I am extremely proud to be taking up the position of Headmistress of the Boys Prep. To not only be part of a school and staff of this caliber, but to lead them is a privilege and with that comes a big responsibility which I do not take lightly. I have a long history and association with the school, my grandfather and father were taught by our founder Stanley Dodson. My uncles and many nephews and nieces have also been through the school and there is no other prep school in Johannesburg that I would rather have sent my own three boys to. Currently I have two in the prep school and one at the College. This school is in my blood.
Whilst being the first female Head of a Boys school in South Africa and one of only a handful in the world, was never my focus or goal, the significance of appointing the first female head of an all-boys school is not lost on me. St Peter’s is a pioneer, but more importantly, it is providing the boys with a female role model in authority. Role modelling is a crucial part of running a successful school and it is imperative that boys see female leadership in action. They need to understand that respect for everyone, regardless of who they are, is important and valued. I take this unique aspect of my role seriously and will strive to play my part in showing the boys the value of having a strong female leader in these formative years.
The school is steeped in the Anglican faith and our Christian values are at the very core of our ethos. We pride ourselves on the fact that the boys are actively taught spirituality. This values-based educational approach allows our school and community to grow on a strong and positive foundation in which all can flourish. We know that giving the boys a moral compass through their education is fundamental to their future success and we will continue to build on this in the future.
St Peter’s is a school that offers both a traditional schooling system, and a highly progressive and forward-thinking curriculum. We are constantly reflecting and looking at ways to evolve and improve our best practice teaching.
Our educational philosophy is based on the latest research which focusses on teaching the boys ways of thinking in order to be able to apply their knowledge in an ever-changing world. Jon Carnegie’s work, a leading educationalist in boys’ education, reflects the St Peter’s culture when he highlights the following four points:
- Set a standard (higher than any boy thinks he can achieve).
- Stand for something (boundaries within which boys can be individuals)
- Teach self- discipline (rather than being bound by petty rules)
- Link learning to living (by using an inquiry and thinking based approach)
Over and above this, at St Peter’s, we strive to foster an inclusive attitude to all aspects of diversity, where everyone feels like they belong equally to the St Peter’s family and to society in general. We feel it is our responsibility to confront some of the burning issues of the day in a manner that is safe and constructive. One of the initiatives that we have introduced to the boys, are weekly lessons called Izenzo Zobuntu, which refers to the activity of living out “Ubuntu”. The boys explore through discussions, rather than conventional lessons, a deeper sense of community with others, understanding the concept that “I am who I am because of who we all are.” The discussions create a space where conversations around diversity, inclusion, social justice, and the differences and commonalities between us can be unpacked in a supported, age-appropriate way and in an emotionally safe environment. Included in these discussions are issues which have historically lead to conflict and bullying as well as any other topics that may be deemed pertinent.
With the above in mind, I’m always interested in the impressions of new staff, viewing the school with fresh eyes. The most common reflections are:
- The need to adjust to an emphasis on self-discipline rather than petty rules. I can see now that having high expectations of the boys is far more powerful in encouraging positive and responsible behaviour; and
- It was a bit of a shock to discover that going the extra mile was not something that earned extra praise but was expected.
The latter point talks to the fact that we go to extraordinary lengths to recruit dedicated teaching staff who aim to not just teach the boys in an effective, inspiring manner, but also to create a safe, nurturing, and happy environment for them. This environment actively encourages risk taking, solving problems and accepting accountability for their own learning. The personal touch, getting to know the boys and their families is an expectation of our teachers and ensures that each child feels included and part of the St Peter’s family.
In addition to what I have mentioned, the school has many amazing departments which all form part of our holistic approach. The performing arts department is second to none in the primary schools around Johannesburg. This is a vital aspect of education at St Peter’s, and we have an outstanding department, which offers five different choirs and a variety of ensembles. Boys are also exposed to music theory, individual instruments, drama and dance.
Physical literacy and sport are also of paramount importance in a boy’s school, where we offer over ten different disciplines. Participation in a competitive environment teaches children resilience, good sportsmanship, friendships and social skills. Our sports staff are dedicated, enthusiastic and extremely competent, giving opportunities for all boys to play on our amazing facilities.
I believe and wholeheartedly support St Peter’s ethos, as it is not a school which sets out to develop a child into a particular model. Rather, we seek to find the unique strengths and talents in each boy and encourage him to develop into an even better version of who he is meant to be. We believe we are on the right track and further evidence of this is the extent to which our boys are sought after by and excel in all the major high schools around the country.
I look forward to you and your boys joining us at St Peter’s and partnering with us in your son’s growth and development through his primary school years.