Having interviewed over 100 prospective pupils and their parents (including some of our current Grade 7 parents) for places in Grade 8 next year recently, I have had the privilege of hearing exactly what it is about St John’s that parents consider when choosing a school. This is a most affirming form of gathering qualitative data. Overwhelmingly, parents and girls view us as supplying a quality, balanced education which encourages excellence in academics, sport and cultural activities. However, it is our ability to optimize the potential of each child as a small school in which girls are known, cared for and supported, which is a theme which comes through regularly. In other words, our focus is not just on those who excel in various disciplines, but on developing each child to the best of her ability. The tears of gratitude from a matric girl and her parent when she receives that Bachelor Degree pass when this had appeared unlikely for years, are worth more to us in many ways than the high achiever with many distinctions, who would most likely have achieved this at any good school. It is affirming that prospective parents are aware of the fact that the individual attention and care which a girl receives here is a factor that distinguishes us from other schools. According to a father who chose St John’s last year for his daughter, we demonstrate “excellence with humanity” in a unique way. I am pleased, though, that there was no repeat this year of the conduct of a parent at an interview last year, which still brings a smile to my face as I recollect it. A father with his very eager daughter attended an interview in which he both answered a call on his cellphone during the interview, and then fell asleep on the couch later in the interview!
There are obviously times when we don’t get things right, however, as we are all human. This is why we have subjected ourselves to intense scrutiny this year, with a Marketing Branding workshop and IQAA Quality Assurance evaluation following closely after our Strategic Planning Workshop in April. It is imperative that we continually ask ourselves tough questions and listen to various stakeholders in our community to look for areas in which we can improve, and I am grateful to all involved in these initiatives for the constructive manner in which areas of development have been articulated and discussed.
The Strategic Planning Workshop in April included Board members, management and representatives of key areas in the school. I am grateful to ISASA (John Lobban and Lindsay McCay) for facilitating this workshop, and to all who took part either in the SWOT analysis or the workshop itself. We have identified a few key strategic areas and focus points, but the most encouraging aspect was the confirmation, based on key performance indicators and discussions, that we are very much on the right track. Key strategic initiatives have been identified, and will be discussed by relevant Board Sub-committees.
Some of the strategic areas identified from the data and workshop were as follows:
- A need to refine the school mission, to clearly state what it is that distinguishes us.
- To maintain a high quality of education relevant to the Mission.
- To develop and refine a clear marketing strategy.
- To promote aspects of diversity in the school.
- To optimize the school’s business model, particularly relating to external funding.
- To communicate effectively with all stakeholders when implementing initiatives.
As you can see, these are very broad initiatives which need much refining and discussion so that we can identify how to ensure that we continue to move in the right direction. Once these areas have been clarified, it will be my task to implement – with support from management and staff. I am excited about this opportunity, and will keep the community informed regarding decisions and progress.
125th year anniversary
Please note that St John’s turns 125 in the year 2022. As we lead up to this significant milestone, we plan to set up a committee who will drive a special celebration programme, which will include fundraising, special events, increased input and relationship building with Old Girls, and hopefully some linked or targeted development projects. I look forward to the preparation over the next few years.
There have been a number of recent improvements to the Boarding Establishment, and more will follow later this year. This will include the enclosing of the bridge between the Boarding Establishment and St Joseph’s. The Boarding Establishment is currently at capacity, and we will be making modifications to slightly increase capacity next year, which is most affirming for the school. We also have some other exciting developments. The Parents’ Association has raised a significant amount of money which will be used to build a pavilion between the swimming pool and the Astro-turf this year, if all goes according to plan. The final proposed plans were completed by the architects recently. In the future, we hope to look at projects, such as relocating the school shop, as well as the Music Department, into more practical places in the school to the benefit of all, including the Junior School. We will keep all updated as plans are confirmed.
This term, Ms Colleen Cumming (Mathematics Department) has resigned and we are in the process of securing a suitably qualified replacement to begin in Term 3. Mrs Joanna Griffiths (Head of Boarding) has also indicated that she will be leaving us at the end of the year to be closer to her family, and we will be advertising for her replacement in the near future. Miss Sasha Roopen has recently been appointed to replace Mrs Kirsty Mitchell as theatre technician. For those who have not met her, Mrs Naomi Hardman started this term as the new Business Manager, following Malcolm Taylor’s retirement.
I thank all who continue to add value to the school, and contribute in so many ways. This makes it a very special place in which to work.
Mr Simon Moore