From the Headmaster

Dr Malpass shares his thoughts on the vitality, diversity and achievements of school life during 2022.


So, how best to characterise 2022 at College Street? Did we at last have the long-foretold ‘normal year’ each of us prophesised at some point across the preceding two years as we put behind us the pandemic privations which had for a time inevitably haunted our ambitions and narrowed our perspectives? In many senses, yes, we did, although it is worth remembering that somewhere in the now-secluded early months of the year we remained on high alert as COVID-19 numbers in many schools in Term I saw them closing for lack of available COVID-free staff. Serendipitously, such crises ultimately never rattled the College Street gate.

From an academic perspective, 2022 has been rich with achievement whilst happily being untroubled by periods of debilitating online learning and compromised examinations and assessments. The HSC results, which greeted the School at the commencement of the year from our 2021 Form VI boys, certainly set an optimistic tone for the year ahead. Whilst I shall not dwell on their results, perhaps one statistic might offer a sense of things: while forty-eight HSC pupils across the entirety of NSW achieved the maximum ATAR of 99.95, an unprecedented twelve of them were Grammar boys. It is not a shabby year when one school can account for a quarter of the maximum ATARs across the whole state.

A distinctive feature of 2022 has been the resurgence of music here at College Street. Of course, anyone even remotely acquainted with Grammar for the last few decades would instinctively associate our boys with the making of (at times) near Conservatorium-standard music across a multiplicity of ensembles and soloists.

Given that the previous two years had seen much ensemble playing choked by government regulations, there was a sobering likelihood of our boys returning apprehensively to choirs and instrumental collective performance. Any such apprehension was fairly swiftly buried under the impressive weight of successive and impressive term concerts, the Martin Smith Farewell Concert and the frankly beautiful Concert for Vlad Khusid which those in attendance will struggle to forget.

Additionally, we were treated to an outstanding edition of the Form V Music Competition, a Combined Band workshop day with Ascham and St Catherine’s, the largest ever Ensembles Concert, a majestic performance by the Combined Choirs at the Term IV Concert, and finally the two prize-winning performances in the Musica Viva Strike a Chord Competition.

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Our sportsmen have continued to enjoy vibrant competition and much success in AAGPS sport which is such an important facet of each boy’s experience through the school. Our cross country boys have in particular continued their strong performance, with the Opens team and the U14s both securing top three placings overall this season.

Of late our cricketers, basketballers and tennis players have been dominating the typically more fancied oppositions across the GPS, with some famous wins both at home and away against St Ignatius’ College, Shore and St Joseph’s College in recent weeks to threaten, once again, the top of the table at the Opens Competition level.

The renaissance of our rowing programme continues to flourish with our crews performing better every year, most recently typified by the Year Ten First VIII taking out first place at the opening regatta of the season at Penrith.

I would like to acknowledge the dedication, the skill and the professionalism of our staff without whom such inspirational environments would not exist as they do. I know our boys in their various ways genuinely appreciate what the staff do with and for them on a daily basis. I know this because it is what the boys tell me every time I visit a Tutorial and ask them what they value about their School.

Inevitably at this time of the year, we have a handful of our Grammar family who are moving on to other adventures in 2023, and I would like to refer to a few staff members in particular. Our Bursar, Mr Brad Campbell, is retiring at the end of Term II, 2023. Brad’s time at Grammar has been particularly rewarding and he feels his work has built on the shoulders of the giants that came before him. As has been said to him, your association with Grammar will not end with your departure – you will always feel a part of the greater Grammar community.

As he moves to retirement, Brad will look forward to watching the development of the School and we thank and acknowledge the great asset he has been to staff and the Trustees. From our PDHPE department we farewell Mr Alan Campbell who has done much for our cricket programme for a number of years and now moves on to a senior role in cricket administration. From our Mathematics department Mr Justin Zeltzer moves on after two successful years at College Street, as does Old Sydneian Mr Matthew Kentmann from our Visual Arts department, and Ms Dominica Nicholls from the English department will be heading over to Trinity Grammar to teach HSC and IB, whilst Ms Maddison Jones leaves the Geography department to pursue her dream of teaching in regional NSW. We wish them all the very best.

We wish our departing staff members all the very best. L-R: Mr Alan Campbell, Mr Brad Campbell, Ms Maddison Jones, Ms Dominica Nicholls and Mr Justin Zeltzer

I must take a moment to acknowledge our Prefects of 2022 who have once again been young men of such impressive dedication and integrity. Their work was more or less faultless throughout the year, and their role in reenergising the School through their community and charitable endeavours post-pandemic was pivotal, well led as they were by Senior Prefect Jack Story.

I’m grateful to Jack for his supportive energy, his charming positivity and limitless generosity of spirit. He and his Prefects have maintained a standard for the Prefect bodies of the future at Grammar, a standard that the current Prefects are already seeking to equal, or even surpass, under the leadership of 2023’s Senior Prefect, Jeffrey Chen.

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Defining ‘school spirit’

Recently, our Chairman of Trustees, Emeritus Professor Richard Henry, asked me (during the course of one of our weekly conversations) to define what the notion of ‘school spirit’ particularly means here at Grammar. In essence, the question emerged in the context of how a Grammar education is founded on a fundamental fusion of academic dedication, musical and artistic passion, and a vibrantly healthy sporting life. Thus, answering slightly off the cuff, the definition I recall offering the Chairman was of a somewhat haphazard yet inevitably variegated one. Think of events like Grammarpalooza, I suggested, and its attendant intellectualism, respectful hilarity and lashings of French rap, or perhaps the spectacle of the Firsts basketballers living every minute as their compatriots in the Seconds basketball achieved a famous victory over King’s, the almost minute long applause for senior cellist John Wu for his solo performance in Assembly, the fevered enthusiasm of House Sports Day at Weigall where every placing from first to eighth is treated with a brand of near histrionic applause that never takes itself too seriously. Indeed, picture our St Ives Preparatory School Presentation Day as we witnessed the effusive admiration for the boys who were presented as NSW State Swimming Champions, who were immediately followed by the State Chess champions to equally enthusiastic applause.

That spirit exists in more ordinary settings too, such as the Prefects’ various lunch time competitions and barbecues. And speaking of those barbecues, parents are perhaps best unaware of the frighteningly agricultural efforts of the Prefects to deliver barbecues for the boys, an agonisingly longed-for gastronomic treat for the boys on the occasional lunchtime, which invariably finds our good-humoured Prefects stewing up kilograms of bacon fat which is more or less uniformly untroubled by the presence of any actual bacon meat.

Or perhaps that spirit is evidenced in the sheer fun and silliness of the unending adjective game (which our sport captains will not allow to die), in their weekly sport reports to Assembly, as humorously unconventional adjectives are painfully juxtaposed with the word “weekend” as the captains variously wish the boys an “ambrosial” weekend or perhaps an “adventitious” weekend. I recall a few months ago the captains opted to riff on the letter ‘d’ which found poor Bradley Chan choking no less than four times in an attempt to wish us all a “despicable weekend”, followed by Jack Story’s somewhat inexplicable attempt to recover the situation by wishing the school a “deciduous weekend”. Or perhaps that spirit can be sensed in the academic fun of (for example), Jeremy Cosman’s recent Taekwondo speech as he exhorted the team (with Grammar-tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek), to “lay a brick of pride in the mansion of their self-esteem”, shortly before Jonas Sze-To managed to somehow incorporate references to “triremes” and “time dilation” into his Chess speech. Finally consider, if you will, young Joshua Chan’s words from his Applied Arts speech at the Leavers’ Assembly in which he outlined the importance of “the relationship between area and pressure in hydraulic design to create adjustable wake surfboard fins using impedance matching in optimising radiating exponential horns in addition to a multiplex analysis of complicated fluid dynamics over air foil surfaces, utilising Bernoulli’s principal and the Coanda effect in the development of 3D printed aerodynamic renewable energy architecture”. Very Grammar indeed.


These glimpses can offer unexpected windows into the spirit of the School. But that spirit emerges fundamentally from the enduring substance of a Grammar education and of course, Speech Day has, for our School, always been an opportunity to crystalise in hopefully well-wrought and intelligently calibrated words the essence of what a Grammar education is all about.

Grammar is a school which not only respects but enthusiastically embraces diversity amongst our community of young renaissance men who each chart their own particular pathway through the School’s rich dedication to academic, musical, artistic, sporting and co-curricular dimensions. The orchestral cellist who also features as the Captain of Boats sits happily alongside the tap-dancer who is also a talented ceramicist, and they emerge from Grammar with kindness, respect and a confident humility.

Grammar’s academic heritage is one of achievement and sobering excellence. This has been founded upon a commitment to inspire each boy to achieve to the best of his ability and to venture beyond the bounds of any syllabus or examination. This academic approach is vitally enhanced by the subtle aestheticism of our extraordinary musical and artistic programmes, as well as the competitiveness and camaraderie afforded to our boys through their ongoing experiences in AAGPS sport.

And it is on the subject of sport that I will close. I once heard a parent of a boy at one of our Preparatory Schools question another parent, whose son was a particularly successful sportsman at Grammar, why she would send her sporty son to such a demonstrably academic school. This question seems to me to miss the significance of sport at our School.

No, we are not an overtly ‘sporty’ school, but that is simply to state that a boy’s sport (at whatever level he chooses to play it), doesn’t dominate the educational landscape but rather is an essential participant in the aspirational triumvirate in which academia is supported and inspired by both a dedicated musical and arts culture as well as a genuine and dynamic engagement with sporting competition.

Back in 1937, Headmaster Dettmann, a strong advocate of the character-building role of sport, observed that the proper function of sport was “not merely to win matches or to bring athletic distinction to a few exceptionally gifted players ... [but rather that] games can help boys to learn to concentrate with joy on the job in hand, to realise the other fellow has rights and merits of his own, to take hard knocks with a grateful grin as well as give them without malice or ill will or loss of temper”.

Very few of you will be unaware of the School’s developing plans to build a Sports Centre down at Weigall. This facility has been designed and developed to recognise and address the modernity of the sports Grammar boys play in their AAGPS competitions and beyond.

Simply put, it is a profound investment in a pillar of the School’s educational vision which has not seen significant investment for many years. Indeed, the gymnasium at College Street is the most recent such investment in Grammar sport, and this hails from 1976. The School’s Boatshed was built back in 1922. And the Weigall fields themselves that our boys play on to this day are the result a purchase of seven-and-a-half acres of land at Rushcutter’s Bay in March 1907.
It is therefore exciting to consider how this facility will play its role in engendering, supporting and developing for decades to come that distinctively beautiful spirit of the School and thus that enduring substance of a Grammar education.

The following video offers a glimpse into the sporting life of Grammar as we plan ahead for the future of sport at the School