Regulus Address // Issue 1 // May 2023
Five years ago, I canvassed our community as the Board embarked on a strategic planning exercise to guide our decision making in the following years. This work has resulted in a strengthening of our holistic offering to our students, staying true to our commitment of ‘Together building better people for life’. These years, despite the obvious challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, have resulted in some quite remarkable successes in academic, sporting, cultural, and service activities. Just as importantly we are seeing our young people gain confidence as they appreciate their personal character strengths, develop compassion for those who are suffering or in need, and value the strength of inclusion, belonging, and community.
Recently ISNZ (Independent Schools of New Zealand) commissioned a report based upon data gathered from 64 independent schools. These schools represent 96 per cent of ISNZ members and 29,331 students. It is clear that independent schools in New Zealand are in high demand and offer a quality educational experience which is highly valued by parents. Not only do ISNZ member schools gain an average of 20 per cent higher achievement in NCEA, but we also engage strongly in Community Service programmes, fundraise for charities, and contribute more than $605 million annually to the New Zealand economy. There is no doubt that independent schools are facing a challenging time as increasing tuition fees are likely at the same time that inflation has risen to its highest rate in 32 years. With the average household experiencing a 7.7 per cent increase in the cost of living in September 2022, there are challenges to balancing the rising costs of providing the holistic education while maintaining affordable tuition fees.
Independent schools have for many years campaigned for greater contribution from the government. The contribution per student at St Andrew’s was $1467 for 2022. This contribution has continued to decrease over the last 14 years as the total contribution to independent schools has been capped since 2009. This challenge in independent school funding is not a new phenomenon at St Andrew’s. One need only reflect on our humble beginnings 106 years ago to realise that the determined efforts of our founder, Rev. A T Thompson, supported by a few prominent business people, faced similar challenges in equally constrained economic times.
At our recent 106th Founders’ Day on 17 March, and through a chapel presentation from Pip Dinsenbacher, Museum Curator and Archivist, we learnt of the remarkable courage and grit of Rev. Thompson as he travelled about Christchurch and environs, determined to raise funds to secure a property upon which to allow St Andrew’s College to become properly established.
Rev. Thompson believed in the value of establishing an independent school founded firmly in the tradition of Presbyterianism and the Scottish model of education. He himself had overcome financial hardship to achieve his personal academic goals by attending night classes and winning several academic scholarships, including one which made him the first New Zealander to attend Yale University. He rode his motorbike up many country roads, attended Presbyterian community meetings, and knocked on doors to canvas numerous households to assist St Andrew’s College’s purchase of Strowan House and land. His personable character and determination led directly to the generous bequest by Mr Duncan Rutherford, which secured the sizeable property which has allowed the College to grow and prosper over the years.
There is no doubt that St Andrew’s College has changed remarkably since those humble beginnings when the College moved to Strowan on Papanui Road in 1918. But the world of good teachers, engaging learning, Pipe Bands, outdoor education, personal challenge, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Awards, sporting and cultural experiences, and the making of great friendships, are as important as ever.
The recent achievements celebrated in this issue of Regulus include the outstanding academic results in NCEA and Scholarship, the performance of the Māori/Pasifika Group in Polyfest, Summer Tournament Week and Maadi Cup results, and success of the Pipe Band.
As 85 Old Collegians gathered together on Founders’ Day weekend for their 60 Years On reunion (Form 3 in 1962 and 1963) they marvelled at how far the College had come. It is thanks to the collective efforts of so many: the guidance and expertise of our teachers, coaches, and tutors; commitment energy and passion of students; support of Old Collegians; and the sacrifice and support of parents, that such progress has been made over the years.
Our College whakataukī ‘He Waka eke noa’ – we are all in this waka together, really says it all.