Another Somerset year has flown by! I am sure every teacher, parent and particularly, student, will look back at this year and wonder how did we possibly get done all that we have done?
But that’s the norm at Somerset. A combination of talented and enthusiastic teachers, supportive parents and students who want to achieve their own personal success produces activity, energy and wonderful outcomes.
Congratulations to Somerset College teachers and students on the successes of 2017, which merely provide a springboard for more achievement and more development in 2018.
On that note it is very exciting that on Scholars Day the Strategic Plan 2018 to 2022 will be announced. Indeed it is our future. That Strategic Plan was part of a very busy year at Somerset involving collaboration amongst the major stakeholders, teachers, parents, students, and Board members. I will not steal the Headmaster’s thunder before he announces the Strategic Plan. The only hint that I can give is that the Strategic Plan will continue to deliver through specific action items the road map for students’ personal success and global outlook.
It may seem that from a capital expenditure point of view that we have had a fairly quiet year at Somerset as we have not built a new building! Please be assured however, we have been spending a lot of time carefully planning important facilities which will continue to give our students the very best educational and life experience opportunities.
In particular, planning has basically been completed for the Performing Arts Centre which will commence towards the middle of next year. That project began as a refurbishment but has properly developed into a rebuild within and around the existing facility. This facility will provide our college with the highest standard of a performing arts venue right down to the real details of a new stage, fly tower, acoustic treatment throughout the whole of the venue, new technical equipment and a more welcoming, inviting and attractive entry and foyer space. We are also in the final stages of approving the new Design Centre which will provide a building to inspire and house an exciting collaboration of robotics, multi-media, IT and entrepreneurship.
During 2017 we have of course continued to maintain and improve our existing facilities including the ground floor Lamb Building conversion to a new Junior School Reception, offices and staff common room, extensions of the Gallus and Cordner classrooms and renovations, creation of a new Confucius Centre, further improvements and additions to our solar heating system and redevelopment of the Wyangan Oval to allow for a variety of sports including AFL, Rugby and Cricket.
But these are not the only investments that have been made or have been planned. The board encourages and indeed directs the headmaster and the college leadership team to continually explore and develop the best educational curricula and innovative learning programs for our students. This will include the following exciting programs:-
• Enhancement and development of our student wellbeing and positive education programs
• Talent identification in sports, not just identifying the very talented but identifying those students who need encouragement and development in areas where they may think they have no talent
• Building sustainable leadership capacities through dedicated programmes.
Sounds exciting! Please be assured it is well and truly beyond exciting, it is inspiring!
I can confidently report, with the assistance of my amazing Chair of Finance, Belinda Simmons, and the Finance Sub-Committee, that the College finances are both solid and robust. Our College boasts amazing buildings and innovative educational programmes. We are able to proceed with further substantial capital projects only because of careful budgeting and management. We will be able to undertake the Performing Arts Centre rebuild and the new Design Centre without the necessity to borrow further funds.
We always undertake a project that we can afford and which has been carefully planned and fits in with a sustainable financial model.
The Board has a commitment to maintain minimum school fee increases whilst of course prudently taking into account escalating costs. I am happy to announce that even against the backdrop of the significant investments made and continuing to be made in educational facilities and programmes, the fee increase for 2018 will be limited to 3 per cent.
The business profit of Somerset College must be engaged actively for the benefit of this learning environment. You will be please to know that according to all benchmark data for comparable schools our annual capital spending is well within the parameters required to provide the best product. Importantly our debt level both now and as forecast with further capital projects going forward is conservative, comfortably maintained and at levels one third less than comparable schools.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve as the Chair of the Somerset College Board of Directors. Along with my fellow directors we truly understand that to serve on the Board is not an entitlement but a challenging and yet rewarding responsibility.
Board members give their time voluntarily and with great passion and commitment. Just as Somerset does not relax, neither does the Board take for granted the commitment and education needed to perform our role as an effective College Board. Regular Board information seminars are provided in areas such as board governance and risk. As well a substantial involvement in the framing of the new Strategic Plan, the Board undertook this year an independent Board evaluation process involving one on one interviews by an independent facilitator as well as a seminar discussion and consideration of a detailed written report identifying areas in which the Board can provide an even more effective service to Somerset College. The Board has already actioned processes to implement areas of positive change.
Please let me thank my Deputy Chair, Terry Herbert, Chair of Finance, Belinda Simmons, Chair of Governance, Penny Thurnwald, Chair of the Foundation, Bede Young, Peter Trimble, Jason Cordner, Louise Davidson, Neeraj Chadha, Catherine O’Sullivan and Simon Chan. Unfortunately Neeraj Chadha who has been a member of our Board since 2014 has just announced his retirement. Neeraj and his family are taking up an exciting career opportunity overseas and of course whilst we regret his departure with the Board we congratulate him on his very successful career move. Neeraj has provided very sound business and commercial advice to the Board and has always shown a fierce commitment to Somerset College. Thank you Neeraj.
However, whilst I can list so many wonderful attributes of Somerset College the important thing is, are you happy? Are the parents happy, are the students happy? We do our best to carry out surveys and inquiries and we take the feedback and treat it with appropriate action.
I readily recall as a new parent at Somerset, too many years ago to confess to the general Somerset public, the encouragement was always given to parents to give feedback in student diaries and personally. That position has never changed and so I continue to encourage you to talk to Somerset about any concerns and also of course about all the positives! I assure you Somerset cares and Somerset pays attention!
I cannot finish this report without applauding the vision and leadership of the College given by our Headmaster, Craig Bassingthwaighte, our Chief Operating Officer, David Thornton and members of our College Leadership Team. Craig, I thank you and your team and all the teachers and staff for the excellence in all that you do!
Thank you for supporting this wonderful place that is Somerset College. I wish you a holiday and festive season full of joy, happiness and peace.
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