How do you describe the authentic Carey experience?

Carey’s recent Middle and Senior School Open Morning was a huge success – a triumph of logistics that saw hundreds of people stream in from Barkers Road. From the raw honesty of the student guides to the Principal’s impassioned address; from the involvement of current parents who gave up their time to greet people in the Foyer, to the outstanding musical performance in the IWA, prospective families were offered an insight into what makes our school so special. But, as one parent wryly remarked to me, ‘We’ve been to dozens of these in the last couple of months and of course the school is going to put its best foot forward for such an event. Fact is, we want to know what it’s really like…’ And so, begins the difficult task of putting into words all that is intangible, magical and a bit like mercury when it comes to describing the authentic Carey experience.

And if I could, I would have described to them my encounters with the Carey that I know so well and love, over that last week alone – of being moved to tears watching The Laramie Project during Pride Week, struck dumb by the sheer brutality of the content; the courage taken to perform it and the talent of the ensemble cast who were clearly at pains to honour its source with their restraint and sensitivity. And I would have told them that Carey loves poetry so much that our slam poets can silence an entire auditorium of 500 students with a single gut-wrenching stanza and receive the kind of applause usually reserved for sports stars at the end of it all. And I would have told them that our Chinese debaters had just won the recent final at Melbourne University securing their place at the World Final in Malaysia in December. And that at Carey’s Variety Night in the IWA on Friday, the all-star line-up included a bag pipe player in full regalia who had once shared a stage with Paul McCartney; a Deputy Head of Student Wellbeing who had to pretend he was a student in an improvised game of ‘I can’t believe that you’re here’; a stand-up comedian who put the Head of Senior School through her paces with a Tom Gleeson-style ‘Hard Chat’ and a father who shyly but surely accompanied his daughter and her friend on acoustic guitar for a piece that gave us all goosebumps. I’d also let them know, how I’d received a call that week, from a Year 12 student in Queensland who – having watched the Carey Formal Video ‘over and over again’ – was seeking advice about how best to emulate the delight, the irreverence and the student/staff unity that had seen it garner over 158,600 views in the last four months alone. And I would have said that the teaching and learning – our raison d’etre and the jewel in our crown, was why all manner of students came to Carey secure in the knowledge that they were known and held, no matter their ability, history or chosen pathway.

It’s impossible to quantify exactly what it is that makes a school special but there’s no doubt it’s comprised in part by its ethos which, as Mr Gerard Cramer so rightly noted, ‘is concerned with fundamental human values – with tolerance, with caring, with a special style of staff-student relationships, with an underlying Christian attitude which permeates the school's life. It is an ethos which has been distilled from the people and events which have made up the School's history over time and has infused all its activities.’ Mr Tony Little, recently retired Headmaster of Eton, would agree. Eton boasts 19 Prime Ministers amongst its alumni, state-of-the-art facilities and exemplary academic results. But Mr Little’s advice to parents when looking to select a school for their children was to ‘ignore the prospectus’ because ‘they’re all the same’ and instead take a stroll around the campus where they were to pay attention to the feel of any given school community which would reveal itself to them in profoundly relational ways via sustained eye contact, the ease with which people smile and the warmth with which students and teachers greet each other…

Words might have failed me but here’s hoping those prospective families took a leap of faith after the Open Morning and will, in time, find out for themselves!

Natalie Charles
Head of Senior School