we need to be grateful for the opportunities that students can enjoy at Westminster:

  • for the commitment and sacrifices so many parents, friends and family make to give every child who comes to Westminster the opportunities they have;
  • grateful for our staff, all our staff who so often give so much of themselves to help our students achieve more than they thought possible;
  • to our Maintenance team who always seem to make our School look spectacular;
  • through to our Administration and Business support teams who literally keep the show on the road, ensuring all our staff get paid and that we have things like technical support in our performing arts spaces.

I once again thank all of our staff for their amazing contributions to our School and community.

In 2019, we have to also be resilient and keep our eyes to the future. While we have taken every measure we could think of to mitigate the impact of our building program on our students there will undoubtedly be some hardship. Any adversity that we face, must be borne with a resilient spirit in the knowledge that it is being borne to help make our School an even better place for us all.

On behalf of Westminster, I thank you all for being here today and for helping us finish our year as a community, celebrating the achievements of all of our students.

Simon Shepherd