High Notes, Vol 22 No 12, May 07 2021

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From the Principal

High Talent

Well done to Isaac Ayoubi (11F) on his selection as a reserve for the open NSWCIS basketball team. Congratulations to our Athletics Age Champions from our School Athletics Carnival. 12 years – Max Gao (7R); 13 years – Athithan Mayuran (7F); 14 years - Aiden Lee (9R); 15 years – Ryan Yu (9T); 16 years – Xavier Nath (10E); Opens – Thomas Brcic (12F).

Respectful Relationships Education

On 26 March, the Heads of the three school systems in NSW co-signed a ‘Statement of Intent: Our shared commitment’. It addressed the role of schools in strengthening students’ understanding of consent and preventing and responding to sexual assault and sexual violence among young people. There will be a system response in due course. The Senior Executive at High took the decision to act immediately to reinforce our respectful relationships education offerings.

We are responding to concerns expressed to us from various sources that Sydney Boys has been perceived as having a culture of sexual harassment and underlying sexism that has led to some incidents of behaviour involving sexual assault and of breaking consent requirements. Sexual consent is mutual agreement between people to engage in sexual activity. Consent needs to be both clear and enthusiastic. It needs to be voluntary, without fear, coercion or pressure. The person has to be capable of giving consent, so they cannot be intoxicated, drugged, comatose or asleep. Consent can be withdrawn at any time and consent for one activity does not imply consent for another. Silence is not consent – shock, fear or anxiety may render some people silent in some situations. Students in our senior school need to ask themselves whether they have complied with these legal requirements in their relationship with their partners.

Despite the fact that we have endeavoured to address behaviours around consent through our PD/H/PE units and through our Values Education program since 2002, our messages have not cut through comprehensively in the area of consent. It was put to me that whilst there was exposure to the issue in Year 8, there was not enough follow up in Years 9-12 to embed the principles of consent and prevention of sexual assault in the hearts and minds of our students. Consequently, we have taken affirmative action towards cultural change through structural modifications to our curriculum. Underpinning our new Strategic Improvement Plan 2021-2024 are our agreed school values – compassion, respect, integrity and dedication. We are taking a whole-school approach to inculcating these values over the life of the Plan.

Our programs this year will include the following topics. In Year 7 Values Education, students will read and discuss ‘Brave’ by Svetlana Chmakova (10 lessons). In Year 8 PDHPE, ‘sexual health’ (8 lessons), focusses on understanding consent, featuring the ‘tea consent’ video and in Year 8 Values Education, students have a lesson on the responsible use of the internet and social media, including sexting. In Year 9 PDHPE there is a unit on sexual consent (4 lessons) with a focus on sexual assault and having a criminal record. In Year 9 Values Education there will be a unit of work on the book ‘Welcome to Consent’ (10 lessons). In Year 10 Transition Education students will watch and discuss the movie ‘The Confirmation’, concerning allegations of sexual harassment (3 lessons). In the Year 10 Life Ready Course students will participate in Brent Sander’s ‘Life Choices for Young Men’ workshop (1.5 hours). In addition to reinforcing student understanding of consent and sexual assault in our teaching and learning programs, we are using the resources of ‘Consent Labs’ to hold workshops for our students. Year 8 – ‘Consent Foundations’. Year 9 ‘Consent Foundations and sexting’. Year 10 – ‘Consent Foundations and sexting’ and Year 11 - ‘Consent Foundations and recognising sexual harassment and assault and responding to sexual harassment and assault’. In Year 12 ‘Consent Foundations - drugs, alcohol, sexual assault or harassment’.

Also, the Deputy Principal, Junior School, visited each Year 9 class and spoke to the boys about the need to be respectful and compassionate towards everyone. He listed examples of hurtful and inappropriate actions – body shaming, photographing without permission, ranking girls, telling sexual jokes, starting rumours about other students or teasing them.

Our intention is to respond to what we have read and heard about toxic cultures in single sex boys’ school. We are investing c.$25k in extra resources to address the issue strongly. We are also working with parents through the P & C using Consent Labs and with staff using material from a Law Sense Webinar, dealing with sexual assault between students and navigating consent. I trust that the immersion of students in the area of consent and respectful relationships more generally, will work toward High being a more respectful and compassionate workplace for students and staff.

Interpreting Semester 1 Year 12 Reports   

All Year 12 students should have their reports. For the first time during their high school life, the students have an ATAR calculation based on their best ten units. However, not all parts of their courses have been examined at this time. The full examination doesn’t happen until the Trial HSC in August. A limited number of topics have been completed in the HSC courses so far this year. Despite these limitations, the May report is extremely important as a yard stick for possible HSC performance. Every year I would love to be proved wrong. Every year I would be glad to applaud students who do much better than their ATAR prediction derived from their April performances. Inevitably, if nothing changes in the students, the predictions will be accurate, assuming our quantum and spread of marks earned this year are similar to those earned in last year’s HSC.

The first report in Year 12 is often a wakeup call for boys who have been coasting. Students ought to take advantage of practice tasks, opportunities for re-writes or early submission of drafts of essays to receive very useful feedback prior to submission of their work. Lunchtime workshops are also offered for some courses. Individual Faculties also provide targeted coaching for students with weaknesses in the period up until the HSC Trial examination. Students with their backs to the wall start to listen when we talk to them about study routines, life balance and focus. I hope parents will support us once again this year by impressing upon their sons how important it is from now on to get themselves organised, stick to a study routine and find the time each week to work hard. It is equally important to maintain co-curricular activities and to sleep well.

NAPLAN Testing

Students in Years 7 and 9 will have their NAPLAN tests next week. I urge all students to try their best during these tests to reach their personal bests. Use all the time available and plan your time allocation. We expect that you will work carefully and methodically. In multiple choice questions, select your answers after weighing up all the options. Watch out for distractors – answers that have elements of truth or parts of the answer to the question but are incomplete. They are there in order to entice you to pick them because you have not thought through the problem fully. If any time remains when you have finished, check your answers for any careless errors or omissions. Remember that the purpose of the tests is entirely diagnostic. That is, the tests are used to show you and your family how far you have progressed on the national learning continuum since Year 5 or Year 7. Stay calm and focussed during the busy week ahead – good luck!

The Governors Centre – Temporary Closure

On Monday this week a main sewer blockage developed some two kilometres from our site. However, sewerage backed up and forced its way up through the lower ground floor drains of the Governors Centre, which is located at a low point in the area. Contaminated water found its way under the hollow stage which is the lowest point of the building. Floors and carpets were also affected in the change rooms, green room and lower ground foyer areas. Sydney Water was called and commenced pump out and clean-up operations. The Department of Health became involved, and the building was closed to students, on their advice. The damage will be covered by insurance. The building will be out of action for most of this term. Matilda the Musical with SGHS has been postponed until the rights to perform can be renegotiated to a changed date.
Dr K A Jaggar

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