13 August 2018

Dear Parents,

If you'd seen Dr O'Connell out of school in the last few months, chances were he had his hiking boots on, was carrying a 25kg backpack and pushing himself up a hill. It is not a leisure activity many would take on without a specific reason. Dr O'Connell is away this week, along with Year 7 teacher Karen Woods, seven Year 11 boys and a contingent of students and teachers from Bunbury Cathedral Grammar, walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. The Trek is a combined Service and Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition that walks the trail from Owens Corner at the Port Moresby end to the highland village of Kokoda. It is a track steeped in history, most famously used by Australian and Japanese soldiers during World War II. The Kokoda Track is 96km long and will reach an elevation of over 7000ft with at least 10 summits to climb over the seven day trek. I found this summary of the trek on Wikipedia: it gives a pretty neat outline of our Headmaster's coming week.

"Hot, humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and the risk of  endemic tropical  diseases   such as  malaria  make it a challenging trek."

The three week mid-year break was well used by more than just the Headmaster preparing for Kokoda judging by holiday recounts I heard from boys and families last week. Along with Scotch College, Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC), Wesley College and Guildford Grammar also see the value of a three week mid-year break. It is worth recounting for families new to the College some of the activity that unfolds during this time:

  • 120 Year 9 boys embarked on the week long Canberra Tour, a combined tour with PLC
  • 100 Year 10 boys completed their required Outdoor Education tours to Ningaloo and Karajini
  • The majority of our Year 8 boys used the break to complete their MYP Community Project service hours
  • The Junior Da Vinci Decathlon boys competed at the National Da Vinci Decathlon event in Sydney, impressively winning the Science category
  • Our PSA sailing team competed, and came second, in the National Youth sailing championships held in Blairgowrie, Victoria.

All of this activity in holiday time and having little or no disruption on the term academic programme.

One of the big reasons for the three week break comes for our Year 12 boys who are in the process of finalising course work across their subjects, wrapping up their extended essays and using the break to physically recover from the heavy demands of Winter Sport allowing them to be physically and mentally in good shape for their last eight weeks before examination season kicks in. In my own opinion, I believe the three week break will be a model adopted by more schools similar to ours.

Other aspects of the school utilised the three weeks well too. If you drove down Shenton Road during the break you may have noticed workmen installing the 1600 solar panels onto the roofs across the Senior and Middle School campuses that will produce on average 485 kilowatts of power each day, an amount that will make a serious dent in the electricity bills we receive each month. The Pipe Band had uninterrupted use of the Senior School oval for extended rehearsal and practice each day prior to embarking for the Edinburgh Tattoo last weekend.

Our Winter Sport season draws to a close in two weeks' time before we move into our Athletics season and the excitement and colour of our three sub-school carnivals. They are something to look forward to with every boy in the school participating to some degree. The Pipe Band performance on the Saturday of the Senior School carnival is a great culmination to a week of athletic endeavour. I am however looking forward to the return of the Headmaster next week and listening to the accounts of the Year 11 boys and just what Wikipedia meant by challenging as they recount their Kokoda Track experience.

Mr Richard Ledger
Acting Headmaster
Head of Middle School