From the Rector

3 May 2024

St Andrew's College Rector, Christine Leighton.


As I started this year, knowing it would be my last at St Andrew’s College, it got me thinking, what makes a successful school? What creates an inclusive welcoming culture? How do we best support young people to develop resilience, self-worth, and character strengths that will serve them well in life? Of course, the answers to these questions are complex, however, the thoughts below are I believe relevant.

In March, St Andrew’s celebrated 107 years since the founding of the College in 1917. Our traditional celebration was enjoyed by current students, invited guests and parents, and Old Collegians attending our 60 Years On Reunion (class of 1964). What happened in the years since 1917 and St Andrew’s humble beginnings near hospital corner at Hagley Park, transitioning to Strowan a year later, is a remarkable story. Founders’ Day continues to be a day when we take the opportunity to reminisce, reflect upon our school in days gone by, remember some of our history, and give thanks for what we enjoy today. Understandably I am feeling somewhat nostalgic about my time at St Andrew’s. Over 17 years at the College, I have come to value the traditions and understand the importance of stories. Pondering why St Andrew’s gets under your skin and has remained relevant to over 13,000 students over almost 11 decades, I again think of the Māori whakataukī.

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua

I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.

Over the last century at St Andrew’s College, successive Boards, Rectors, leaders, and staff have responded to the changing world, both here in Aotearoa and globally, weathering destructive and heartbreaking conflicts and wars, devastating pandemics, recessions, and disasters. At each chapel service, students are reminded of the sacrifice made by Old Collegians in WWII in order to understand the impact of conflict and war on everyday lives. Despite these challenging events our College has grown from 19 boys on that first day to 1607 students today.

There has been exponential change in technology, facilities, family structures, rules and expectations, societal norms, and what a school can offer to students by way of opportunities, learning, and personal growth. With education of young people firmly the focus of their commitment, teachers at St Andrew’s have kept an eye on tradition and structure, while at the same time recognising the inevitable change and progress which demands a new way of doing things. Balancing tradition and innovation is at the heart of progress. Our current Vision Statement at the centre of our St Andrew’s Strategic Plan states our commitment to providing students with ‘the roots and wings to flourish in an ever changing world’. It is a delicate dance we must master to honour the roots that ground us, while at the same time we reach for the stars which guide us forward. In this interplay between what has been and what could be, we find the essence of successful evolution where the wisdom of the past meets the possibilities of the future.

Founders’ Day is when we come together as a community to celebrate the vision of our Founders – those traditions and values that were laid down in the early years and have stood the test of time. I know 60 years seems an impossibly long time for anyone under 30, but it’s interesting to note the traditions the students enjoyed in decades back to the 1950s included camps at the Alastair Sidey Mountain Lodge at Castle Hill; Duke of Edinburgh excursions; College productions – it was The Crucible in 1968 when our reunion guests were in their final year; basketball was a popular and competitive sport with the senior team winning their grade; and a St Andrew’s eight rowed for the first time at a Maadi Cup regatta in Wanganui. These St Andrew’s traditions are but some that have remained strong. Alongside them a responsive, generous, and creative spirit has ensured St Andrew’s remains a relevant and progressive school for the youth of today and tomorrow.

Our St Andrew’s traditions give us roots to keep us centred and strong as a school, a connection to something greater than ourselves. This is reflected in our campus and Strowan House, at the heart of the College since 1918. Sitting under the shade of our majestic trees or looking up at the Saltire flag of Scotland or glancing at the Roll of Honour in the Memorial Enclave as we enter the Centennial Chapel, we are reminded of those who have gone before us. We also keep traditions alive by singing the school song and knowing who Regulus was, watching the Pipe Band parade at the Christchurch A&P Show and on Athletic Sports Day, dressing up in House colours and belting out the chants, living by our founding values and Mātauranga Māori principles of manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga, and honouring our College haka. These time-honoured traditions are what binds us together as a community. Like those who have gone before us, we play for the Thistle, we value the opportunities we have here, we are loyal to each other and our school, but demonstrate humility and inclusivity and celebrate our differences.

Our traditions remind us of who we are, they are the guardians of our heritage, the threads that like our tartan weave together our St Andrew’s cultural identity. However, as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of the 21st century, we need to remember that tradition without innovation is stagnation, a relic of the past clinging desperately to a world that no longer exists.

The students of 2024 are called to dream, imagine and create. Innovation ignites the flames of progress, pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible. By developing the resilience, courage and the skills to be curious our young people will challenge the status quo and influence a positive future.

And so, just like in any community, we need each other. In encouraging our students to be innovative and use their wings to guide us forward, we also remember it is the fusion of old and new that will provide the compass that points us in the right direction. Innovation without tradition is chaos, tradition without innovation is stagnation. I believe at St Andrew’s we are showing what we can do when we balance these two forces. St Andrew’s students will keep listening to or playing the pipes and drums, sing the school song as they mean it, feel their House spirit, be proud and humble at the same time, play sport for the Thistle, enjoy the orchestra, choirs, the jazz and rock bands, and use technology to do better things for the good of all.

As the world keeps changing, we will continue to develop young people whose influence ensures our shared compass steers us all in the right direction. “Together, building better people, for life”.

Christine Leighton

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