Headmaster's Articles & Speeches
Headmaster's Prize Giving Address
Mr Chairman, special guests, members of the board, young men, staff and parents, it is my pleasure and privilege to present my first Headmaster’s report in the 143rd year of Auckland Grammar School.
The School List and Chronicle contain a detailed account of the year’s activities and achievements that we simply do not have time to share with you at an occasion of this nature. The detailed report does in its quality and quantity of content reaffirm the multifarious opportunities this school offers our young men, the intracacies of Auckland Grammar School life and accolades that are earned in a competitive and rigorous environment.
We recognise that not everyone can cross the stage and there are a great number of young men in the audience today who will have missed by small margins and there are many who persevered and just did their best.
We admire your achievements too and encourage you to keep your aspirations high, to remain focused and determined as the rewards will follow in some form.
At the beginning of term 4, 2012 I was honoured to begin as the 11th Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School. I would like to begin by extending my formal thanks to the 10th Headmaster, Mr Morris, for his dedication, pride and passion for our school.
His contributions ensured that the quality of education provided here is superior, with the essence of excellence in all that we do.
Basic respect for yourself and others, pride, competition and striving for academic excellence do exist in harmony at Auckland Grammar School. It is the tradition of strong male education in action. I acknowledge with gratitude the nineteen years of outstanding service that Mr Morris has given to our school and to the Headmasters before him who have each built on the foundation of Grammar, to make it the flagship state school of this country.
Just weeks into this last term of 2012, the school learned of the quiet passing of an All Black great, a fine New Zealander and a Grammar Old Boy and stalwart, Sir Wilson Whineray. Another great New Zealander, Blake Medalist and 9th Headmaster, Sir John Graham provided the following reflection, “Wilson Whineray had all the attributes of manliness that New Zealanders respect and admire - integrity, loyalty, compassion, respect for others, a sense of values and a sense of occasion. These and other attributes led people to see in him a natural leader.”
Sir Wilson Whineray was selfless in assisting others and the servant leadership shown to this school and many other groups in our wider community stood him apart for all the right reasons. I can’t help but think how closely aligned the attributes Sir John Graham used to describe Sir Wilson, are to our school values. Exhibiting these values and attributes are an aspiration the school has for every Grammarian.
This school respects and thanks Sir Wilson and his family for their contributions. May his attributes live on in generations of Grammar boys.
As I begin my tenure as the 11th Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School, I believe it very important that we look to the past in order that we may progress. There is so much institutional knowledge amongst the old boy community and on our staff that you ignore such wisdom at your own peril.
We should not forget that education, in the words of T S Eliot, should be about continuity as well as change and that if students are to have any chance of dealing with the future, they need to value the past and be familiar with what has led us to the present.
The very essence of the school is found in its establishment and in its cause for ‘being’. In 1850 this school was founded by Governor Gray “for the welfare and educational advancement of persons of all classes or races who may inhabit this colony. These very words are prominent and central above our stage. These words remind us daily why our school was founded and exactly what we are about. In 2012 these words continue to have relevance.
It is just a shame the school has to fight a prescriptive enrolment scheme imposed upon the school, in order that we may attempt to meet Governor’s Gray’s 1850 vision in 2012.
In February 1909, Headmaster Mr Tibbs introduced a draft form of the school prayer to the board and school. This very prayer was contrary to the spirit of the then Education Act and was denounced by the press with one comment hinting that it may harm Grammar’s standing as bastions of state education.
I find it comforting and reassuring that what was done was believed in. It wasn’t done because it was prescriptive or according to the educational requirements. The actions were taken and the prayers were said because they were seen as being in the best interests of the students and the daily reading of them would add to the tone and spirit of the school.
It is significant that as a school well over 100 years later we start each day in exactly the same way and with the same spirit and desire for this school to be a great one.
This very focus on what is best is what Auckland Grammar School has been built on through time and progressively endorsed by the ten Headmasters before me. It is why we provide the standard and quality of education that we do. If it is right for our young men then we will do it. If it is against our ethos, then we will fight it and we will not succumb to “the politically correct”. There are literal and figurative meanings of ‘The Grammar Way’ and both will continue to permeate our school!
As the new Headmaster it is my intention to follow the deeds of the Headmaster’s before me and do what is best for Grammar and our young men. ‘Stabilis’ is perhaps the most appropriate word, taken from Governor Grey’s creed for our school, to describe the years ahead – we will be steadfast in doing what is best in educating boys.
This may mean we will not always agree.
143 years on, our society has changed and the demands placed on our young men are vastly different to what they were in 1869.
Respect for others was the norm and maintaining dignity and self worth were paramount in society. What has changed?
We live in a much more individualistic world with the egocentric “me” syndrome a characteristic of our youth. This is driven by the media and by the rapid growth of technology. The opportunities for youth to spend time alone are increasing as they sit in front of computer and television screens.
Our young men can access just about anything and observe behaviour that people would not have even heard of ten or twenty years ago. These factors contribute to the accelerating lowering of society’s tone.
With this in mind what opportunities do we have as a school to consistently expect the best from our young men? Can we raise standards higher, while continuing to mould Grammar boys into well rounded men of character and prominence in our country?
The answer is of course, yes. We must maintain our difference as educators of boys and young men. We achieve this by holding tight to our positive traditions and by having clera expectations including zero tolerances for offensive language, drugs, alcohol, smoking, sloppy grooming, jewellery and casual days off. We will remain a stable, reliable and high profile force in their lives, at a time when so much around them is free and loose.
“Our children must learn self discipline and learn it early. It has to be learnt only through imposed discipline in the formative years of a child’s life. Self control must precede and not follow self expression…
We tend today to ignore the spadework which is in itself, good exercise. The last straw may break the camel’s back, but a large proportion of the load helps to develop its muscles. It is not in the interests of education to make work easy. It is the self discipline needed to master a hard subject that forms character.”
This is the sort of comment will be regarded by many educationalists as “old fashioned” and the fact that the speaker was the Governor- General, Lord Cobham, will not make it any more acceptable to some.
But, it is appropriate to achieving ‘The Grammar Way’. It is fitting as young men embrace Cambridge examinations. It is relevant as our top sporting teams face more schools who are trying to purchase success.
It is my belief that our communities have taken notions of self expression and equity to a degree that is devastating. Self expression so often comes before self discipline today. We’re too often told as parents and educators that we need to move with the times. Much of what Grammar stands for today links back to Governor Grey’s intent for this school.
The culture, spirit and espirit de corps that cannot be described, but is felt inside our gates is born through a pride of belonging and knowing that success, when experienced has been earned.
As Headmaster of this school I will continue promoting what we have always stood for and largely achieved.
We will not lower our tone, rather we will be a lighthouse for quality and traditional boys’ education.
Lord Cobham talked common sense all those years ago and how well it contrasts with much of the nonsense that is talked about in education today.
At the heart of this matter is the deeply rooted belief amongst too many educationalists that it is of overwhelming importance for all young people to believe they are successful, all of the time. The notion of equality is reaching new extremes, as the rights of the individual are affecting the rights and needs of the group, school or society.
We cannot allow this logic to seep into or infiltrate ‘The Grammar Way’.
In an Olympic year we were privileged to watch Grammar Old Boys in action in London; Tim Myers, Michael Arms, Aaron Gate, Richard Patterson, Ryan Archibald and Daniel Slater. They have acted as inspiration for us all. We were all very proud of the country’s medalists.
I was captivated by Hamish Bond’s comments, who with Eric Murray won the men's rowing coxless pair gold medal at London in dominant fashion. He spoke of how hard they hard worked in the years leading up to that outstanding victory at Eton. He said that for every stroke he and Murray made on their way to that gold medal, about 241, there had been about 17,000 strokes in training. For every stroke.
If ever we need an example of hard work and self discipline, there is one. Winning was no accident. Accordingly, aspirations were attained. Respect was unreservedly earned.
Sir John Graham, 9th Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School said in his last Headmaster’s report in 1993 said “schools if they are to operate effectively, must have clear guidelines outlining expected standards of behaviour… We must maintain high and fair standards of behaviour in which rights and responsibilities are always in balance. We seem at times to live in a world which places too much weight on the rights of the individual and not enough on the individual’s responsibilities or on the rights of the majority to get on with teaching and learning.”
These are familiar words, and certainly reflect the Grammar Way. We will retain our difference in educating males. It is a difference that is successful. Unique in place, but not time.
Achievements in a wide variety of academic, sporting and cultural areas are evident in today’s ceremony and these successes are due to hard work, determination, self discipline and motivation of the boys and staff members involved. Congratulations.
The words of the great explorer, Roald Amundsen have relevance at an occasion like this. He said
“Victory awaits him who has everything in order – luck people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”
The fact that the majority of boys and young men here take the chances and opportunities available to them is a tribute to them, to the staff and to you as parents for your commitment in supporting your sons. Luck is on their side.
I would like to thank the entire staff, academic and non teaching for the passion they have for what they do, for their continued commitment and contributions in and out of the classroom and their belief in the ethos of our school.
A special thanks to my PA, Christina Wilkinson, for her tireless efforts, her efficiency and good humour in my first term as Headmaster.
The Prefect body has been united and co-operative. My thanks to Head Prefect, Joel Bateman and his Deputy, Taha Brown, for their superb efforts throughout the year.
The executive team of the school (Mssers Blyth, Metzger, Moore, Vella and Gargiulo) have provided unconditional support and professional wisdom that has once again allowed our school to flourish. Their hard-work and dedication to Grammar is vital to our school’s standing and success.
My special thanks to Mr Moore who has gone well beyond the call of duty to assist my transition into Grammar life.
To other senior staff, especially Head’s of Departments, the Senior House Master, and Deans, thank you for your positive, professional approach.
I look forward to working with you all in 2013 and developing the comradeship and networks that we have started to forge.
To the many volunteer committees, parent tutors, parent sports’ coaches and all those who have contributed to the spirit and culture of our school – thank you.
The support structures at our school incorportaing the Headmaster’s Council, Old Boys’ Association and Foundation Trust, as well as the Board of Trustees, ensure we have the institutional knowledge, wisdom and ability to face up to the issues which occur.
I am grateful to the Board of Trustees, firstly for having faith in me to lead this great school, but moreover I thank you for your support, your professional and loyal backing of me and our school. My special thanks to Mr Jeff Blackburn, chairman of the Board of Trustees, for your tireless efforts and outstanding commitment to Grammar.
To those leaving the school today, leave knowing that you have been part of something very special. You entered this school as boys and are departing as accomplished young men who have been extended academically, challenged physically and sensitised to the needs of others.
Thank you for your contributions to Auckland Grammar School. I wish you all well in fulfilling your goals and dreams.
It is easy to be proud of the boys who make Grammar what it is, particularly at a time when there seems sometimes to be disarray in our communities and world.
Many in the media and in the Ministry of Education say that boys are underachieving. They clearly haven’t looked too closely at Auckland Grammar School.
We will continue to maintain and develop standards in the pursuit of excellence. We will do so with a difference in 2013 and beyond.
It seems to me most appropriate to conclude the 2012 Headmaster’s address with the words from the 10th Headmaster, Mr Morris.
In his first Headmaster’s address in 1994 he said “ At our school we are truly fortunate to have such a solid foundation and tradition. Nevertheless, whatever our past and current achievements we cannot stand still, rest on our inheritance and cease to strive for progress, for no school, and especially not ours, would wish to view its progress as complete.”
I fully concur.
I wish the entire Grammar community a safe and relaxing holiday, a merry Christmas with friends and family and a happy and prosperous new year.
Per Angusta, Ad Augusta.