As Semester 1 draws to a close, so too does my first year as the Principal of The Knox School.

Taking the reins in July of 2021, I am not sure any one of us could have anticipated the year that would lie ahead. A mere 14 days after opening our doors to campus in July, we were plunged into a “temporary lockdown” which would see schools remain online until October 21st. Restrictions lasting well beyond our return to face to face and the added complexities which followed a change of government direction, as we no longer aimed for covid zero, but rather learned to live with the virus.

While the enforced restrictions in 2022 have been largely removed, the complexities have most certainly prevailed. Semester 1 of 2022 has marked the re-emergence of events back on campus at a time when infections and illness across Melbourne were at an all-time high. Managing the balance of maintaining the momentum of events against a backdrop of community fatigue and illness and within covid safe measures has been the work of many and I take this opportunity to thank the TKS community, staff, students and parents/carers for their continued and unwavering support, enthusiasm, and dedication throughout this semester.

It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to attend the many and varied events over the course of the Semester, from Rock Out in April, through to Jazz Night earlier this month. To attend the Athletics Championships at Lakeside Stadium and award medals to our very own Knox School students achieving championship status in their events, to donning an Oodie (for the very first time) and joining the Year 12 cohort for their PJ Day and Movie Night. These events demonstrate the very essence of The Knox School community and reminds us of the fundamental importance of human connection and belonging.

There has been much talk of the “Shadow Pandemic” within the education sector and the impact on our students. As Principal, I am cognisant of the fact that our students in Victoria are the most ‘locked-down’ children on the planet. Whilst they have shown resilience in spades and a maturity beyond their years, we cannot deny the impact this has had on some of the most formative years of their lives. Over the last few weeks, I have met with forums of students across campus and have discussed their recent experiences and listened to their concerns. As the adults in the piece, we cannot ever fully walk in their shoes, but we can listen closely and in so doing, gain greater understanding of their reality.

At State Government level, this sentiment is being echoed in some of the recent discussions; the creation of a new role, Children’s Recovery Minister is an interesting one. The role is outlined to unpack the experience of Victoria’s young people and place the outcome of such discussions front and centre in future policy discussions. One idea which is gaining momentum is the concept of an additional a potential public holiday in Victoria to be planned for October 21st. The holiday would be named ‘Victorian Childhood Day’ and would mark the final day of lockdown in 2021. Although many perceive this to be tokenistic and an empty gesture; it does place the discussion and the experience of our students as a focal point for future planning and this can only be a good thing.

For our students at TKS, over the last semester, I have advocated that our young people should feel empowered, be part of our discussions and have a seat at the table. I am cognisant that their everyday experience is the result of such outcomes and thus their voice in the consultation process is imperative. As we return to campus in Term 3, this will continue to develop, and I hope to see more students taking up the opportunity to take a seat at the table and getting involved in the discussion.

We know that our students are conscious of the world around them and many already have an active voice in local and national youth forums, contributing to the building of a collective social awareness and conscience. We know that they hear headlines each day, conflict in Ukraine, possible power blackouts on the East Coast, rising cost of living and a change in government to name only a few from Term 2. At TKS, we will continue to provide forums for our student to discuss such issues and provide wellbeing networks of support for those who feel impacted by these issues. We are also keen to explore new ideas and possible new networks and frameworks as we navigate the complexity of our current times. In recent conversations, our students have provided much food for thought and we are eager to hear more!

As we approach the three-week holiday, I know that you will all be looking forward to a well-deserved break. Many of you I know are travelling overseas, making much anticipated visits to loved ones and taking time away with the family for rest and recharge. Whatever your plans may be, I wish you all a wonderful break. I hope that you can all take time to disconnect from school and work and take time to reconnect with those who are nearest and dearest.

I thank you all for your support of the TKS community over the last semester and, in particular for your support that you shown me over my first year as Principal of The Knox School. As the proverb goes, “I am, because we are” – we go on the journey with those around us; we derive our energy and build motivation from those in our circles. And so it is with the TKS community. I look forward to welcoming you all back to Term 3, and to working in partnership with energy and motivation, writing the next chapter of the TKS history.