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We are blessed to have such a strong House system at St Peter’s College. It is one of the most important ways that our students connect into the School. We know that students who are connected to their school do a lot better emotionally and, by default, academically as a result, and so we should never underestimate the value of our House system. As with everything in the School, we are continually striving to improve what we do. To that end, every year the Pastoral Care Team in the Senior School that includes the Heads of House, Year Level Coordinators, Chaplains and Psychologists, go on retreat. Going on retreat provides the emotional and physical time and space to discuss some of the important themes and issues around the care of our students. This year the major theme of the retreat was ‘forgiveness’.

John Hendry (OAM), was our guest presenter who spoke of the importance of having forgiveness at the centre of everything we do. This can be a confronting idea for those of us who grew up in an era where there were clear consequences whenever we stepped out of line. Some immediate questions and thoughts come to mind: Why shouldn’t someone have to pay for their indiscretions? Why can’t I give a detention to a student who hasn’t done his homework? How will he learn anything if I don’t? Why should the boy who said something mean and hurtful to my son still be allowed to come to school? Despite these understandable concerns, the reality is that schools can no longer be rigid and unbending institutions where blanket measures alone are employed in the name of expediency. Modern schooling demands a different approach that is relational rather than punitive in nature. This is where forgiveness plays an important and guiding role in how we handle some of the trickier issues at School.

The notion of forgiveness is very familiar to all of us who work and study in an Anglican school; it is a clear and resounding message of the New Testament and is a fundamental part of the Lord’s Prayer. John Hendry argues that forgiveness is also one of the five basic elements that inform quality relationships. He lists trust, integrity, hope, and compassion along with forgiveness. In an institution in which human interaction and connection are at the core of all that we do, it is not surprising that the quality of the relationships that are nurtured and developed have a direct correlation with the quality of the school.

For all of our staff, but particularly those who are leading the pastoral care of our students and sons, the idea of forgiveness though, is perhaps the most important, and at the same time the most difficult and draining element underpinning the relationships that we wish to foster. Forgiveness is hard work to embrace and uphold because it takes incredible emotional capacity to maintain love and continually look for the good in people. The payback, however, is extraordinary. There is nothing more rewarding than to see someone come to a genuine understanding and acknowledgment of something that they got wrong, or to see proper reconciliation between two people who have been fighting. That’s why our positions of pastoral care leadership are much sought after by the staff and seen as incredibly important by the School. A big shout out from me to all of the staff who give so willingly of themselves in these roles. Pro Deo et Patria.

Ben Hanisch
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School