Mr. Neil Baudinette
Neil became Principal at Strathmore High School in 1972 aware that the school would have to undergo changes. The late 1960s and early 1970s had seen the arrival of a new approach to secondary teaching and Neil understood the importance of encouraging more personal relationships between staff and students. He wanted the school to reflect the community of which it was part, to influence and serve that community. The reforms Neil helped introduce were intended to promote a sense of unity and community spirit. They were also aimed at maintaining the school as one of quality and esteem.
One of Neil’s first changes was the introduction of regular assemblies. These enabled teachers to build rapport with students by directly addressing their queries or problems. It was also an opportunity for notable persons to speak to the school, and in later years, for the school’s band to perform. Neil consulted with senior students and worked with senior staff to provide opportunities for form 6 (now year 12) students to prepare for the freer atmosphere of tertiary studies. This saw the introduction of ‘free dress’ and ‘blocked’ free period to enable students to have ‘study days’, which they spent at home.
In 1976, a chaplain was introduced. Soon afterwards a careers teacher was also appointed, as was a pupil welfare co-ordinator. Extra-curricular activities, particularly music and drama were encouraged. Homerooms and home teachers for year 7 students were introduced and as a result the transition between primary and secondary school became far easier.
1972 saw the commencement of extensive grounds development. The school’s Advisory Council worked hard for several years to develop the oval and hockey field and to extend the tree planting. The school’s sporting achievements and the rate of student participation were greatly enhanced by the development of such good facilities.
Neil describes “the change that came in eleven years (as) gradual…it developed because the conditions were ready for it…I had a lot of support. It wasn’t as if I was tackling this on my own”.
In his own words
On March 1 1972 Neil gave a speech to the Parents and Citizens Association soon after his appointment as Principal. He entitled the speech “Strathmore High School, The Future” and in the presentation set out his hopes for what he might achieve as Principal.
A few quotes from that presentation:
“Secondary schools need to foster such things as the love for learning, a desire to inquire and solve, a spirit of compassion and tolerance and an attitude of communal awareness. These developments seem to me to be education in its fullest sense. The whole school program needs to be directed towards these ends. This is in direct contrast to the ends which have been so prominent in our school system for so long. I think it is fair to say that purposes like academic preparation, preparation for employment opportunities, intellectual competition have been purposes for which the secondary school system has operated. The real purpose of secondary education should be to enable young people of secondary school age to develop their potential.”
“… and further it ought to be a process of general education where specialisation is reduced to a minimum but where due emphasis is placed upon communication skills, numeracy, artistic and creative development and physical development.”
On teaching methods:
“… the recognition of individual differences in students is the starting point for an appreciation of the need to question traditional classroom methods. Two things stand out in my mind in considering this aspect of development: a) students learn at different rates from each other and even learn different things themselves at different rates; b) different methods of learning suit students even in the one discipline, eg. some students may grasp historical facts better by reading them, others by listening to accounts of them, others by seeing them in films. As a result the normal class and form room framework must be questioned. Teachers need to provide a range of learning experiences in every area and must be in a position to give students a certain freedom to work as they find best for their own situation and they must be prepared to cater for a wide range of abilities in the one form group.”
On staff/student relationships:
“Our secondary school is a large organisation and because of its size there are 2 main problems to be faced. The first is the impersonal nature of the organisation. The second is the difficulty of communicating school policy and procedures. In the immediate future I see the school developing as three schools in one, junior, middle and senior schools with coordinators, senior teachers responsible for the development of each one of these special divisions. These will be assisted by form coordinators. I see too the development of a pastoral care program. The key thing is for students to know there is a special teacher who cares for their progress, their development and is prepared to talk to them about their problems.”
On the physical development of the school:
“The physical development of the school takes place so that the school program might be more easily fulfilled. May I remind you first of the need to develop an appreciation of beautiful things especially in the surroundings of the school. Also of the need to provide the physical facilities for the all-round development of the individual child.”