We are nearing the completion of a year that has been anything but ordinary. The fact that the children, families and staff have been able to successfully negotiate the ever-shifting set of circumstances that the dreaded virus has served up has been pleasing. The vast majority of our students were only learning from home for a few days which speaks volumes about their flexibility.
As we conclude 2020, I can confirm some of the changes that will occur with our staffing in 2021.
Sadly, we will be farewelling some of our hard working and long serving staff. Ms Lauren Hyde who commenced at Westminster as a student and then returned as a staff member, has been teaching students in the Preparatory School since 2012. She is the current Head of Charter House and has led the mighty blue team to some impressive victories this year. Ms Hyde is leaving to move to Kangaroo Island where I suspect her teaching and sporting talents will be very welcome indeed by whichever primary school is lucky enough to secure her services.
Mrs Laura Cownie (nee May) has advised that she will be finishing up at Westminster at the end of 2020. Laura had been a student here prior to serving as a member of the ELC staff for the past 11 years. She has been offered a full-time teaching role from 2021 so she has made the difficult, yet understandable decision to accept the offer and leave our ELC. We wish her well in the next phase of her career.
Mrs Sharyn Darrell has been with us for the past three years in the Deputy role. Her energy, enthusiasm and outstanding pedagogical knowledge has been the impetus for considerable advancements in the teaching and learning in each of our primary classrooms. Mrs Darrell is leaving us to take on the role of Assistant Principal Learning and Wellbeing at Rostrevor College from the start of 2021.
Mr Stuart Burns has been an integral member of the Preparatory School staff since he started here as Deputy of the Upper Primary in 2010. He has guided the staff incredibly well and been an outstanding mentor for the students of Years 6 and 7, with particular focus on developing sound study habits and enhancing their leadership skills. For nearly all of 2020, Mr Burns has been working on secondment to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). This has involved leading a national review of what is being taught in Australian schools and how it is best implemented. Mr Burns has also had a strong influence on our sporting programs, so much so that even though this year he was working at ACARA he still returned to coach our Year 9 Football team. While we will miss him, we wish him well as he carries out this important role on the national stage.
Recently we enjoyed hearing the finalists in the Year 5 Public Speaking competition. All Year 5 students had prepared and presented a speech to their own House, and then each of the six Houses nominated a representative that they felt gave them the best chance of taking out the House Public Speaking shield. Ellie Rosser (Abbey) used the theme of Once in a Blue Moon to entertain the audience. Sinead Gannon (Charter) was extremely brave in outlining the challenges she faces in having autism and why rather than a disadvantage it is actually her superpower! Lara Wright (Crown) entertained the crowd with recounting how she broke her arm not once, but twice playing netball. Evie Bund (Mace) showed no public speaking nerves by explaining how she gathered the strength to sing a solo in an audition for a role in the musical. Barad Abdollahpour (Wesley) had the crowd giggling as he explained the trouble he had coping with a new baby brother snaring the lion’s share of his parents attention. The final speaker was Ben Gomez (Wyvern) who displayed exceptional public speaking prowess as he explained the complexities that he faces having an auntie as a staff member at school and having to see her at family events as well. His explanation of the confusion this causes was outstanding and it was no surprise when Reverend Hoffmann and our Director of Teaching and Learning Mrs Sherwood awarded Ben first place, Barad second place and Lara the bronze medal.
Over the past few editions we have been acknowledging the pleasing results obtained by many of our students in the University of New South Wales Global ICAS Assessments. To further emphasise how well Westminster students have done in these competitions, we have three students who have received a gold medal for being the top achieving student in that test out of all of the students in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Congratulations to Marissa Lee (Year 3 Wyvern) who won the medal for spelling, Gerard McGinley (Year 6 Mace) who won the medal for English and to Neil Anand (Year 5 Wyvern) who won the ICAS Science competition medal. This is an incredible outcome for one school!
Following on from students receiving their Premier’s Reading Challenge award, last week I received a large box labelled ‘Premier’s Congratulatory Pack 2020’. Upon opening it, I was delighted to discover that from around 700 participating schools, Westminster School has been chosen as one of 55 Outstanding Premier’s Reading Challenge Schools in South Australia for 2020.
In a letter from The Hon Steven Marshall MP, Westminster was congratulated for not only promoting the Premier’s Reading Challenge but excelling with an almost 100% completion rate in the Prep School. There were also a few students continuing their Reading Challenge in the Senior School.
Also received were some new titles to add to the Haslam Library collection and video messages from The Hon Steven Marshall MP and the Minister for Education, The Hon John Gardner MP.
Thank you to all students, parents and teachers for, once again, supporting the Premier’s Reading Challenge and reinforcing the importance of reading.
Thank you to the students and parents who have been returning books to the Haslam Library. Please keep searching at home for any of those ‘missing’ books but, let us know if you are having trouble finding any. Books seem to always turn up at some stage and in all sorts of unusual places, but we can certainly make a note that you have been searching. If you have outstanding items, please contact Miss Victoria Sears via Email.
Code Camp will again be holding sessions at Westminster during the December school holidays (Monday 14 to Wednesday 16 December). If you wish to book your child into one of these sessions, please use the discount code 'SUMMER2021FORTY' until midnight Sunday 6 December. Bookings and details of the various programs available can be found www.codecamp.com.au/westminster
If you are looking for ways to keep the children busy over the coming Summer holidays, please be aware that Vacation Care is running from Thursday 10 to Wednesday 23 December, and again from Monday 11 January 2021 until school resumes. It is a very active program and bookings and program information can be obtained from Joel Steer in OSHC. Joel can be contacted on T: 08 8276 0390 or via Email.
It is the time of year when we say farewell to some families moving to other parts of the country, as well as send our Year 6 students over to the Senior section of our School, hopefully extremely well prepared for the options that are about to open up for them. Traditionally we have held major school events to acknowledge this stage in their schooling, but as with many 2020 activities, adjustments have been required. Our Year 6 students will be acknowledged at an upcoming assembly but unfortunately the audience can only consist of their peers rather than their family.
I would like to thank most sincerely the Preparatory families for the support and understanding they have shown throughout this year. We have not been able to open up to the community like we usually can. Many events have been cancelled, but we have negotiated the year together, and the students have been outstanding at coping with change. On behalf of all of the staff in the Preparatory School, I would like to thank all families for their understanding and support. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and festive season and that your family continues to stay healthy and safe as we look forward to some normality returning in 2021.
Head of Preparatory School