As another Somerset year closes ever so quickly, this report gives me the opportunity to sit back and reflect on my Somerset experience for 2019. It has been my honour to serve again as Chairman of The Board of Directors of Somerset College Ltd.
As Chair I have the pleasure of working with some of the best professionals, I have experienced in my business life.
I refer to our Headmaster Craig Bassingthwaighte, our COO David Thornton, the members of the College Leadership Team, all of our teachers and all of our administrative and support staff.
In my day to day interaction with the Somerset team, I am privileged to be rewarded by interacting with a group of people who have a common desire to learn, grow and unselfishly give to their students more than what is expected. In my visits to Somerset College I feel an overwhelming energy and enthusiasm which certainly puts a spring in my step and makes me satisfied that the culture of Somerset is deeply enshrined as a positive, caring and happy place to be.
My congratulations and thanks to the leadership of Craig Bassingthwaighte, not just for preserving this culture and the good things about Somerset but continuing to grow and enshrine our culture.
Somerset is a learning place! The learning is just not the learning by our students, it is a learning place for all of us who are part of Somerset College. In my 20+ something years' association with Somerset as a parent and as a Board member, I am continually reminded of the appetite of those people who make Somerset College so great, whether it be our Headmaster, our front office reception, our grounds people or our caterers to be better than before, better than the rest and to continue to learn!
The experience of Alida and myself as parents of Somerset College to four children was extremely satisfying and rewarding. We were so comfortable to see our children in such a positive and enthusiastic learning environment based upon strong values of wellbeing. We are now very proud to maintain a very personal connection to Somerset College as grandparents of five little ones who are now at Somerset College, with three more to come. What better joy for a grandparent or a parent to know that their children are in a caring learning environment, encouraging each child on their own merit to achieve their own personal success.
As always, I would remind parents that from my first day as a parent at Somerset College, I was encouraged to give feedback and to seek answers and to talk constructively with the College about any concerns. Nothing has changed at Somerset, there will always be an ear to listen, and a willingness to discuss and come up with solutions when needed to provide for our goal, personal success for your children.
There are many initiatives and challenges accepted by our wonderful teachers. I’d like to particularly refer to the leadership program that has been embraced by our teachers over the last three years.
This program provides for leadership coaching and coaching of our leaders to become coaches and mentors for other staff. Of course, this requires extra time, extra input and extra energy which our teachers give without a second thought.
What better way to grow our students as leaders than to put them in an environment where their teachers are prepared to learn and grow themselves as leaders.
I trust everyone shares my pride in the buildings that have being completed during 2019. These buildings are not just bricks and mortar, they are places of learning and wellbeing and innovation and provide opportunities for our students to explore and achieve their own personal success. I speak specifically about the following projects:-
The Sue Roberts Performing Arts Centre incorporating the Terry Herbert Foyer now provides our students and their audience, the very best performance experience.
The Design Centre in its unique architecture itself is a fitting home for innovations and entrepreneurship.
We are also well on the way to completion of the rebuilding of the Aitkenhead Building, due for completion in February 2020. This project will deliver a new two level classroom building comprising eight general learning classrooms, four specialist classrooms, meeting rooms and stores and general amenities. The building will be incorporated as part of a landscaped plaza integrating with all surrounds and including further pedestrian connection to the campus hub.
The management of the business of Somerset College is of course the key function of the Board working in conjunction with its CEO, our Headmaster Craig Bassingthwaighte and his team. No expenditure is incurred unless it has been thoroughly tested against the best accounting and commercial standards, so that the Board is satisfied that the College is financially sustainable and viable as a strong business model at all times.
Part of those considerations of the Board against the backdrop of forecast budgets for next year’s consideration of the percentage fee increase, which must of course take account of all increases in wages costs and other expenditures. I assure you that in my eight years as Chairman of this Board, when the Board sits down to consider all these financial matters, they are at all times based against our Board’s goal of working towards a minimum fee increase. I am happy to say that we have been able to maintain a minimum fee increase going to 2020 of 3% to continue to provide a whole of life education experience and opportunities for the students of Somerset.
At board level, this year we welcomed to our board a former student, Amanda Appel (class of 2003). Amanda’s husband, Leigh is also a Somerset Alumni, Class of 2002. Amanda’s children start their Somerset experience at pre-prep in 2020. So Somerset College is certainly in Amanda’s blood. Amanda has substantial experience in managing businesses and consultancy companies and brings a fresh and energetic business approach to our board. But most of all, Amanda brings passion for Somerset College and an appreciation of the opportunity to be of service to Somerset College through active participation, vision and delivery of the Somerset College of personal success and a global outlook. Welcome Amanda.
Thank-you very much to my other board members. All Board members give their time willingly and voluntarily and I am very honored and pleased to be able to work with my Deputy Chair Peter Trimble, Chair of Finance Belinda Simmons, Chair of Governance Penny Thurnwald, Chair of the Foundation Bede Young, Chair of Storyfest Louise Davidson, Chair of Entrepreneurship Mark Sowerby, Jason Cordner, Simon Chan and Amanda Appel.
I also want to acknowledge and thank Catherine O’Sullivan who retired from the Board in early 2019 to take up a University post in Melbourne. Catherine enthusiastically provided great support to the Board, particularly in the area of innovation in educational programs.
I started this report talking about my reflections of 2019. I have left the best till last. Our students.
At any time as I walk through the grounds of Somerset College I look forward to the bright, young enthusiastic faces of our students from the youngest to the oldest. It is always easy to get a happy hello or a smile or a nod. I can thoroughly recommend if you need a real lift in your day do a wander around (with the appropriate permission!), the Prep and Pre-Prep students and their teachers. The happiness, joy and noise that they demonstrate is the clearest reflection of everything that is great about Somerset College.
I wish every success to our graduating students, continue to find your own personal success.
I wish to all of our Somerset family, a peaceful and happy holiday season.
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