A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 19 - 2023

Term 4 at Westminster: A Time of Celebration and Achievement

Term 4 is jammed full of wonderful experiences for our whole Westminster community. There are so many chances for us to gather to witness and celebrate the growth and achievements of our students. From our Junior Play, Preparatory School mini-musical performances to the Art, Design and Technology exhibition, and most recently our festive celebration Carols on the Green, there is a myriad of opportunities for us to come together as a community.

For me, during the time since the last eNews, there has been Prize Giving and Valedictory, the Junior Drama Production and our Indigenous Youth Leadership Program (IYLP) students’ graduation ceremony in Sydney. On the sport front, our volleyballers have headed to the Gold Coast for their annual championship. Seeing our students in these different contexts was fantastic and their emotional intelligence showed repeatedly.

From the speeches of School Captain Gracie Martin and Vice Captain Dion Kernick to the acceptance of student awards, event performances and receiving their parting gift from the School, our graduates have shown their humanity and humility. This was highlighted again at the recent IYLP Graduation in Sydney where the student speaker from another school struggled with nervousness during her speech and truncated it. Our own students, without any prompting, came over en masse to congratulate her and offer their support. There were over 20 schools represented and our students were the only group who did this, displaying amazing empathy and kindness.

Last week, we welcomed back Class of 2022 School Dux Jade Cross who has returned for the holidays from Canberra where she is studying Actuarial Studies at ANU. Jade spoke to students about her experiences in her first year as a graduate and was able to share advice on how to handle the rigours of studying for SACE.

Jade spoke with great articulation about her views on success: I have always believed that success is an arbitrary term, lacking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ definition. For most people, it is some combination of fulfilment, happiness and making a positive difference. But success in life will look different for everyone: it may mean being a teacher, plumber, waitress, or stay-at-home parent.

Jade went on to encourage our students to seize opportunities and not look for excuses. Instead, she asked students to reconsider their position:

Perhaps things seem too hard or time-consuming, or maybe they don’t fit into your life’s ‘master plan?' Just give it a go. In every opportunity you pursue, you will learn more about yourself, make memories, have fun, and unlock new doors. The worst that can happen is you may hate what you tried, and you learn something valuable in that too.

As 2023 concludes, we can celebrate what has been a terrific year and also take on the lessons shared by Jade. Soon it will be the Class of 2023’s turn to shine and we look forward to sharing their results with our community next week.

Following a wonderful break, we look forward to seeing those of you at Westminster in 2024 and hope that we can all embrace the opportunities that the year holds for us, even when they disguise themselves as hard work.

As I consider Jade’s wise words, I think of our School full of committed staff, achieving incredible things. Just this year two of our teachers, Director Teaching Angela Phillips and Preparatory School Teacher Sarah Mori, were recognised for their contribution to education in South Australia, a prestigious accolade to achieve. Then, unbeknown to me, I was nominated by a staff member for the National Excellence in Teaching Award (NeiTA) Leadership Award. Due to the amazing work of our team, I was most humbled to win. When a Principal receives an award like this, it is really the work of the whole team that is being recognised – that’s the measure of success of which I am most proud.

Westminster is a dynamic environment that thrives on community. Thank you for all you do as we gather, work and play in our beautiful campus. All the best for a safe, happy and peaceful Christmas.

Staff Movements and Appointments

As is customary at this time of year for any school, we will have staff leave us, following years of service at Westminster. All have contributed to Westminster’s success in their area of expertise and we thank them for their service to our School and community. We wish our departing staff all the best for the next chapter in their lives. I am sure many of them we will continue to see around the School from time to time, perhaps in a different role or as a volunteer: Grant Bock (Enrolments), Liz Collins (Wellbeing), Gerard Dutton (Trainer), Aisha Hargraves (Agriculture), Joanne Liu (Prep LSA), Annabel McAfee (English), Laidley Poulton (Wellbeing), Peter Walwyn (Science) and Tim Weatherald (Prep Sport).

Furthermore, there are two staffing announcements made this week, I would like to share with you:

Retirement of Curriculum Leader Outdoor Education Gordon Begg

After 35 years at Westminster, contributing and building our pennant Outdoor Education program, Curriculum Leader Outdoor Education Gordon Begg has shared with me his desire to retire at the end of this year. Gordon’s influence on our Outdoor Education program and subsequently our students has been immeasurable. He has also worked tirelessly to ensure that staff working in Outdoor Education are appropriately experienced and qualified to manage the exciting adventures and inherent risks that come with this program.

There are many ski fields and oceans in the world that still need exploring and Gordon’s love of adventure will see him travelling far and wide to enjoy these spaces. But Gordon will not be lost to Westminster. Our community and his unique skill set will see him hopefully returning to the School to instruct and lead our students when they are undertaking adventurous experiences.

I hope you can all join me as we thank Gordon for the amazing opportunities he has helped create for so many students.

With news of Gordon’s retirement, Julie Engelhardt will step into the role of Curriculum Leader Outdoor Education in 2024. She has done a fantastic job throughout the course of 2023 and I am sure this will continue. Julie’s expertise and experience mean that our program will continue to flourish as we all move forward.

Appointment of Head of Activities

Earlier this year Gary Davison, our Head of Activities, informed the School that he would step down from this role at the end of 2023. As a long-serving staff member in the areas of PE, sport and activities, Gary has been a proactive and influential leader and manager, well-known within the industry of active education as well as our community. Much of the success of our co-curricular program has been influenced by Gary. We are pleased that Gary will stay on at Westminster as a member of our teaching staff.

Consequently, we conducted an exhaustive search during the latter part of 2023 to find the right Head of Activities for our diverse co-curricular program.

Following an extensive recruitment process, I am delighted to announce that Stephen Schwerdt will be joining Westminster School as our new Head of Activities at the commencement of the 2024 school year.

Some of you may have heard of Stephen and know that he has been the High Performance Manager for the Adelaide Crows and Gold Coast Suns, a High Performance Consultant at Essendon and the Physical Performance Manager at SACA. What may not be known as well is that Stephen began his career as a teacher and then became Director of Co-Curricular in Adelaide. Stephen is aware of Westminster’s strong reputation in sport, having experienced a variety of Intercol sports as a past Pembroke parent of two children who have recently graduated.

Stephen will bring a vast deal of experience to our School as he takes on this important position and steps back into his teaching career. He will play a fundamental role in the working group established to review the findings of our Sport Review, undertaken to continue building and improving our outstanding programs. Of course, Stephen will also be working with other major areas of our co-curricular program that involve Music, Drama and Dance, as well as a number of special interest groups, such as Debating and the Environmental Club.

We look forward to welcoming Stephen to Westminster early in 2024.

Simon Shepherd