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From the Acting Co-Principal
National Science Week begins on Monday 17 August. Our Science staff, led by Ms Alicia Richardson, has prepared a rich program of events to help celebrate the event here at Salesian College. During our Term 3 Staff Day, Dr. Richard Gaillardetz reminded us that, over the centuries, science and Christianity have sometimes been adversaries: Galileo’s attempt to propound the idea of a heliocentric universe in the Seventeenth Century was met by charges of heresy by the Church and, four centuries later, scientists such as Richard Dawkins have devoted their lives in an obdurate and unconvincing attempt to prove that God does not exist.
In the current edition of Catholic Education News, Bishop Mark Edwards OMI, Auxiliary Bishop for our Eastern Region, asserts that there is no inherent contradiction between science and religion: instead, they complete one another. Bishop Edwards who, earlier in his career taught Science at Mazenod College, argues that ‘a proper teaching of science leads to a connection with faith, not a disconnection from it.’ He contends that the science which can lead us to contemplate the big-bang theory of the universe can also shine a light on our faith-practices by assisting us to move beyond a literal understanding of Genesis to delve into the pulsing truths which drive the scriptures. Bishop Edwards challenges his readers to see that ‘the first 11 chapters of Genesis do not have the literary form of history and so should not be read as such. For the most part, they should rather be considered as myth.’ A myth, though, that is replete with faith, hope and inspiration for, as Bishop Edwards asserts, ‘Belief in the creating God leads by necessity to belief in an origin of the world and the evolution of the humankind.’ On a more local level, the quiet example of our senior Physics teacher, Fr. Oreste Cantamessa, who this week celebrates 60 years of Religious Professions provides a wonderful proof that religion and science are complementary. Congratulations Fr. Cantamessa!
Turning to more practical matters, a study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that Australian schools have the third worst student attendance record of all OECD countries ranking behind only Scotland and the Czech Republic.
An audit which examined attendance patterns in Victorian state primary and secondary schools found that student absenteeism appears to be increasing in Victoria. The audit analysed attendance records over a six year period. The problem became more dramatic each year with absenteeism peaking at an average of 20 missed days for Year 9 students.
At Salesian College, absenteeism is not as prevalent as reported in the audit of state primary and secondary schools. However, student absenteeism is a problem for a surprising number of students at our school. At Salesian College we have found in looking at attendance records that absenteeism:
• is extremely low in the first half of Year 7;
• rises in Year 8;
• rises again in Year 9 before plateauing in Year 10;
• decreases in Year 11;
• reduces further in Year 12.
We know intuitively that regular school attendance is a critical factor in shaping student success. For effective learning to take place, students have to be at school, in class on time, and paying attention. Students can only derive the benefit of classroom instruction when they consistently attend school. Regular school attendance fosters a child’s social development as well as their academic growth. By attending school on a consistent basis – completing assignments, and building strong connections with teachers and other students – students learn about responsibility and commitment to themselves and others.
We also know that nobody sets out to have a poor attendance record. But things quickly add up. Take, for example, the case of ‘Michael’: a few days away with colds, a day or two off school following family functions, some time off from school to greet relatives at the airport and some additional days added to a term holiday and a long weekend swiftly accumulates into eight, nine or ten days missed from school. If this were to happen each year for the full six years of his education at Salesian College, it would mean that Michael would miss out on more than a complete term of schooling. This inevitably leads to significant gaps in the learning of all students who are similar to Michael.
There will be times when serious illness of some form of family emergency will make it impossible for your son to be at school. But, sometimes, it is not O.K. to be away and I urge all students, parents and guardians to ensure that any absences from school are kept to the absolute minimum. Our Assistant Principal – Student Wellbeing has provided some further information on this important topic which I encourage you to read and share with your son.
In other news, we learnt late last week that the College’s Intermediate Concert Band were presented with the Silver Award at the Queensland Catholic Schools and Colleges Festival in Brisbane. This was the culmination of a great week of music-making and fun on the Gold Coast for the Intermediate Concert Band. Well done to the boys and, especially, to our Head of Performing Arts, Ms Mez Xuereb, on this fantastic achievement!