11 September 2017

Let me start this edition of the Thistle by wishing all of the ladies at Scotch a very happy retrospective Mother's Day for yesterday; including parents, grandparents and of course our female staff. Any man worth a grain of salt is well aware of just how important mums are, and, the crucial role they play in forming us while growing up and supporting us as adults. Barton Goldsmith a columnist lists 10 reasons why mums are so special.

  1. If it weren't for your mum, you wouldn't be breathing right now. If nothing else, you should thank her for that.
  2. Mothers are the emotional backbones of the family. They provide the holding place for everyone's feelings and do their best to keep us from being hurt.
  3. Mothers have the magic touch (and kiss) to help us heal our wounds, physical and emotional.
  4. Truly, our mothers worked hard and made sacrifices, so our lives would be better. There are not a lot of people willing to do that, so let her know you appreciate it.
  5. Mothers are forgiving-so forgive her in return. Perhaps nothing will be as valuable a gift to both of you as forgiveness. Open your heart and drop your resentments. Now that's love.
  6. When you want to climb the tallest mountain, your mother will make your lunch for you. She is the one who will support your dreams when no one else will. She will also remind you to wear clean underwear.
  7. Her boundaries made you a better person. You may not have liked some of her decisions, but she does try and keep you out of trouble.
  8. A mother's ears and eyes hear and see everything. They also have a computer-like memory for all the good (and some of the bad) that came your way. It's nice to have someone with whom you can reminisce about your life.
  9. Mum taught you to be a functioning adult. That was her job, and without that, making it through the modern world would be very hard. Your mum may have forced you to do your homework, but now you see how important it was.
  10. A mother's smile, when it is directed toward you, makes your day a whole lot better. All she needs is to know that she has helped you to be and feel your best.

It is also important that we remember that some of our boys and others in our community, may have lost their mum way too early; unfortunately, this is one of the challenges that life puts in front of us. Just remember memories are no less meaningful. While my own mum passed away 17 years ago, there is not a day that goes by where I am not reminded about her and how much she contributed to my life. So, remember to give thanks to your mum, in person or in prayer, not just on Mother's Day, but on every day of the year.

No doubt many of the community has either seen or heard the recent news items about the funding of schools. While there is still some way to go before all details are finalised, on balance, the proposed funding arrangements should at least give schools some certainty moving forward. In response to some questions that were forwarded to me last week, I provided a local news outlet with some basic commentary about the new funding arrangements. While I acknowledge that not everyone will share my views, following is my response to the questions as at Monday 8 May:

Dr O'Connell, Headmaster of Scotch, said that he welcomes what is being referred to as Gonski 2.0. The original Gonski report, released in 2011, had many great social imperatives, such as ensuring that disadvantaged schools receive more funding based on need, in particular, the specific needs of each school community calculated on the backgrounds of the respective student population. Unfortunately, the then government failed to implement an open and transparent funding system, via the proposed Schooling Resource Standard. Gonski 2.0, as proposed by Minister Birmingham, is well overdue attempt to eliminate the backroom systemic deals that have existed in past Commonwealth funding arrangements.

We simply want assurance that school funding is open and equitable for all sectors, Government, Catholic and Independent. As with all change in funding arrangements, there will be a period of realignment and adjustment; this is simply a fact of addressing any large-scale change. We have no doubt that Scotch will face some decrease in funding in relative terms as the new regime is implemented. However, on balance, Scotch College welcomes the level of support it receives from both Federal and State governments, and it is our job to work within the funding parameters, as long as we know that they are transparent and fair across all sectors.

The most important part of the recent announcement is yet to come, that is, the outcomes of the next review yet to be chaired by David Gonski. Historically, not just in Australia, funding strategies, aimed at ensuring money reaches students who truly need the support, have proved problematic. This is something highlighted in Ivan Illich's 1972 essays on Deschooling Society. At the time, in referring to the American Title One project, he argues that, 'it is the most expensive compensatory programme ever attempted anywhere in education, yet no significant improvement can be detected in the learning of these disadvantage students.' Essentially he highlighted that at the time the funding allocated was insufficient, incompetently spent and that educational disadvantage cannot simply be solved by relying on education within schools. Disadvantage is a broader societal challenge.

The next Gonski review will hopefully deliver a strategic roadmap to ensure that any increase in funding for disadvantaged students, will in fact deliver real improvements for the children most in need; no matter which system or school they attend.

Once appropriate we will provide further updates. However, the matter of funding is complex and yet to be discussed at the College's Finance and Planning and Council meeting.

Make no mistake, there is nothing more important than the funding of our College. It is through the many incredible support mechanisms provided by the Scotch community, coupled with tuition and boarding fees and government support, that we are able to continue offering a quality education for our boys.

This week will be an exciting one as we embark on the taking of our whole of school photo. Given this is our 120th year of operation, it is wonderful to record this event through a K-12 snapshot. Furthermore, the 2016 Reporter is now back from the printer and will soon be in the hands of the boys. I encourage you to take this opportunity to reflect on the diversity of activities which make up just a single year at Scotch.

Have a great fortnight.

Dr A J O'Connell
Headmaster