Friday 18th September 2015
Head Master’s Speech
Dr and Mrs Dunn, Reverend Fathers, Governors, Ladies and Gentlemen, Young Aloysians,
Quo Vadimus – where are we going? Don’t worry I am not about to launch into a Latin lesson! However, I do want to highlight in my short address today the exciting plans we are putting in place to further develop the quality and distinctiveness of an Aloysian education.
First I must say a few words about the achievements of our young people.
Prize Giving is one of the key events of the College’s year as it is the only occasion when both schools come together. The presenting of Prizes is an important recognition of achievement – our Prize winners have excelled amongst their peers. We have seen delight in learning reflected by our youngest prize winners and we have the achievements of our seniors to follow.
However, we must also celebrate the many individual triumphs and achievements of every pupil in the College. I would like to congratulate them for who they are and thank them for all that they do – after all it is the formation of character which is of real value.
2015 was of course the year of QUIPE – the Quality Improvement and Professional Engagement Visit (QUIPE) from Education Scotland. You may have heard – at least we hope you have as we were very keen to let everyone know at the time - this was an extremely successful and positive experience! We sadly don’t get a Prize – but we are very pleased to have been recognised as ‘sector leading’ in areas of our work. It was a fantastic team effort and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly offer my sincere thanks to pupils, parents and staff for making the College the vibrant community that it is. A particular word of thanks to all the College staff for their cheerful willingness to go the extra mile for our young people.
So, Quo Vadimus, where are we going?
I hope you will have seen our new website and possibly some familiar faces and the even more familiar ‘green blazer’ about the City!
The website is one of a number of initiatives to articulate more clearly our Jesuit philosophy of education and our values which have now been translated into five distinct strands.
The first is personal excellence or intellectual formation. It requires staff to stretch the most able whilst also ensuring that each child achieves their own personal excellence. There is a Chinese Proverb ‘Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself’. Curiosity is a key characteristic of a Jesuit School.
Examination results are not the only measure of personal excellence, however, they are a key indicator of success and often a determiner of future paths.
2015 has been an outstanding year yet again. Mindful of my eight minutes I shall leave you to read the detail of the excellent results achieved by our leavers. Suffice it to say that they have set a new bar for the College. Similarly the Higher results and new National 5 examinations produced outstanding results. The future is bright too, if the 17 pupils in P7 achieving an A grade for Intermediate 1 Italian is anything to go by.
In the coming years we want to further develop personal excellence by:
- Ensuring that higher order thinking skills and challenging opportunities are embedded across the curriculum
- Developing teaching and learning styles which encourage pupils to take more responsibility for their own learning
- Developing a seamless academic progression for all pupils from Kindergarten to S6.
Delight in Learning
The second strand is Delight in learning or in Jesuit speak the Magis Curriculum.
We have introduced the Celebrating Success initiative at assemblies and on the website over the past year and you will find a section in today’s programme highlighting particular achievements both in and out of school.
A highlight of our Magis curriculum last year was undoubtedly the Ogilvie 400 celebrations involving choirs from the Jesuit family of schools in the United Kingdom. In November the Archbishop of Glasgow will dedicate ‘The Taylor Family Organ’ in St Aloysius Church and we will also launch the St Aloysius Schola Foundation to further support the quality of liturgical music making and develop our music outreach.
You will be only too aware of the construction of the new Sports facility. This will be transformational for the experience of our young people and for the College in the opportunity it affords to develop a campus master plan. Future projects already identified include a pastoral base for senior pupils, a new Library with study facilities and Common Rooms for pupils.
The one-year staff leadership projects this year are designed to further inspire a delight in learning namely: a Digital Exchange with other Jesuit Schools in Africa, America, Australia, Italy and Spain; a pilot study employing a new approach to higher order thinking skills and a new software application to organise and share academic work.
Faith and Values
Our main aim in developing the third strand of Faith and Values or Religious Formation is to collaborate with you as parents, the first educators of your children, in their religious formation as men and women for others.
I recently read something a Dominican wrote about Ignatian, or Jesuit, spirituality. It can be good to see ourselves from the outside. The Dominican considered the nub of the Jesuit approach as a combination of principles and a strong love of Christ with a respect for personal human experience. He said that combination helps to explain our Pope Francis.
These characteristics certainly define our retreat and outreach programme which is literally the envy of schools across the globe. The charge for our new Director of Christian Formation is to ensure that the formation programme is making an impact and preparing young people for the challenges they will experience beyond school. We want to reach out to you as families in this work and engage you in it. We are never too old – or too young – as I realise when I am able to attend Friday reflection in the Kindergarten.
Care and Respect
The fourth strand Care and Respect, or pastoral care encompasses Safeguarding and I was particularly gratified by the Education Scotland judgement that our Safeguarding is ‘sector leading’. In fact this morning we presented our model of Safeguarding to the annual conference of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) here in Glasgow attended by the Heads and Deputes of all the independent schools in Scotland. Our challenge in this area is to keep ahead of an ever changing landscape to help young people keep themselves safe, develop resilience and lead healthy and fulfilled lives.
Make a Difference
Finally we come to ‘Making a difference’. St Ignatius encourages us to ‘stand at the margins and look to the horizon’ – both literally and metaphorically.
Last week we were inspired by the visit of Fr Greg Boyle SJ the founder of Homeboy Industries in America. He made it clear to us that education is a freedom which we enjoy, but it is also a responsibility.
Another Ignatian phrase ‘set the world aflame’ is a wonderful call to action and I think reflects everything that I have come to know about the College - now in its 157th year.
We want to create new opportunities through our careers programme for young people to really discern their personal vocation and see how they can make a difference and ‘set the world aflame’.
We want to inspire men and women of ‘competence, conscience and compassion’ (Pedro Arrupe).
We want to inspire men and women living a faith that does justice.
And in the words of Fr Boyle, we want to inspire ‘dreamers’.