Engaging the wider Grammar community

16 August 2023

Engaging the wider Grammar community

It is a pillar of the School’s strategic aims to ensure that we engage the wider community of Grammar so far as possible in the post-COVID era. Under the direction of our Director of Community Ms Sharon Ditmarsch, great things are now happening.

Much has happened in the last year. We have had so many visitors to the School: from those who came to concerts, drama, sporting fixtures and debates; to those who came to parent evenings, book club meetings, fundraising activities and Old Boy reunions. We set out some of our events here, but encourage you to also view News and Events, or follow us on social media.

It was with enormous relief we were able to hold a farewell for Form VI 2022.

After navigating pandemic challenges online and on campus, it was fitting that Form VI 2022, their parents, Housemasters and Tutors were able to come together to experience a traditional Grammar celebration and farewell.

In September 2022, we hosted the Inaugural Literary Festival – “Writing Through Time”

The boys in the Creative Writing Collective shared their writing inspiration at the Literary Salon at the State Library of NSW with parents and other invited guests. Parents also participated in writing workshops (with wine), and we finished the Festival with Cassie McCullagh interviewing Anna Funder and Thomas Keneally (Cassie McCullagh will also be interviewing Tabitha Carvan at this year’s Women's Association Literary Lunch). Plans are underway for this year's Literary week in November. 

House Sports Day 

The Peter Dignan Cup at House Sports Day in November last year was won by JDS House. The HSD is a welcome break in the School’s academic calendar where the boys compete for their House in a range of games. We appreciate the help from parents and Prefects who were kept busy in the canteen, on the barbecue and at the gelato stall. Volunteers catered for 1200 hungry boys throughout the day. Bravo!

Speech Day 

Speech Day at Town Hall is always an auspicious occasion but after a two-year hiatus it was a special moment for Grammar in December last year.

Making new parents and new staff feel welcome

In 2023, 201 boys entered Form I and ten boys joined us in other forms at College Street. The new parents were welcomed at an evening hosted by the SGSFA and SGSWA. The Deputy Headmaster introduced the Form II parents to their sons’ Housemaster and Tutor. Earlier this term the Housemasters held their House Functions to which all parents in their House were invited.

The Common Room Committee held a ‘Welcome Back’ lunch in Term I and they run a number of Common Room functions which often include fundraising. The team enthusiastically embraced Australia's Biggest Morning Tea to raise money for the Cancer Council, and they ran a silent auction and morning tea on the day of Tim Flannery’s lecture to remind us about sustainability and minimising waste.

We also welcome back our Alumni

The Alumni Office has been busy contacting Old Boys, running reunions and organising other Alumni events. During the recent tour of the School for the Class of 1988 (35-year reunion), it was amusing to hear the stories and witness the amazement at how much the School has changed. The Alumni Office works closely with the Old Sydneians’ Union (OSU) who run annual events such as the Long Lunch and Golf Day. This year’s OSU Great Debate was the most entertaining in recent history. The Old Boys were in fine form, arguing that the Royal Family should surrender their sceptres, scandalising Royalists (and the School) at every turn.

We invite local schools and the wider Grammar community to our Ithaka Lecture Series 

Under the direction of the Deputy Headmaster (Academic) Mrs Becky Lovelock, we hear interesting speakers cover a range of topics. Students from local schools, siblings and friends often join Grammar families at these lectures. A favourite was Sam Bloom who told an inspiring story about her recovery after a freak accident and we are very much looking forward to hearing from Cathy Freeman on September 7. Please join us!

We have also had inspiring speakers at House Meetings, Assemblies and clubs

Widely regarded as one of the finest rugby players to represent Australia, John Eales AM spoke to a full auditorium during a House Meeting in March. The boys were also privileged to have Professor Fred Watson AM, Australia’s first Astronomer-at-Large and a well-known figure from The Project and ABC radio. The boys listened in awe, and Professor Watson showed them the Pillars of Creation, surely one of the most profound photographs ever taken.

The Headmaster often invites guests to speak at the School Assembly. Speakers this year included Dr Dhan Thiruchelvam (‘Reflections on a winding path in surgery and life: how Grammar assisted me’), Professor Richard Buckland, Allegra Spender and Chanel Contos. We have had masters speak on an interesting diversity of topics. Mr Paul Reisner spoke about the 100th anniversary of the death of Marcel Proust and, following our traditional Anzac Assembly at the beginning of Term II, Dr Matthew Glozier spoke about his research on Old Sydneians who participated in historic wartime conflicts.

Steven Worrall, Microsoft's Managing Director ANZ and Matthew Halliday, Ampol’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Office, made time in their busy schedules to speak to the SGS Business Society over lunch. The Society is a pupil-led forum that initiates opportunities to hear from business leaders who are able to offer sound advice about life after school.

Concerts and Drama

The term concerts are always well attended for good reason: the commitment of staff and boys to our music programme results in mesmerising performances. One extraordinary moment was the finale to the Music Festival, ‘Music for Kings and Queens’, where 400 boys, staff, parents and Old Boys came together to perform Handel’s Coronation anthem, Zodak the Priest. 

Grammarpalooza tickets were almost as hard to purchase as tickets to Taylor Swift's concert.

Quite often it is music that brings back the Old Boys. Anthony Chan (OS 2016) and Anthony Chen (Music Master, College Street) presented Harmony and Passion: ‘A journey through Beethoven and Franck’ (a Farewell Recital) this term. Dr V’s Swing Thing – the School’s Old Boy jazz band – put on a spectacular show of contemporary jazz at the Orange Jazz Festival. The gig was the band’s first under the direction of legendary conductor/saxophonist Mr David Theak (pictured below). The band worked their way through some cutting-edge jazz compositions. Vlad Khusid would have been proud!

The drama productions have reached similar heights with Much Ado About Nothing and ‘Art’, directed by Dr Douglas Wilson, being sell-out hits. Many boys have been demonstrating their impressive theatrical skills in the popular Impro Club, Theatresports and Drama Club under the creative direction of Ms Emily Kaufling.

Consent Learning, Games Nights and other activities with neighbouring schools

Form VI pupils and Years 11 and 12 students from SCEGGS participated in a workshop at College Street facilitated by Dr Joy Townsend and Mr Sam Roberts from Learning Consent. Form III and V spent a day with Man Cave and tutorials in each form have scheduled consent learning tutorials.

Form III and Form IV trivia nights with SCEGGS, Kambala and Ascham have been oversubscribed and well received by our boys. These have been organised as a joint initiative between the School and enthusiastic parent volunteers.

Our Form I boys are involved in an on-going Applied Arts project with Ascham. A number of combined school events are due to take place including the Form II Maths Quad Challenge later this term. 

Raising Awareness

This year’s Prefects have raised money for Movers Against Domestic Violence. They organised Mufti Days, barbeques, a raffle, a trivia night and other events to support this important cause.

The appointment of a Sustainability Director Mr Geoff Carroll, and a newly formed Environment Club have been integral to improving sustainable practice across all campuses. Solar panels, energy audits, waste trials and sustainable pedagogy are all underway.

It was timely to have Grace Karskens, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of New South Wales, well-known author and speaker as an Ithaka Lecturer. She explained how history has been slowly turning the Australian public towards the truth about colonisation and Aboriginal history. As part of NAIDOC Week, Form II visited the First Nations Exhibition at the Australian Museum, Mr Brendan Kerin from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council conducted a Smoking Ceremony and in Assembly, Uncle Allen Madden, Gadigal Elder, gave the Welcome to Country. 

Dedicated staff volunteer to run activities to raise awareness about particular issues they feel are important and which may attract national and international recognition. World Teachers' Day, International Women's Day, Wear it Purple and Harmony Day have all been celebrated. The School offers resources and support for these activities with the aim of increasing tolerance, respect and understanding.

Parent associations and volunteers have been working hard 

The Fathers’ Association hosted the Welcome to New Parents, two staff dinners and the Prefects’ Dinner. The SGSWA and the SGSFA, with an army of volunteers, ran the barbecue and canteen at home games at Weigall and catered for the post-match functions. The SGSWA hosted evenings for the parents both on and off campus. 

Please enjoy more community engagement in this video. The music score is performed by the Alastair Mackerras Chamber Orchestra:

Mr Rob Nijs, Conductor
Divertimento in D Major, KV 136
III Presto

There are many more exciting events to come: 

The HSC Visual Arts Exhibition; Quill and Curtain; Applied Arts Showcase; Leavers’ Week; Annual Cadet Camp; the World Cup Rugby Tour; and variety of study, sport and cultural tours and events scheduled for 2024 and 2025.

We look forward to seeing you soon.