Speech Presented at Prizegiving by our Carmel College Board Chair

Presented by Julie Scott – Chairperson, Carmel College Board

Kia ora koutou katoa, good evening and welcome to senior prize giving for 2023.

It is hard to believe that this time of year is already here!  I also still can’t quite believe that for the 4th year in a row we couldn’t complete a school year without more disruption and closures. 

It is a credit once again to our girls who showed their resilience and adaptability during some trying times earlier in the year.  For all of you here tonight, your secondary years have been marred by so much disruption, yet you continue to make the most of every opportunity, to not just succeed but so often to excel, and that is a credit to yourselves, your whanau support and the whole school community.   Tonight is a wonderful opportunity to recognise your hard work and commitment to your studies and school life, and of course to celebrate your successes that have come from that.  Congratulations girls, we are incredibly proud of you.

I would also like to acknowledge and congratulate our students that aren’t here this evening, but who also have found success this year.  Those that have achieved their own personal goals, overcome barriers to succeed, or who simply, have just made it through the year when everything may have been against them doing so.  Success comes in many shapes and forms, and these wins are just as important, and while I know that we can’t formally recognise everyone this evening, these wins are definitely just as valued.  

Last year, I spoke about some of the challenges we face in education, challenges generally not isolated to Carmel, but rather experienced across the sector as a whole.  Financial and property constraints, the frequently changing priorities in curriculum and assessment at government level, and the difficulty in sourcing adequate resources even when suitably funded, were just to name a few. 

I also spoke of the many tensions that we face in education, tensions that can influence our students’ ability to succeed, such as; the constant drive for academic success and the increasing need to prioritise our students’ health and wellbeing.  The rightful jurisdiction of the day to day management of student affairs, and the sometimes incongruent expectations between children, parents and school.  The need to teach our young people to not just live, but to flourish in a world of rapidly advancing technology, while trying to shield them from the harm that social media can cause.  And the increasingly difficult task of balancing adequate pastoral resource against curricular resource, to prevent schools becoming the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff for our struggling youth.   As a school, we don’t view these as tensions to be avoided, rather as opportunities for our school to provide the holistic and supportive environment that encompasses what it means to be a Mercy school, and that sets us apart from the rest.  

It was with this in mind that we set upon the journey of developing a new strategic direction for Carmel during 2023.  As a Mercy school, we have the privilege of a strong and unwavering foundation that is grounded in our catholic faith and the core Mercy values that underpin everything we do here.  The provision of a robust academic programme that sets our students up for success within the classroom is our core business, and also a non negotiable.   What we wanted to do, was engage with our community to find out what Carmel College means to you, and what matters to you when it comes to providing a modern learning environment where we can rise to face the challenges of modern day education, and in doing so give every single student the opportunity to achieve personal success, to become strong female leaders, and to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be.  

We are absolutely thrilled with the exceptional level of staff, student, whanau and wider community engagement, around 1500 survey and focus group respondents, which exceeded our expectations.   And you have given us a very clear and consistent message of what you expect both of the culture within our school, and for the future provision of a Carmel College Mercy education; a culture of respect – for ourselves, each other and our environment, and a culture that supports the embracing of challenges to build confidence and resilience, a sense of belonging for all, and the importance of wellbeing to achieve personal success.  We look forward to sharing our plan with you all in the near future.

I would just like to end with acknowledging and thanking some of our community on behalf of the board.

Firstly I would like to thank Kelly and the hard working group of parents who form our PTFA.  Thank you for the incredible work you do to support our school.  You are a small team, but you have vision, energy, passion and drive.  Through the success of the Christmas Market and other fundraising events, not only do you raise valuable funds that help support our school, but more importantly you bring the community to Carmel.  Thank you for the tireless work you all do, it is much appreciated.  

I’m sure it’s not news to anyone, when I say that running a school is no easy feat, increasingly so in this modern era of education.  One of the many cogs essential in ensuring a school can perform at its absolute best, is the strength and cohesiveness of its leadership.  A team who not only share a common purpose but who are united in the vision, the future direction, and the culture of the school.  With new leadership comes the opportunity to reinvent and invigorate.  I would like to thank Sarah, not only on behalf of the board, but as a parent, for what she has brought to Carmel in her short time as our Principal.  Her vision for our school, and the culture and tone that she sets as our leader, is everything a Mercy school leader should embody.  It’s a blimen tough gig being a Principal and Sarah, you handle it with grace, thank you.  Furthermore I would like to thank the rest of the Senior Leadership Team, our Heads of Departments, and our Deans for the strength in your leadership throughout the school – our girls are incredibly lucky to have such a fantastic group of people, who every day work together to better the opportunities available to our students, who go in to bat for them, and who ensure the provision of a holistic education for which our young woman are given every opportunity to thrive. 

To all of our support staff, and teachers – you are all such an integral part of the fabric of our school.  Thank you, not only for the tireless work you do to ensure our students are given every opportunity to succeed academically, but also for providing an environment where student-teacher relationships develop that sense of belonging here for our girls.  I think in the day to day grind it can at times be easy to not fully appreciate the impact you all have on the lives of those you teach.  Please never underestimate or lose sight of this.  You make a difference and our students thrive from the connections they make with you. 

To our Year 13 leavers – leaving school is such a significant milestone, a time that is both exciting, and equal parts scary, as you leave behind the comfort of a place that becomes like a second home for you, and you say goodbye to people that have become like family.  Believe in yourselves girls, you are incredible young women who astound me with your amazingness every time I have the privilege to be in your company.  The world is at your feet, so as you start this next phase of your life, remember – aim high, but always have fun doing it.  Stay true to yourself, your friends, and your family.  Keep living your values, be strong, and most importantly be kind. 

This is a slight variation to the normal but to end, I would like to ask Pravina Singh to come forward.  Pravina is in her final year as a parent at Carmel College, a mum to one incredible young woman Shana, who is our Head Girl this year.  During her time as a parent at Carmel, Pravina has served both the BOT and the PTFA, in particular she was an integral member of the Art Fusion team, all while bringing up her daughter, holding down a high pressure career as a lawyer, and facing a number of her own health challenges.  She has given tirelessly to our school community, is a very strong advocate of our Mercy character, has gone above and beyond on so many occasions, and embodies everything that is a strong Mercy woman.  Thank you Pravina, you will always hold a special place in the history of Carmel College.