We are very grateful that Simon Gipson OAM has stepped into the role of Chair of Trinity’s School Council. Simon, of course, takes over from John Gillam, a man he describes as ‘extremely impressive’ and someone who managed to achieve so much at Trinity in a relatively short period of time. In order for us to learn more about Simon and for him to learn more about the school, and in particular its students, Principal Adrian Farrer set up an online meeting with the School Captain, Jack Stewart, and Vice-Captains, George Belcher, Henry Brown, Wesley Li and Danie Moshopoulos. The captains were very keen to know more about Simon’ role and his plans for the school, while Simon was most interested in these students’ opinions about Trinity: what they felt should never change and how they envisaged the Trinity of the future. Following are some snippets from their hour-long chat.
Captains: We’ve been told that you are a Freo man, so can we assume you are from Western Australia?
Simon Gipson: I spent my adolescence, my uni years and my 20s and 30s in WA but I was actually born in England. During my childhood, we lived in the West Indies, in Trinidad and Barbados, and I attended boarding school in the UK. I came to Australia when I was about 13. We started in Sydney, moved to Melbourne and then went across to Perth when I started Year 10. So, it’s quite a complicated background! I returned to Melbourne in 2000, when I brought my own family across from Perth, to take up the position of Headmaster at St Michael’s Grammar School. It was such a fabulous school that I stayed in that role for 18 years.
Captains: We know about your background in teaching – was that always the case?
Simon Gipson: For about eight years, I was involved in film, television and theatre, both in the UK and Perth. Teaching was something I fell into by accident, but then realised I really enjoyed it. I worked in a number of independent schools and was also involved in setting up a school in northern Thailand. When I left St Michael’s, I was employed as an independent consultant engaged in school reform and technology and then I spent time assisting non-profit organisations, including one that mentored primary teachers in disadvantaged areas.
Captains: It’s clear that you have a huge breadth of experience and we were wondering, as one thing we love about Trinity is its diversity, how you think the balance between the academic and the co-curricular aspects of school can be maintained?
Simon Gipson: One of the things independent schools are seeking to do is to provide a richness of experience. They aim to encourage students into experiencing things for the first time, so they are able to make informed decisions about the paths they want to take. This does not only apply to involvement in sport, which is invaluable due to the range of intrinsic outcomes it produces, but to the performing and visual arts, music, public speaking and experiences in the outdoors, plus, of course, a rich range of subjects in the academic program. You can learn the best lessons when you step away from where you feel comfortable and step into the unknown.
My job as Chair is to work with Mr Farrer and the Leadership Team to ensure the vision for the school, which has been developed, collectively, with a whole range of people, can be implemented with a level of quality and excellence, with the appropriate resources aligned to give the best experience to the students.
Adrian Farrer: Without that alignment, the holistic view of the student experience, is not possible. In fact, Trinity has a good history of not limiting ambition. In 2000, for example, two boys in Year 10, Piers Mitchem and Justin Chan, invited Nelson Mandela to come to Australia and speak at World Reconciliation Day – and he did. That came out of those two students taking a leap into the unknown.
Simon Gipson: One of the attractions for me of stepping into the role of Chair was the opportunity to work with Mr Farrer and the Leadership Team and positioning the school for its next chapter of growth. In terms of good governance, the Chair is only the first among equals around the Council table. Their fundamental role is to align and coordinate all of the people together in order to deliver on the vision as effectively as they can, with every decision being for the good of Trinity, so that the school and, in particular, its students can flourish. One thing I have learned is that leadership is a collaborative enterprise and things are never achieved alone, but always with the assistance of others. We want to ensure that we have a school which is known for the quality of its culture and its approach to teaching, learning and caring.
Simon Gipson: Now, I would love the captains’ perspective, particularly as they have been off campus in lockdown. What should Trinity always continue to do?
Captains: We greatly appreciate Trinity’s cross-age programs and initiatives which facilitate interaction between older and younger students. In Years 7 and 8, you are accompanied on camp by students who are in Years 10 and 11. They run the activities and we can still remember the names of the guys who took us, even though they have all graduated. When we got to Year 10, it was so special to be able to go away with the younger students and start to foster similar relationships with them. We really appreciate the circular nature of these relationships.
We are also fortunate that Trinity has fantastic teachers; they are people you can have a chat and a laugh with, but at the same time, they know their subjects really well and are willing to go above and beyond to educate you.
Adrian Farrer: Since I have been at Trinity, I have really noticed that interaction and commitment. There will be teachers standing in the rain watching a sports game, but they will also turn up to a concert when they don’t have to.
Captains: Trinity is definitely awash with opportunities and there can be a fine line between embracing these and taking a step back so you can actually enjoy what you’re doing. The school strives to help us find balance and there is a focus on looking after our mental health. So, Trinity should continue to offer a broad range of opportunities, but also it should continue to introduce boys to strategies, such as mindfulness, that can enable them to achieve a more balanced approach. Many of these opportunities also challenge us, particularly when we are in Year 7, and from challenges, we experience development. In the same way, with hindsight we can see the benefit in things that may have seemed irrelevant at the time. This might apply to guest speakers or even camps, in that their value to you may only be apparent later on.
Adrian Farrer: You are all on a journey, a trajectory, and the accrual of all these experiences is what is important.
Simon Gipson: If each of you were to sum up Trinity in one word, what would it be?
Simon Gipson: The language you have chosen to reflect what you think is important about Trinity is deeply reassuring for me as it echoes my own experiences and my views and values. The most important quality of any leader is authenticity; if you act with integrity in everything you do, you will always be doing the right thing.