Russell Bailey, Headmaster at Redeemer Baptist School

We are coming to the end of another year at School, with our Year 12 students already departed – as school students, forever – as they await their ATARs or seek employment.

I heard an interesting story a couple of days ago. A friend went to a hairdresser who relayed a story about a student preparing for her Year 12 formal dinner with staff at the conclusion of her schooling. The hairdresser noticed that the student was crying. ‘What are you sad about,’ the hairdresser asked, ‘I thought you would be glad to be leaving school?’ The finishing student, who was from my school, replied, ‘But I’ve been at that school since Kindergarten. My teachers and classmates are my friends, they’re like my family. It’s like I’m finishing a part of my life that I really enjoy.’

We share a lot of life together at school, with the aim of achieving the best possible result in examinations or vocation. We celebrate outstanding achievements because they are important as students build a foundation for life. But I believe that there is another immeasurable outcome of schooling that is just as important. At school, students have the opportunity to become part of a family with shared values that build community.

When Redeemer Baptist School students are given opportunity to respond in a survey about their experience of school life, the most common free comment is – like my matriculating Year 12 student at the hairdressers – ‘School is like another family for me’.

As families grow up together, they share a common experience of life. We might have big disagreements about which team should win the football but as we discuss the issues of the day, increasingly, there will be some agreement about things that really matter. At Redeemer, our common foundation is a Christian worldview sourced in the Bible.

Today in the world there is a crisis of homelessness. Walk along the streets of Sydney and, alongside people with purpose in smart suits or tourist families enjoying a leisurely stroll through the city’s landmarks, there are people who don’t have a place or a family where they can be at home. Or take in some of the images of what is currently happening in Europe – hundreds of thousands of people who have left their own countries because they are no longer safe to be at home. The consequence is massive social dislocation.

In a world where relational instability causes social isolation, it is possible for a school to become a family where students can always be at home: a place of shelter in times of need; a place where past students can return to their school family not only to celebrate successes but also to share sorrows.
Despite their different post-HSC pathways, I trust that my students from Redeemer always have a school home to which they can return – after the Year 12 used-by date – with the confidence that our values and love will not have changed because they are drawn from an unchangeable source in Jesus’ new-every-day commandment to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’.

Along with the excitement of entering a new phase of life after school, I believe that teachers and school leaders should be building cultures of worthy shared values that lodge forever in a student’s heart – like the enduring formational links in a good, loving family. When this happens, these good schools will also become good insurance against the loneliness of homelessness!