Mr John Browne joined the College as Head Master on August 1st 2013. His first address was made at Prize Giving in the Royal Concert Hall.
Prize Giving Speech 2013
Bishop Moran, Fr Richard, Chairman of Governors, Governors, Ladies and Gentlemen and young Ladies and Gentlemen
When Pope Francis was elected he said to the waiting crowds in St Peter’s Square that the Cardinals had almost gone to the end of the world to find a new Bishop of Rome. You must have thought that the governors did the same in going to Yorkshire to find you a new Head Master, but here I am!
Thank you for being so welcoming. Marie and I had been told that the people of Glasgow were warm and welcoming and indeed we have found that to be the case.
Follow your call
One of the main aims of a Jesuit School is to help young people discern their vocation. I spoke to S6 at their UCAS evening in terms of ‘following your call’.
When I left St Ignatius College to go to university I had no idea that my call was to be an educator of young people. In fact I was totally resistant to the idea! After degrees in Music and Law the realisation came to me after an impromptu offer of a teaching job at Westminster Cathedral Choir School. I went to see the school chaplain, a rather straight-talking Jesuit called Fr Kevin O’Callaghan SJ, who bluntly replied that he wondered how long it would take me to work out that what I should be doing!
Much of the work of Jesuit Formation at St Aloysius’ College is about allowing our young people to start their journey of discernment, which we hope will turn into a fulfilling adventure. To be a success this has to be a partnership between you as young people, your families who support you, and the formation provided by the College.
Our S6 leavers, who sadly I have not had the opportunity to meet, are clearly a talented and hard-working group. 84% are currently navigating their first few weeks at university with a further 9% taking up places in 2014. Set against the national average of 37%, their achievements are clear and show promise of exciting futures ahead.
In terms of 2013 destinations 23% of our leavers have secured places at Glasgow University, 17% to Edinburgh and 9% to St Andrews. Of these over 40% are following courses which will lead to professions such as Accountancy, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, Pharmacy and Teaching. Further afield, I must mention successful entrants to Cambridge, Imperial College London and Oxford among others.
St Paul’s letter to the Philippians tells us to:
‘Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first, but everyone thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus.’
Service is a strong Jesuit characteristic and my aim is for this to be a guiding theme in my own leadership of the College and to foster this in our student leaders in their various capacities. As St Ignatius says in his own prayer: to serve as you deserve to be served, to give and not to count the cost.
I have only been here a few weeks and yet I am humbled by the examples of service shown by the young men and women before us. What has struck me as I get to know these young Aloysians is not just what they do, but how they do it: with humility and generosity of spirit. The Arrupe programmes, the Children’s Fund Holiday and the pilgrimage to Lourdes to name but a few examples. The latest creative idea to come to my attention is a student plan to organise a series of sponsored marathons to be run from John O’Groats to Lands End for charity.
Above the Parapet
Every year the Governors hold an away day to look ‘above the parapet’: to reflect on the College’s achievements, analyse the current context and plan for the future. I was fortunate to be able to attend the meeting in June. This year the meeting was a particularly significant as the Governors were able to reflect on their first year as an independent charitable Trust and to begin to refine strategic plans for the College in its new governance structure.
The College is in a strong position but needs to be ever mindful of the economic pressures which affect us all in one way or another, as well as the ever changing external context that we are preparing our students to navigate.
To that end, the immediate priorities include, Safeguarding and Pastoral Support, Pursuit of Excellence, Professional Development of Staff, Facilities, and the External Profile of the College.
Safeguarding and Pastoral Support
Safeguarding and Child Protection is an area which has received much negative attention recently both in Scotland and through the world. Safeguarding is the umbrella term under which all pastoral care is delivered in schools. We have established a Safeguarding Committee for the College to ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible pastoral care for our students. Isabelle Erskine will Chair this group as an extension to her excellent leadership of our pastoral care. I am delighted that Dr Amy Kerr, has agreed to take the role of Safeguarding Governor. We are also fortunate to have Tina Campbell, the newly appointed National Coordinator for Safeguarding for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, as our specialist external advisor.
Pursuit of Excellence
You may have heard that I am encouraging our young people to sing at morning assembly. You will be very relieved that there is no plan to rehearse the final hymn now! My main motivation, aside of the need to improve the sound, was to get across the message that whatever you are going to do, you should not do it half heartedly, but to the best of your ability.
In the Ignatian tradition we talk about ‘Magis’ or the concept of ‘the more’. The great Jesuit poet Gerald Manley Hopkins (who was based in the parish for a short time) wrote about the world ‘being charged with the Grandeur of God’.
At a meeting for the new S1 parents in the summer I said that my aim for the school was to achieve excellence in all areas. You would expect no less. Equally we want to develop students who are rounded individuals. I am looking forward to working with the whole College community: students, parents, staff, and Governors, to try and get this right.
Today in London the Junior School will receive the 2013 European Language Label, which is a national award for innovative language teaching. The award is in recognition of the creativity, innovation and success of the Italian bi-lingual programme in the Junior School – we now have a cohort of fluent Italian speakers in our midst! Our challenge as the College community going forward is to secure the outcomes of his programme in a sustainable and cohesive way.
This year the public examination results have been excellent. The performance of our S6 students has been evidenced by their university destinations, as I already mentioned.
S5 deserve our hearty congratulations as a cohort, missing the College record for the % of A grades by just 0.1%! The A-C pass rate - at 95.4% proved to be the highest Higher results in the West of Scotland and 4th highest in the Country. Such group results of course come about as a result of individual triumphs as you will see by the number of students about to join us in a few moments to receive academic colours.
Results such as these require hard-working students but also talented, dedicated and well qualified teachers. The General Teaching Council of Scotland have invited St Aloysius’ College to pilot the new Staff Review process and I am delighted that we will be at the forefront of this important initiative. We hope that it will serve to share good practice within and between departments and stimulate professional dialogue.
We have started the development of a 20-year plan for facilities for the college. We are delighted that the new Kindergarten Building will be opened by Fr Provincial on his annual visit later this the term.
I am delighted to be able to report that the building of a Sports Hall (which has been talked about for many years) is now the main priority and we will be updating you as matters progress.
A resource which is lacking in both schools is a modern Library which can provide the best available resources for learning and study. We have started to look at a brief and possible locations for such a facility.
External profile of the College
You may have noticed that the Glasgow Herald mentioned that St Aloysius was situated in the Cultural Quarter of Glasgow. As so it is - between the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Conservatoire! I intend us to make the most of our unique location and to develop links with a variety of organisations which can enrich the learning and experiences of our young people.
The College is part of a worldwide web of Jesuit schools and I would like to forge clear links with our counterparts across the world for our students and our staff.
I would also like the College to have a continuing role with our young people throughout their lives. One gap in our careers provision that we have started to address, is the period between leaving school and starting work. Our new Development Office will start to forge links with our parents and alumni who can advise our young people and offer experience opportunities as they prepare for their working lives.
I must make particular mention of the generous support I have received from Frank Reilley, Aileen Brady, Kathleen Sweeney and rest of the Senior Team over these first few weeks – I am very fortunate to work with such a talented, experienced and dedicated individuals.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you all for your trust and support as we go forward together on this next stage of our collective journeys: students, parents, staff and Governors.
I draw inspiration from the words of Jerome Nadal, an early companion of St Ignatius, which provide the core values for me of a Jesuit approach. I hope that these words will guide us as a College community moving forward:
In the spirit, from the heart, practically.