Reflecting on 2023 it has yet again been an even busier year at Somerset, another year of growth, a year of building and development and a year of change and momentous announcements.

Talking about announcements, on Founders' Day I announced the retirement of our Headmaster of 16 years Craig Bassingthwaighte, at the end of 2024. That announcement was met with sadness and concern as to how we could continue to build this wonderful College without the leadership and commitment and passion that Craig has given to us over the past 16 years.

Whilst I share this sadness, I ask you to reflect upon the extraordinary contribution Craig has given to Somerset College and the huge legacy he has left. No one, certainly not me, could ask anymore of a Headmaster than Craig has given and certainly he and Kathy have earned the right to enjoy their beautiful family, their gorgeous granddaughters and their shared love of travel.

Sadly we are not just losing Craig, but we are losing Kathy. Kathy is not just a support act for Craig, although I can imagine it may perhaps be a full time job! Kathy is in her own right a wonderful educator and teacher and she has expertly and faithfully served the good of Somerset College and our students since Craig commenced as our Headmaster. 

Fortunately we are able to enjoy the leadership and guidance of Craig and Kathy until the end of 2024. That will also allow us as a College community to celebrate their contribution to Somerset College at many joyful events.

The Somerset College Board and myself have regarded the recruitment of the next Headmaster as perhaps the most critical and important decision for the future of Somerset. The recruitment process has been managed by myself and the Board over the course of the last year with the assistance of a well recognised national recruitment company, Fish Nankivell through their lead partner, Kathy McLean.

That recruitment process included a nationwide advertising campaign some four months ago. The interest both nationally and from international applicants was overwhelming. After shortlisting and detailed due diligence with respect to each applicant, rounds of interviews culminated in a unanimous board decision made on the 28 October 2023.

I am not at liberty to formally advise you of the successful applicant at this stage, but I will be in a position to do so on or about 24 November 2023. Let me simply say, the Board is very excited about the appointment which we believe will continue building on the great work of Craig Bassingthwaighte and the successful evolution of Somerset College.

Our main job at this wonderful place is to build people. To build people we do need to build buildings which provide opportunity for extended learning and growth as individuals. As you are well aware, 2023 has been a huge year of building activity on our campus which I know has caused parents and students some inconvenience, but I hope you can regard the inconveniences as minor compared to the benefits that will flow.

A general report on our building programme is as follows:

Construction of a new two-storey junior school building with eight general learning areas, a reader’s room, an atrium/breakout area and additional amenities. Classrooms provided are state of the art and I am happy to report that construction was completed by the end of October and the classes are now happily occupied by many lucky young students.

Refurbishment of the existing early learning precinct building has now commenced and will be completed before the commencement of class next year.

Significant external and internal road upgrades have commenced and once again will be ready for class commencement next year. This work is particularly important for facilitating traffic through the College and will not only make life a lot easier but assist in creating a better urban and pedestrian environment within the College.

Construction of the new carpark providing 196 car bays, with a new playing field (above the carpark) dedicated to multi sports and play time use for all of our students, but also built to a standard to be able to host hockey games to an Olympic standard. This work and the total project is scheduled to be completed by June 2024.

The building work referred to above represents a budget approved by the Board of $30 million. We are on track to deliver the project within the scheduled building time and under our forecast budget of $30 million.

The outcome of the project is exceptional in all of the circumstances. It has been achieved on the back of teamwork between the College and its key consultants.

I want to acknowledge and extend a huge thank you to our Project Management team of One PM Group led by James Davidson. Their professionalism and their commitment is without peer.

I also want to acknowledge those within the College who have sat with me on the key Project Control Group Committee, responsible for this outcome. That committee includes our Headmaster Craig Bassingthwaighte, our Deputy Head Nicholas Brice, our Chief Operating Officer David Thornton, Finance Manager Kylie Sherrington , Head of Junior School Ms Rebecca Collie (Bec) and Dean of Information Technologies Ms Lisa Thomson.

This project outcome reflects the best of Somerset College’s ability to work as a team, overcome huge challenges and deliver results.

Against the backdrop of significant escalation in costs, particularly in labour costs, the Board has worked diligently to minimise the fees increase for 2024. The Board has also noted that comparable schools in our region and throughout the state have delivered tuition fee increases significantly above the 5% fee increase that has now been resolved for 2024. The Board has also resolved that the discount for fees paid annually in advance is increased to 5%.

Talking about the Board, please allow me to acknowledge their support, commitment, expertise and absolute passion for Somerset College, its students, its parents, its staff and the future of Somerset College. All members of the Board contribute their time and their energy on a voluntary basis in good times and in bad.

Whilst accepting a directorship of Somerset College Limited creates a significant commitment and indeed legal responsibility, I can assure you that all members of the Board and myself regard the opportunity to serve Somerset as an honour and a privilege. I recognise and thank my Board members, Deputy Chair Peter Trimble, Chair of Finance Jason Cordner, Chair of Governance Penny Thurnwald, Chair of the Foundation Bede Young, Simon Chan, Amanda Appel, Alisha Swain and Alexander Woodthorpe.

The mission of Somerset College for its students is “personal success and a global outlook”. These words are not just words. These words are not just hope. These words are a commitment from Somerset College to all students, to all parents, to find for each student the opportunity to achieve their own personal success and a global outlook.

Please hold us accountable for that commitment, for that promise.

I trust that when you reflect upon this year that your children are proud of their own personal success.

Somerset College never sleeps, but it will pause and reinvigorate and get off to a flying start in 2024. I wish all of the Somerset community safety, happiness and peace. Please enjoy each moment.

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