High Notes, Vol 21 No 16, May 29 2020

Attention: open in a new window. E-mail

From the Principal

Welcome back!

This week, it was a great relief to have our school community back together again attending school for the first time in what seems to be a long period of disruption to our ‘normal’ routine. Our students have handled adjustments to changing learning environments with great acceptance, patience and willingness to co-operate. Our staff have been committed, calm and professional in their transitioning to online learning. We cannot go back yet to the way it was before in every aspect of school life. We need to try and keep our distance from one another when we can. We will have to co-operate and take precautions when we are handling equipment in practical classes and during sport. We will need to remember to wash our hands more frequently, cover our coughs and use alcohol wipes and sprays routinely. Such practices will make up the ‘new normal’ for an indefinite period. In the event of a case occurring in our school, it would help us to trace contacts if staff and students downloaded the ‘COVIDSafe’ app.


Our School Canteen is back in full operation and needs your support. We have spare capacity to fill lunch orders. I encourage you and your sons to use this service and to move to cashless transactions for everyone’s safety. The canteen is equipped with electronic transaction scanners for your convenience.

Dropping Off Students

We ask for your patience and compliance with parking attendant directions in this process. There are >100 cars to move in and out of the site in a 30-minute time period. The process is – enter through gate 1 and turn right. Drop off your son alongside the tennis courts. Proceed to the white line where an attendant will direct you. If you want to turn right onto Cleveland, you will have to veer left and move forward to create a turning circle. If you are turning right off Cleveland to enter into gate 2, please drive through to the area opposite the gym doors keeping to the left. Drop off your son and make a u- turn in the no parking area space provided, before proceeding back to gate 2 to turn left or right.  Parents are advised that they are not allowed to get of their vehicles. Please follow the directions of the parking attendants

Picking Up Students

The fastest option is for parents to arrange to meet their sons on Driver Avenue. On sports afternoons (Wednesday and Thursday) it would be best to pick up students from their sports venues. Next week, we will persist with our parking and pick up arrangements. Gate 9 will be locked. Parents arriving early will be directed to park in the Junior Quadrangle. Once this is full, arriving parents will be directed down to The Flat. Once the bell goes, students must be allowed to exit the buildings safely. Cars will not be able to leave the quad for several minutes while students exit from Killip Wing and the main quad. Exit from the quad will be via the covered walkway between the main building and Killip Wing, east along cutler Drive and out the boom gate 10 to turn left on Anzac Parade. Please comply with staff directions and stay in your vehicle.

Prefect Investiture Assembly

Recently, we held a special assembly just for our School Prefect Interns, their Year Advisers and Ms Rigby. It was time for them to sign the Prefects’ Book and receive their permanent Prefects badges. The senior leadership group, Alex, Angus and Alan, made speeches capturing the mood of their fellows in these ‘unprecedented’ times. At least the formalities of the rite of passage for our school leaders was maintained, albeit without the usual student body as witnesses to the special occasion. My speech is reprinted below:

"Staff and Prefects of Sydney Boys High welcome to our official recognition and investiture assembly for our 2019-2020 School Prefects. I acknowledge this morning the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to any Aboriginal people here today. Let me first apologise to those present for the circumstances under which we proceed with this investiture today. I realise how you must feel, quite rightly, that you have been cheated out of long-awaited ‘rite of passage’, by COVID-19. Back in 1919 at High, boys referred to ‘King ‘Flu’, when 15,000 Australians died from the disease. You have shown similar resilience and courage as they did when they tried to cope with not starting school until April in their final year.

"As you sit in socially distanced rows, it must feel as if all the atmosphere has been sucked out of this ceremony. I urge you to take the long-term view. Students have been signing the Prefects Register on this table for 65 years. In twenty years-time, what will be remembered is that you signed this book together, had your picture taken together and endured COVID-19, together. No disease or restriction can take your badge or your office away from you. You are Prefects of High. Be proud.

"The senior leadership team of Alex Zhou, as Captain, Angus Henningham as Vice-Captain and Alan Wong as the Senior Prefect, have stood together to do what they could to build morale in this long period of social distancing and mental stress. These men have once again set a high standard in taking leadership on social issues – student mental wellbeing, in particular. It is a pity none of your plans could come to fruition. I trust you will leave the legacy at least of a blueprint for action for those who follow you. We got to know some of our leaders through the ‘Meet the Prefect’ series in High Notes, explaining what the Prefect role means to them. I hope you revive that practice in the time you have left.

"I want to acknowledge the careful, compassionate and conscientious stewardship of Ms Rigby as Prefect MIC. She has set high expectations and held our boys to account. Again, I want to thank her for her dedication and effectiveness in leading our student leaders.

"To move from internship to the point of getting their perpetual School Prefect badges today, Prefect Interns had to prove that they could meet the requirements for the role. These requirements were demanding. Prefect interns had to continue to meet a predetermined academic standard.  They had to maintain their participation in school life, play two GPS sports and earn a Student Awards Scheme Awards.  They had to have exemplary standards in behaviour, school dress and punctuality.  They had to carry out their internship duties effectively.  As in previous years, not all interns successfully pass the series of tests we impose on them, but the overwhelming majority has done so, and they will receive their badges proudly today.

"I was struck by a saying about leadership that I would like to share with you. ‘Leaders should think in shades of grey but speak in black and white’. Leadership has a lot to do with effective communication. Leaders must get to the nub of the matter and express it succinctly, coherently and hopefully, powerfully. Prior to taking that step, they need to understand the context, to read, to consult as widely as they can and to hear dissenting voices. They must appreciate the shades of grey before they can distil issues into black and white. Leaders need clarity and conviction. They should eschew bombast and self-serving platitudes. Always stand for something when you are asked to lead.

"I congratulate all our Prefects being invested today. I wish it were in more normal circumstances. Nonetheless, we must all play the cards we are dealt. Rest assured you will become an equivalent chapter in High’s history as those who have preceded you in the role for more than a century. "

National Sorry Day – Tuesday 26 May

National Sorry Day, or the National Day of Healing, is an annual event that has been held in Australia on 26 May since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country's Indigenous peoples, as part of an ongoing process of reconciliation between the Indigenous peoples and the settler population. Our last formal recognition of this day came in 2017 when Mark Scott, Secretary of the Department of Education, opened our indigenous art collection, ‘Na Ngara’, officially. Many works in the collection go to the issues of Sorry Day and reconciliation in general.

National Reconciliation Week 27 May -3 June

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is celebrated across Australia each year between 27 May and 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey—the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision. The Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Australia, Karen Mundine, announced in January that the theme of this year’s National Reconciliation week will be ‘In this Together’.  She said that the theme, “reinforces that we all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures”. Reconciliation Australia held the inaugural week in 1996 with the aim of celebrating, at a national level, indigenous culture and history in Australia.  The week aims to foster reconciliation discussions and activities.

One discussion we need to have is about why, after 25 years of discussion, a practical outcome of reconciliation, in the form of a treaty or agreement with indigenous peoples, has yet to be negotiated. My fear is that our residual racism might inhibit us as a nation from coming to grips with one of the major issues of reconciliation – respect for the dignity and worth of others.  Our subterranean racism surfaced in hate speech and physical attacks on Chinese Australians, accusing them as somehow linked to the need for social distancing as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  For a proudly multicultural nation with a record of success in welcoming immigrants from around the world, it is ironic that we do not like to talk about or address our seemingly racist core, in relation to moving reconciliation forward for our own indigenous peoples.  We talk about respect a lot as a society.  It is high time we really demonstrated some.  I urge our school community, which cannot assemble, to take some time during Reconciliation Week to consider how we can make our society less racist and more open to genuine reconciliation with indigenous Australia.
Dr K A Jaggar

Return to Index

Continue reading in PDF format

This complete issue of High Notes is available in PDF format.