‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ (John 11:27)
Thank you to Mrs Meek, Head of Secondary, who wrote a ‘From the Head of School’ article during my absence last week. It will be my intention to request that our two Heads of School provide one NCS Bytes article each term as I am confident that you will enjoy hearing from them and receiving their special insights about key events and initiatives that are occurring within their sections of our school. You can look forward to an article from Mr McLennan, Head of Primary, in the very near future.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Christian Schools National Policy Forum and Symposium. This annual event is held in Canberra and I was able to join with well over 200 principals and executive staff from Christian schools around the nation. I have been attending this event for many years now and I believe that it is one of the most significant gatherings on the annual Christian schools calendar.
One of the things that I find most encouraging is that this event reminds everyone who attends that we belong to a national ‘family’ of Christian schools. Sometimes we can become so focused on what is happening within our own individual schools that we forget to look up and observe the exciting activities that are taking place in other Christian schools throughout Australia. The National Policy Forum provides a venue where school leaders can meet informally with colleagues to share some of the great stories of programs that are transforming the lives of students who attend our schools that are located in every region of our country.
There are also numerous other important benefits that occur as a direct outcome of this event. One of the most significant is that our politicians have come to recognise the vital role that Christian schools play in the educational system throughout Australia. Key members of all political parties are now very keen to address our gathering to outline their proposed educational policies. This is the major reason why this event is held each year in Canberra.
Every year, on the Monday evening, there is a dinner held in the Great Hall at Parliament House. Individual schools are encouraged to invite their local federal members of parliament. I was delighted that Ann Sudmalis, our local member for Gilmore, was able to accept my invitation on behalf of NCS to be my guest at this dinner. In all, over 30 parliamentarians were in attendance. This large representation of politicians provides rich opportunities to further raise awareness levels in relation to the importance of Christian education in our nation.
This year, guest speakers at the dinner included Senator Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Education and Tanya Plibersek, MP, the Shadow Minister for Education. They both outlined the specific educational policies of their respective parties. It was encouraging to note that both major parties agreed that funding for students with disabilities should be maintained at the same levels, regardless of which school sector a student attends. Christian schools have been seeking this recognition for many years now. The following day, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young from the Australian Greens Party also outlined her party’s educational policies to conference delegates.
The program for the actual Forum and Symposium also brings experts in the area of Christian education from around Australia and overseas. Delegates receive a wealth of up-to-date information from researchers and leading educational practitioners. Just some of the topics covered included ‘Preparing the next generation for the future: What is the Christian School effect?’; ‘Social trends and religious changes’ and ‘Faith formation in Christian schools’. The Symposium was held on the third day and the topic for sustained discussion was ‘Finding God’s purpose in the pursuit of educational excellence’. The program also includes a number of workshops, allowing those in attendance to choose topics of special interest to their particular school situations.
It has been my deliberate intention to provide this fairly detailed conference report for parents and carers because NCS is working in partnership with you. Home and School each have important roles to play in the education of your children and I want you to be well informed about major events such as the Policy Forum. It will now be my intention to share what I have heard and learned during the previous week with NCS staff. I believe that it will provide us with many topics for discussion that will be of direct relevance to our school.
On Tuesday of this week I also had the opportunity to travel to Southern Highlands Christian School in Bowral. The purpose of my trip was to attend an ATICS (Association of Teachers in Illawarra Schools) Principals meeting. This group is another more local example of Christian schools coming together for fellowship and professional development opportunities. These meetings occur every term and see the principals from five Christian schools working together to discuss topics of mutual interest and relevance to our school communities.
This week has, once again, seen a wide range of significant activities that have involved NCS students at our school and beyond. A number of talented secondary students have participated in the local Eisteddfod competition and some of our primary students have been involved in the ICAS Science competition. Some Years 9-10 students have participated in a regional wood show, our Years 1-2 students have travelled to Booderee National Park on a history excursion and both the Bell Shakespeare Show and representatives from the Nowra Zoo have come to NCS to present programs for our students.
However, I would wish to particularly commend our senior school and SRC student leaders for organising a wonderfully successful Longest Morning Tea (actually an afternoon tea), held on Monday, in support of the Australian Cancer Council. Every aspect of this event, from early planning and publicity to the logistics of setting up for the actual afternoon tea, was initiated by student leaders. The weather was exceptionally kind to us and parents, staff and students enjoyed a delightful afternoon tea on the grassed area between the church and front office. There were marquees set up with clusters of chairs where many members of our NCS community gathered to engage in animated conversations and to support this worthy cause. Talented student musicians and vocalists entertained the crowd who gathered to enjoy delicious homemade cakes and slices. (Special thanks to the many parents, carers, staff and students who generously provided these delicious treats.) Monday was also a mufti day for students who all brought along a gold coin donation for the privilege of wearing casual clothes for the day. Proceeds from the mufti day and the afternoon tea were all directed to the Cancer Council and I am delighted to report that this amazing student initiative raised the incredible total of $830.
The focus verse that I have chosen for this week is taken from the key passage that was explored at the Sunday church service that I attended. It comes from the account of the death of Lazarus, presented in John chapter 11. I was struck by the simple faith of Martha, a sister to Lazarus, when she clearly presents her understanding of who Jesus is. She states, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ (John 11:27). Having just returned from the National Policy Forum, I was reminded that this is one of the major aims of Christian education. We are charged with the responsibility of designing and implementing a curriculum that presents a right understanding of God and His son, Jesus. This curriculum recognises that all wisdom and knowledge come from God.