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From the Principal

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by School Captain Lakshya Chanda on my recent contract extension. It was great to reflect on the milestones we’ve achieved as a school.

I'm pleased to share with you, a record of my interview below.

I hear that the School Board had recently extended your contract to the end of 2027 that will mean seven years as Principal, how do you feel about that?

Thanks Lakshya. Well, yes that's true. I have had my contract extended to the end of 2027. I'm very excited about that personally as that means I now have a clear commitment to Haileybury Rendall School and my family will be staying here as well so we're all very pleased. I think it's really good for the school to have stability in leadership and it means that lots of people who are coming up with ideas, new initiatives and innovations can be confident that if I approve it now, I'll still be here in three or four years’ time to make sure that it happened. Overall, I think it's good news for me, my family and Haileybury Rendall School.

You started here in 2021, what are some of the achievements you're proud of?

Great question - I think the first thing is growing the school. When I arrived, there was about 600 students and this year for the first time, we've gone over 1000 students, so we now have 1030. The biggest thing I think I've had to do is manage growing a school enrolling new students especially getting lots of new teachers. It is Darwin and there's a lot of changing in staffing and then while all those changes are going on, we are trying to develop our own culture amongst the students and teachers that we all understand. I think we've really done that well. We've had a focus on wellbeing, not just on great academic results so that's something that we're really proud of. My biggest job is to manage the budget and make sure we're not spending more than we are earning, but we've been reasonably successful and that meant that we we've added a lot of new facilities and features around the school over that time. We're growing nicely and we hope it keeps going.

You mentioned earlier that there are 1030 students at HRS how big do you think the school will get?

That is really important! I've had a very close look at it, and I think we will grow by another 100 students so I think we're going to settle at around 1130 students. We will likely get there in the next two to three years. That's if we don't increase in size at any of our year levels. If we keep pushing students through from Middle School to Senior School then that will naturally happen. Hopefully we enrol some more boarders from remote communities, around Australia and overseas. That'll add the numbers up a little bit as well. Keeping all our current year levels as they are, we should settle at 1130. Now I guess that's the easy decision but the school board and myself, over those next three or four years at some point, we might decide we do want to get bigger and that would mean we're going to have to build more classrooms perhaps renovate the old Building 19 behind Mayoema. For now, I think when we get to 1130 students that's where we're going to settle.

What would you hope to accomplish in the coming years?

There's several really important things that we need to do. We need to grow the school to 1130 students roughly speaking and we need to set fair and reasonable school fees. I'm very conscious that we don't want to be charging families more than we absolutely have to and balancing that, we need to keep improving the facilities as well. We need to hopefully develop international boarding. At the moment we only have four international boarding students, but I hope that we can grow that to 20 or 30 in the next three or four years. Then what comes with that is the cultural piece around diversity, understanding and all of us learning to live together. Developing our staff is massively important. We've got to have the best teachers in the NT working here and anyone who does decide to teach at HRS need to be the best that they can be, so we've started staff coaching this year. Doctor Ritchie is heavily involved in that so visiting classrooms and working together to share how we can all be better teachers but that's going to be a huge part of what we do. We have to continue to bring our community together and make sure our families and friends are involved in in the journey.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Well, there is a couple of difficult things, but I think the hardest single decision I have to do every year is setting school fees. We inherited a school that was broke, we set pretty low school fees to start with and we were breaking even when the school first started which is understandable. However, now we know to be successful we have to balance how much funding we're getting against any other source of income, which is school fees. I find it really difficult knowing it's likely that school fees will go up each year and I tried to keep the percentage increase down as far as possible while thinking about all those other things; facilities, attracting great staff, making sure we have what we need. That is a very hard part of the job and I think the other hard part is helping students who have really shown in the past they don't want to be in the school and sometimes there's consequences to that. That is really difficult and gut-wrenching, but I guess in this role the buck stops with me and sometimes I have to help students find somewhere else to go to school, but I don't like that.

How does it feel to be having our very first Year 12 formal this year? Do you think it will continue as a tradition for the following years?

That's up to you Lakshya and your friends, isn't it! I'm thrilled. I think it's great because it's been driven by the student voices, and it sounds like you're very keen. It definitely sounds like it's been well organised and if everything goes well it will be a legacy that you will leave for the rest of the school. It was interesting for me once we agreed to go ahead this year, several staff voiced that it's a great sign of how far the school has come that we are now big enough, we've developed enough and the Year 12 students are confident enough to pull something like that off so that was really interesting. I think there's a big appetite in our community for this to be the first of many so I’m sure it’ll be a great night!

What is the best piece of advice you've been given and how has it shaped you?

That is another great question, and you might know what I'm going to say here because I give this advice back all the time and I think three simple things that were passed on to me by a really great mentor of mine. It was a school principal, he said ‘keep running the school nice and simple and make sure everybody knows what's expected. To set up a great positive culture, everyone feels safe and can do their best.’ So, some people might think I'm going to say learning is our core business, that's a good piece of advice but I really think that if you stick to 3 things: if you're kind to people, always try to do your best and get involved in all the amazing opportunities here, you won’t go wrong.

Now a fun question. If you had the chance to own any animal in the world which one would you choose?

To me, well that is a fun question. My favourite animal, at the moment, is a Barramundi but that's just to catch not really ideal for owning and looking after! It would be some sort of dog I've always been a dog person. My family love dogs - to the actual breed, I think if it was just me I would go for a chocolate Labrador. They are very faithful, lots of fun and someone who can look after me when I get older hopefully.

Principal Mc Gregor and School Captain Lakshya Chanda

Andrew McGregor