Meet the principal of NEW ENGLAND GIRLS’ SCHOOL, Ian Downs. His passion for teaching is such that he has spent the past fourteen years actually living on school campuses.
> When did you commence as Principal Of NEGS?
Officially commenced on 20th April 2009, which was the middle of the Term One vacation.
> Where did you live and teach prior to NEGS?
I have spent 14 of the last 16 years living on school campuses including the Kings School in Sydney and Farrar at Tamworth. Prior to that I had a variety of roles including inspector of schools, with offices in Tamworth and Grafton, Cluster Director for the Northern Tablelands with an office in Glen Innes, and in 1993 I was the Quality Assurance Director for the North West region of New South Wales.
Previous teaching appointments were in Sydney, Grafton and Kempsey.
> How are you settling in?
Armidale is a most friendly location and it has been relatively easy to take up residence at St John’s Lodge, as I have worked in the city on many previous occasions. Indeed, in 1991 I had an office in Hanna’s Arcade in association with a fellow Cluster Director, when we worked the entire New England region for the Department of Education.
Life has become somewhat easier since my wife gave up her job in Newcastle and joined me in August.
> Most memorable moments so far?
The recent two Speech Day events, when unbeknowns tto the Principal, both guest speakers had been expelled from the School in Year 11. I hasten to add that both ladies have had outstanding careers in their chosen professions since that event.
Secondly, both our hockey and netball teams in the Junior and Senior divisions making the finals of the IGSSA competition, despite competing against schools many times larger in terms of their student populations.
Thirdly, being the beneficiary of over 2.5 million dollars of Federal Government money to allow for the development of new resources for the students of NEGS.
And finally, preparing for the construction of the Trade Training Centre, adjacent to the current equestrian facility, which will enhance our delivery of livestock courses.
> How many staff and students attend NEGS?
Staff are spread over three discrete areas – Transition, St John’s Co-Educational Junior School and NEGS Senior School. In total there are 45 teachers and 18 support staff in administration, maintenance and cleaning divisions. The total student population for 2010 is expected to be around 320.
This will include 130 boarders, an increase on 2009, 100 day girls in the senior school and 95 boys and girls in Transition and the Junior School. These are significant enrolments, particular in boarding, given the difficult economic circumstances facing this country.
> Describe the ‘boarding’ system?
There are two types of systems to be found in the boarding sector across Australia, and NEGS has embraced both models. On the one hand, Year 12 reflect a horizontal model as they are located in a discrete boarding house. By the converse, Years 6 to 11 are found in a vertical system, with the various grades spread across the other boarding houses.
> What unique classes are available at NEGS?
We offer a specialised course in Primary Industries for Year 11 and Year 12 which is based upon the unique resources and staffing qualifications of our Equestrian personnel. In addition, we are fortunate to have a Japanese national on staff, which allows us to offer courses in Japanese for Year 7 to Year 12.
On the same plane, our Language staff, Art and Music staff provide courses to all classes in St John’s Junior School. ESL is offered, particularly in the Senior School, while the school is also unique in having highly qualified Equestrian Staff who provide classes both on the timetable and beyond.
> Plans for 2010?
In May this year I developed the ‘Vision Splendid’ to provide a resources pathway for this school. We see the need to extend our Multi-Purpose Centre, to build a new St John’s Junior School on its own site, to replace the science faculty and to upgrade our swimming pool.
Moreover, the school now has a five year Strategic Plan commencing in 2010, which clearly identifies the priority areas such as academic leadership, sport etc. in the years leading to 2014.
> Thank you Ian.