I write to congratulate our Class of 2018 for their outstanding VCE results this year. All 169 of our students who completed the year satisfactorily met the requirements of the VCE and we are very proud of them all. The results are again very impressive across the full range of scores: twenty-three students (14%) achieved an ATAR of 99 or better, placing them in the top one per cent of the state. Thirty-one per cent of our students achieved a rank of 95 or better, while 50% of our students achieved a score of 90 or better, placing them in the top ten per cent of the State. Ninety five percent of our students were in the top 50% of the State. Our median ATAR score was 90.1. These are again extraordinary results and I congratulate our students and their teachers for the hard work they did to achieve them.
Indeed, true education is never easy. The sort of education which encourages students to be curious, to ask searching questions, to debate rationally and civilly is hard work, and requires great effort. But if we are to build a future in which citizens can challenge the status quo, defend their rights, and the rights of others, hold governments to account and participate fully in public discourse, it is essential.
There is a post which has been doing the rounds of social media recently in which a mother bemoans the modern parent’s lot. How to be a parent in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, and social needs are met while being careful not to over stimulate, underestimate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed-foods-free, plastic-free, body-positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-storey, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development. Also, don’t forget the coconut oil. How to be a parent in literally every generation before ours: Feed them sometimes. While the comparison may be a little simplistic, it does resonate. It does feel sometimes that we overcomplicate things. With all the best intentions in the world, as parents, we can all fall into the trap of giving our children too much, of trying to protect them from as much pain and as many obstacles as we can. Even if we know that this is not always the best thing to do, the temptation and pressure to do it can be enormous. We want the best for them. The problem is, that instead of children who are always gloriously happy and grateful for our tireless efforts, we can find ourselves dealing with young people who lack the resilience and display a sense of entitlement.
Most of us can recall a favourite teacher from when we were young – someone who had a lasting impact on us, either because they were infectiously passionate about their subject, or took a special interest in our learning, or encouraged us to be more than we thought we could be. Not all my teachers had such a positive impact – there are some that I would rather forget, people who did not seem to enjoy their jobs or even like children, and who left scars. They too shaped me, I suppose, and inspired me to be a better and more compassionate teacher through their negative example. Teachers have such powerful impacts on their students; it is our huge privilege and a great responsibility. In my time at Camberwell Grammar I have been very lucky in recent years to have worked with two extraordinary women. Each of them, in their own way, have been inspirational teachers, and I suspect that many of our students will remember them one day as one of their favourite teachers. Unfortunately, both of them are leaving us at the end of 2017.
One of the most impressive scholars our School has produced since 1886 is Professor Sir Walter Murdoch, who was Dux of our School in 1889. He pursued an academic career at Melbourne University and then, for most of his career, in Western Australia, where a university now bears his name. Given his eminent academic career it is appropriate that a new research and development arm in our School will be called ‘The Walter Murdoch Centre’. Educational thinking and practice is moving very quickly at the moment, and the implications of technology and how it can be used to help teaching and learning are only just now beginning to be understood. In order for us to keep up with the rate of change, and also to help prepare our students for the world they will enter after school, we need to devote some resources to research and innovation, and the Murdoch Centre will provide these.