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Staff Farewell

Dr Rachael Hawkey - after 20 years service.

I am not sure if you have had time to read the findings of the research about Boys schools, and more particularly some of the initial findings of why boys in boys schools succeed significantly better than boys in co educational schools. One of the measurements of success is that boys in a single sex environment do better at NCEA, but by digging deeper into the research it singles out some of the reasons why. Successful boys schools work on their culture and the climate of the school so every boy is accepted for what he does achieve but more – who he is. Successful boys schools have teachers who get to know the boy as well as teach their subject or coach their sport or direct their musical. Successful boys schools grow boys to be good men. In other words successful boys schools create time in their programmes to develop mental, physical, social and in our case spiritual skills in a holistic way.

Rachael began at St Bede's 20 years ago. Boys schools were under a good degree of scrutiny often for the wrong reasons. Practices and rituals mired in the past, serious challenges round the issues of girls outperforming boys in general, an obsession with the profiling of sport as a way of defining success, were some of the issues faced by boys schools. Ministry policy back then was not to build new single sex schools. Boys schools were not flavour of the month, and quite frankly  there were good reasons for this.

20 years ago my predecessor, Fr Brian Cummings had a major decision to make, and his decision then to build the Performing Arts Centre rather than the gym was perhaps in response to the stature and perception of boys schools then, but also he may have known that he had employed a gem as a music teacher who justified a facility that was far better than the one that existed.

She helped plan that facility which was opened in 2001, just before I took over from Fr Cummings. It is great pity he couldn’t have witnessed the development of the Arts in the legacy he left.

With her ‘play pen’ up and running the fun begun, and I was lucky enough to be part of it!!

Admittedly slim pickings for a start. I can remember going to Town Hall in 2002 for the Big Sing. I can also remember we followed the 75 strong choir of CC. We were next and onto the stage filed a mere dozen boys who did their level best, but the comparisons were inevitable. Following us were not one Burnside choir but 3!!

In the culture of the time , it would have been easy to say, as some other boys schools did….this is not a boys school thing. But Rachael responded, and with initiatives like every year 9 doing a singing audition, the employment of choral specialists like Helen Charlton, choral music in a variety of genre has flourished, including school singing. People from our wider community come to our masses to hear the boys’ singing.

Drama has blossomed as well, and with Rachael’s encouragement, not only has the subject been established , but Bedeans have discovered talents they never knew they had in events like Sheila Winn Shakespeare Festival for the more talented and Smoke Free Stage Challenge for those courageous boys who perhaps had never been near a stage let alone done something on it!! We have received many plaudits in the community for being the only all boys performance at this event, but the satisfaction of seeing boys conquer their fears and perform often to a very respectable level is a joy to watch. The skill learned from those experiences, these boys take into their adult lives on other stages.

She had and encouraged able people beside her like Ruth, Abi, and earlier Janine and with their combined talents and skills, variety concerts are now a feature of the school calendar, where nervous debutants and the more experienced senior pros provide an excellent night of entertainment in the packed Performing Arts venue. And let’s not forget the profile of the Visual Arts which she supported so whole heartedly as well and all of us would appreciate the wine and cheese exhibition nights in the final stanzas of the year, where the fruits of the labour in the Arts department are displayed also.

These are but a few examples of how the Arts Faculty under Rachael's leadership have blossomed. More importantly that contribution has helped evolve and broaden the culture of our College, and has as the research I gave you said, had a major influence on the climate of our College. Rachael, this is your legacy to SBC and we thank you for that.

There’s more to Rachael

She is a consummate musician. Watch her play the piano and you see her at her most animated. She brings joy to others but it is great to watch someone perform who is totally enjoying what she is doing in that performance. I have been fortunate enough to have seen or played with many pianists including my own mother, who was a concert pianist, and Rachael is right up there with the very best of them.

Rachael is innately a fine educator. Yes, an excellent teacher of music, but also an educator in the broadest sense of the word, and the reason is because she has an interest in all aspects of the boys she comes into contact with. She knows her boys and the reports and testimonials she writes for the boys show she really knows the boys and recognises them as individual gifts from God. Her relationships with them are strong and enduring. We saw a glimpse of this at the assembly last term.

Rachael is a Doctor of Learning but also a leader of learning as a HOF. HOFs are like the meat in the sandwich within the structure of a secondary school. They have demands and responsibilities from within their own faculty and they have the same from people like me as well!!!

HOFs in this College are encouraged to not only represent their own faculty’s interests but are challenged also to look at learning in the College as a whole. Rachael understood this and her wisdom in critiquing the latest initiative or idea proposed, was invaluable to people like me also.

As a result her skills and talents we benefitted from, when she shared the Deputy Rectors role with John Gamblin  in 2009 and subsequently other senior team responsibilities.

Rachael has said on a number of occasions that she didn’t want to finish her working life here at St Bede’s, always feeling that there would be another calling or another challenge, and part of the process of discerning the next step involved prayer. Here is another insight to the person we farewell today, a highly principled, compassionate and faith filled woman who never separated those fine personal qualities from anything she did, and in her vocation of helping boys to become good young men.

Thank you Rachael for the legacy you leave, for the significant impression you have made on boys going through this place for two decades, but most importantly in this context for the colleague and the fine person you are……kind wishes from all of us as you enter the next phase of your career…