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Headmaster's Update

College Blog Headmaster's Update
30 April 2021

In this week's article, Headmaster Fenner discusses Boys and SACE, the new Strategic Plan, staffing matters and more.

Boys and SACE
I would imagine many parents will have seen the article in The Advertiser earlier this week about boys and SACE, in which I was quoted. Many will be aware that we have played a leading part in identifying, researching and publicising the gender results gap under SACE. Unfortunately, since first raising these matters with the SACE authorities four years ago, the situation has only worsened, as indicated in the graph below.

ATAR Graph
Average ATAR difference between boys and girls

We believe that boys achieving an ATAR on average almost 6 percentile points behind girls is completely unacceptable and requires urgent action. Moreover, we believe that this is the direct result of the forms of assessment used in SACE, with the move towards more and more extended writing tasks disadvantaging boys.

I should point out that PAC’s results continue to place us in the top boy cohorts in the State. Moreover, our research has also clearly demonstrated that boys in boys-only schools are doing significantly better on average than boys in co-educational schools. But as a boys’ school, we believe we have a role to play in advocating for all boys.

Whilst I am pleased that there is some indication that the SACE Board is finally keen to address the gender results gap, at this point they are simply commissioning further research rather than taking specific actions. They are also looking at some adjustments to the Research Project, which has seen a huge gender-based results differential since it was introduced some years ago. In the 2020 Research Project results, 46.4% of grades awarded to girls were As, whilst for boys the figure was 27.9%.

Both as Head of a leading boys’ school and as a member of the SACE Gender Reference Group, I will continue to advocate on behalf of boys in this area. I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who might have further thoughts on this topic.

Strategic Plan
At the April meeting of the PAC Council, our new Strategic Plan for 2021-24 was approved. Feedback from the various sections of the school community was taken into account in formulating the final plan, and we thank all those who had input through this process. We are currently preparing the documentation for the plan and will then hold a launch event around the middle of term.

Following consultation with our School Doctor, I have advised staff and students at the College that we may now resume handshakes. It has been special for us to have our own Princes greeting during the last 12 months. Visitors to the school have often commented on this and it is something that we have shared as a community during this time. However, I am sure that we will now be pleased to revert to the individual physical contact that comes with shaking hands.

Director of Boarding
Director of Boarding Zac Savage will be leaving us at the end of this term, as he has been appointed Deputy Head of Senior School - Students at St Peter's College, with effect from the beginning of next term. I would like to acknowledge Zac’s outstanding work as Director of Boarding over the past 18 months and particularly the way that he has led our boarding program during the difficult COVID period.

His willingness to keep our Boarding House open throughout this time and the effort that he has put into providing a range of worthwhile activities for the boys during the holidays have been particularly impressive. He has given extraordinary service to PAC in this regard and we and the boys involved are in his debt.

Whilst we are sorry that Zac will be leaving us after only a relatively short time in this key role, he will be moving to an exciting new challenge with major responsibilities for students and pastoral care across the St Peter's College Senior School. We congratulate Zac on this appointment and wish him and his family well with this forthcoming move. We will now commence the process of finding a new Director of Boarding to lead this important section of the College.

Other staffing
Administrative Assistant in the Preparatory School Melissa Dales has tended her resignation from the College, with effect forthwith. Melissa has been on leave during first term and has decided to move in another direction. I have expressed to Melissa our appreciation for her good work for the College over a number of years in different roles.

Rowan Brown will join us as a Technology Teacher replacing Phil McLaughlin, for second semester 2021 in the first instance. Originally from Queensland, Rowan has a Bachelor of Design and Masters of Teaching from the University of South Australia. Since graduating last year, Rowan has been teaching at Concordia College in the first half of this year and comes highly recommended.

Hayden Cleveland has resigned from his position in the RED Centre, finishing on Friday, May 21. Hayden intends seeking career opportunities overseas, as he had planned to do in 2020, pre-COVID. I thank Hayden for his fine work in the RED Centre and particularly in the development and oversight of our House competition program in recent years.

We have appointed Darcie McMurray as a Co-Educator in the Early Learning Centre. Originally from Keith, Darcie’s family has strong Prince Alfred College connections. Darcie holds a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) from University of South Australia and has worked in recent years at the Keith Kindergarten and Childcare Centre.

Micha Jensen has advised us that he will not be seeking renewal of tenure beyond the end of this year, when his current term as Director of Scott’s Creek comes to an end. Micha has decided to relocate to Adelaide with his family. At this time, I would like to acknowledge Micha's outstanding work in leadership and development of both programs and property at Scott’s Creek in recent years. There would be few more highly respected members of our staff and we are very grateful for the leadership that Micha has provided in this key role.

Bradley Fenner