23 September 2016 – Headmaster Chris Thomas, a Saint Andrew’s old boy, will complete a decade in charge of the school in April next year. Saints is in a good place at present, he said this week.
“I believe we are offering a solid, all-round education. Our academics are strong and the development in sport has been fantastic. Kids are achieving at a very high level in most of them. That goes to facilities, organisation and coaching.
“But, for me, the most important thing is we have kids who are, by and large, happy. If they are happy, they learn and they develop.”
Saint Andrew’s Headmaster Chris Thomas
Developing three 21st century skills
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, he said Saint Andrew’s, which was founded in 1863, will work on developing three 21st century skills: collaboration, communication and creativity.
“The collaboration comes from doing things together, like our Sandwich Challenge [when we made 30 000 sandwiches for Mandela Day], which benefitted other people. It’s about doing things as a group and as a school, supporting events together and working together.
“Communication is something I think we have some way to go in developing. It’s about talking to each other, but more importantly to listen to each other. That is something that we are going to focus on in the next year or two, particularly with kids, but also with parents.
“We have worked hard on creativity in the junior school and tried to develop from the bottom up. Particularly the cultural programme in the junior school has developed in leaps and bounds, and it is starting to filter through to the senior school, where you have senior school kids playing music on their own at home. They are getting involved in art and drama. If they can give expression to their creative talents, they start thinking of different solutions to problems.
“The next step with creativity is to try and develop the way they are taught and the way they look for solutions.”
The ultimate goal, Thomas said, was to impact South Africa positively by developing quality boys. “To me, the most important thing that a school like Saint Andrew’s has to do is to develop leaders for the future, because if they are not going to come from schools like ours, then where are they going to come from?”
Saint Andrew’s community involvement is a source of particular pride for the Headmaster, who has overseen its growth in his time in charge. He commented: “It was always there, but it has grown a great deal, and that’s thanks to the incredibly hard work of some really motivated, passionate teachers.
“One of the highlights since I have been here was the award of the Community Institution of the Year in 2013. It was nice recognition, and it was recognition of the community involvement that the school has had for many years.”
Old boys’ support
Thomas also paid tribute to the school’s loyal old boys for their increasing involvement in their alma mater. They have contributed significantly to the development of Saint Andrew’s, he said, with their support playing a critical role in Saints’ recently opened Lindsay Tuckett High Performance Centre.
“I think it is important for boys to see that they are part of a far larger legacy group, and that develops a sense of pride in them, that they are part of something special,” he added.
Thomas said he has encouraged his staff to follow their passion and given them space to do that. “I have been very impressed with the way in which some of them have grasped that and got stuck in.”
Issues to address
Focussing on issues that Saint Andrew’s and other schools need to address, he identified the changing educational landscape and how Saint Andrew’s can contribute to that, and the increasing challenge of how to deal with social problems that are not being dealt with at home.
He concluded: “Saint Andrew’s is becoming a school of choice for a lot of people in Bloemfontein, which has been quite exciting, but it is also quite daunting, because there are an increasing number of people wanting to get into the school. But that is something that we have built on rather than developed. It’s the positive feeling about the school.”