Friday 17 June is Foundation Day for Snowy Mountains Grammar School, which is an important milestone, as we celebrated the completion of twenty years at the start of 2016. SMGS had its first cohort in 1996, beginning with just sixteen students, and grew to sixty-nine by the second year, 1997. We have been in the process of collecting artefacts from the early years and, upon reading the second ever SMGS newsletter, then called ‘Noteday’, Headmaster Mr Stuart Walker wrote a section called ‘Essential Jobs’. In this piece, he wrote, “Each student is assigned an ‘essential job’. This may entail working with one other student to vacuum a classroom, wipe the desks, close windows and wipe the board, or perhaps empty garbage bins from around the school and relining bins with liner bags. The philosophy of this course of action is one of instilling in students a responsibility for their environment.” Interestingly, I also recall the independent school at which I was teaching in 1996 had just completed its fourth year, and also had a very similar afternoon ‘roll call’ ritual in place, whereby students also cleaned their designated area of the school. Today we continue to ask students to take responsibility for their areas and to pick up their own rubbish, but we don’t have more rigorous cleaning regimes. Frankly, I don’t think too many schools would be successful including this as part of the daily routine any longer, which perhaps is a pity in some respects, because I agree with Stuart Walker that it does shape how we think of our own environment and this includes having consideration for others around us.
While this cultural practice has changed over the twenty years, one thing that has remained, also from this same edition of 9 February 1996, was mention that 92% of graduating Year 12 Redlands students had received their preferred university offer. I am pleased to say that 92% of our Year 12 cohort in 2015 also received a preferred university offer, 96% of those completing their HSC. To me, this suggests that our students continue to achieve with high standards and are rewarded with solid choices for their futures, something that is becoming increasingly important as careers change and big business becomes even more prominent.
At the time of the first ‘Noteday’ being released to the then SMGS parent community, Google had just been launched by two PhD students at Stanford University. The world has changed so much since then in so many ways, with the internet continuing to reshape our lives, having arguably the biggest impact on teenagers – more than any other age group. However, in one final comparison, something that has not changed at SMGS is a request in ‘Noteday’ by the Headmaster asking parents as a “plea to label all of your child’s clothing and books … as it was clear on our first afternoon of swimming of the chaos that will reign if all personal articles are not named”. And, this was with sixteen students in the whole school! If you are coming to Foundation Day, please check out the several tubs of lost property, mostly articles of clothing not named. While some things continue to change at a frantic pace, I guess some other things never change!