On Thursday 8 December, SMGS held its annual Speech Day. Speech Day concludes the school year for our students and is a celebration of the achievements and discoveries the students have made with their teachers across academia, sport, performance and citizenship.

This was my first Speech Day at SMGS and, like all events I have attended this year to photograph and capture the story to share, I was yet again amazed at what our staff and students pull together. From the spectacle of the ‘Drum Corps’ processional, to admiring how well our school captains speak and represent our school, to the thoughtfulness and inspiration in the words passed along by the Chairman, the Principal and members of the executive team, Speech Day did not disappoint.

SMGS Chairman, Michael Jones, agreed to let me share with you his words, which captured both the spirit of our school and the success the students, staff, parents and Board have all had a hand in achieving over the last twelve months.

“Welcome to our 2016 Speech Day and prize-giving.

Each year I describe how SMGS is proud to be part of the Jindabyne township and the local Monaro region, as we participate in, and contribute to, the further building of this growing community over the years, in such a unique Australian setting – one of the most diverse environments in the world …. and indeed we are very proud to be part of this special place!

SMGS offers a well-rounded, academically enriched education with a strong pastoral care program, whereby each student is known personally by teachers, who prepare students for their vocation and life in the real world.

I know that Mr Bell and the staff are proud of the manner in which the students this year have grown in understanding and have been able to demonstrate their care for one another and are learning to become more competent and confident citizens of not only SMGS, but our global society.

The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy – NAPLAN results – together with the International Competitions and Assessment for Schools – ICAS – confirm that SMGS’ student outcomes are well above state, national, and equal, or similar to, independent school averages internationally.

We are very proud of student achievements across the school – greatly supported by the commitment of our dedicated teachers, who achieve so much for a comparatively small package but with big results.
It is truly amazing.

The Board has continued to support and fund the development of teaching and care programs in the school, and are pleased to hear of the higher levels of achievement, transparency and accountability for staff and students, evidenced through student surveys of teachers and teacher peer support and development programs.

It is encouraging to know that our programs and activities support the growth of our reputation as a real world learning community which:

  • delights children who “… can’t wait to get to school each day”;
  • attracts and retains some of the finest teachers available; and
  • invites the involvement of parents in their child’s education.

Earlier this year the Board decided to completely upgrade the boarding house, a building which originates from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electricity Scheme’s Island Bend camp-site, and was subsequently transported to this site during the establishment of the Snowy Hydro Maintenance Depot after the town was relocated in 1964.

  • The boarding house refurbishment included re-lining and fit-out of all rooms, new built-in cupboards, furniture and equipment, and carpet throughout. It included an upgrade of the overnight staff quarters with refurbished bathroom and kitchenette facilities, and a refreshment of the student bathrooms. The major task was overseen and managed by Mr Doug Olding and his team of willing workers, including his wife, Chris. He planned a tight schedule, ordered semi-trailer loads of materials and furniture and completed the work in a 6-8 week period, spending approximately 350 hours of his own time voluntarily, without pay.
In due course, the Board and school will honour that contribution with an appropriate recognition.

The Board’s previous substantial expenditure on information and communications and technology systems over the past years has enabled technology to be enriched this year as a critical tool for teaching and learning and improved school administration. This has also enabled an upgrade of our school website in recent months, with enhanced access for students, staff and parents.

The introduction of our Academies of Excellence as a part of our fresh Strategic Plan has been well received by students, with support from parents. Mr Bell and his team have been carefully and consistently building these programs during the year. Each Academy will be carefully reviewed to consider how it can be tweaked and improved for even more effective and far- reaching programs next year.

This year SMGS experienced a robust growth in enrolments over Term 3, with nearly 240 students, including 42 boarding students, many of whom participated in our new Elite Snowsports Academy Program (ESA).
This year, SMGS again was named the Australian Secondary Schools Ski Team Champions [ASSSTC] , together with wins in a number of other competition championships, including our Snowy Mountains Inter-schools Equestrian Competition, and in mountain biking. Our Aviation Academy has the highest number of enrolments for students enrolled to date, enabling them to learn to fly a light aircraft, and to prepare for their pilot’s licence (before gaining their car licence…!).

We continue with a careful balance of enrolments in a number of our secondary year groups and we have again reviewed our policies to ensure retention of appropriate class sizes for effective teaching, learning and pastoral care, across all areas of the school. We continue to offer rigorous academic programs, and balance the learning experience with a wide range of co- curricular opportunities in sport, the arts, and utilising the special environment in which we are located.

We have the benefit and privilege of our teachers having a passionate interest in their subject area and also with their co-curricular interest and experience, thus advancing our strategic and day-to-day teaching and learning and care for students.

I wish to acknowledge the significant work by Mr Bell and Ms Heath, our Business Manager, in the development of our Business Plan for the coming years, which sits under the Strategic Plan. This will support the  Master Plan to be developed next year, which will involve creative development of the future physical resource needs of the school, with improved outdoor open play space,together with a review and development of our Education Plan, with the strategies and tasks required to pursue and deliver associated goals.

The school relies upon parent support and assistance each year through parent/teacher conferences, parent involvement in student learning in the classroom, on the sporting fields and activity sites, and in the home.

The Parents & Friends Committee has been very active again this year, in their role of building and strengthening parent support across the school community and reinforcing the goals set by the Board, as parents raise funds for additional benefits for students, in consultation with the Principal, whilst having fun along the way.

They do a fantastic job of this, and the Board thanks the outgoing and the new committee for their work this year. We look forward to your continuing (and even greater) support next year – there are always projects that are not able to be fully covered in our annual budget – so, thank you.

The buildings do not determine the quality of an education; however, they do help to create an environment conducive to effective teaching, engaged learning and nurturing care for young people.

The teachers, support staff and parents all work together for the benefit of the children and this is one of the keys of a great school – and SMGS needs the people gathered here this morning to help further build and strengthen the school community.

Children observe everything their parents do, and whilst your children may not say much about your involvement at the moment, your support and presence in the school is a far more significant influence than you might think. One day they will acknowledge this to you – they are proud when your care is demonstrated through your participation.

As parents we are always learning, too – when to direct, and when to listen – our children teach us many lessons. I encourage your involvement in taking this school to the next level of our development.

The Board wishes to thank each person who has contributed generously to the financial and non-financial support of the school this year. So many have given so much – thank you.

I wish to acknowledge the considerable time given by our Board Directors who have been generous in their voluntary dedication of enthusiasm, time, skill and passion for the school – they have each made a valuable contribution to the Board and its deliberations this year.

SMGS has been built on a strong relationship between the local community, the Principal, and diversity and strength through the contribution of both local and independent Board Directors – a relationship which has been forged through the strong desire, determination and support for growing a high quality education in Jindabyne.

We remain committed to the leadership and enrichment of education for the benefit of the community and the surrounding region and we have appreciated the strong support and encouragement from the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, local commerce and businesses.

The other (and even more significant) task the Board has undertaken this year has been the search for, and appointment of, our new Principal, following Mr Bell’s advice at the end of last year of his decision not to take up the renewal of his contract offered by the Board.

I am delighted again to welcome our Principal-elect, Mr Andrew Leslie, who is present with us today, having travelled back from Bahrain and across from the coast to spend the day here at SMGS, despite the demands upon him in his existing role as Principal of an international school.

Andrew Leslie and his wife Kate and their two daughters are in the process of packing up their home, ready for their move to live in Jindabyne from early January, and I trust that you will join me in making them welcome to the Jindabyne community and SMGS, when they arrive. We do particularly ask that courtesies and kindness be extended to our new Principal and his family and they be given the opportunity to settle and establish themselves in the local community, so they can then have time to meet and get to know members of the community in their own time despite the heavy demands upon moving into a new principalship.

Mr Leslie comes with a strong background and experience in effective teaching and learning, dedicated pastoral care, and mentor support for teachers – to be, and become, passionate and exceptional in their determination and responsibility to help young people learn and grow. Mr Leslie will move into his office in late December and lead our team of dedicated staff from early next year.

I wish to acknowledge and I am sure that each person here today will want to thank Mr Bell, Dr Barton, Mrs West, Mrs Wilson, Mr Frize, and Mrs Wright and their staff for their commitment, dedication and focus that they bring to their task each day, and the extra effort they make in the desire for students to be and become all that they can. I also wish to acknowledge the hard work by the administration and support staff – the quiet achievers.

The Board also acknowledges the work of one of our long-serving staff members. 
Mrs West, with approximately 17 years’ service, steps down from the Executive team from the end of this year, but we will still have the benefit of her continued teaching of her favourite subject, Mathematics. Thank you for your work.

The Board is very proud of what is being achieved in the school.

Finally I wish to express appreciation and thanks to Mr Bell, not least for his work this year, and particularly for his work over the past five years.

For the moment I would like to thank him and his staff for their work in this past year. At the conclusion of Speech Day I will speak particularly in appreciation of his contribution and our final farewell.

Now let us return to why we are here today – to celebrate the achievements in learning, teaching and care of students of SMGS, and the discoveries they have made with their teachers this year. I invite all present to join in the celebrations, as we acknowledge those achievements in study, sport, performance and service.

On behalf of the Board, may I wish you each a restful break, safe holidays, the Christmas blessing of joy, and the peace of God Almighty through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the hope for the new year that His peace may reign in your hearts.

Thank you”

Michael E Jones,
Snowy Mountains Grammar School Limited