Anglican schools welcome new principals for a new decade

New leaders for 2020 at five prominent co-ed and single-sex church schools across the Diocese of Melbourne

Mr Philip Grutzner is congratulated at his commissioning as Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School on 5 February by Mr Michael Bartlett, Chairman of the School Council, as Archbishop Philip Freier joins in the applause.

By Mark Brolly

March 12 2020Five Melbourne Anglican schools have started 2020 with new principals, including Melbourne Grammar School, which has installed Mr Philip Grutzner as its 15th Headmaster in 162 years – the first time an alumnus of the school has gone on to be its head.

Christ Church Grammar School South Yarra, Trinity Grammar School Kew, Mentone Girls’ Grammar School and Shelford Girls’ Grammar in Caulfield have also opened the new decade with new principals – respectively, Mr Neil Andary, who was inducted by Bishop Lindsay Urwin on 10 February; Mr Adrian Farrer, who was commissioned in St Paul’s Cathedral on 11 February; Ms Natalie Charles, who was commissioned on 28 February; and Ms Katrina Brennan, who is to be commissioned on 22 March.

Mr Grutzner told his Commissioning Service on 5 February that the day was “a homecoming for me as Melbourne Grammar has been pivotal in shaping my life’s journey”.

“I am grateful to my parents who made significant material sacrifices to make sure my brother Richard, who completed Year 12 here in 1975, my sister Anna who graduated from Melbourne Girls Grammar in 1977 and I had the opportunity to receive an outstanding education,” Mr Grutzner said. “Anna and Richard are here today, as is my mother Angela. I hope every student here also recognises just how fortunate they are.

“We are a fine school that encourages scholarship across a wide range of learning options. We are proud of our high academic achievers, our sporting heroes and our excellent musicians. We are equally proud of those who don’t find learning easy, but always give their best, especially those who overcome personal and family problems and go on to make their mark at school and in later life.”

Mr Grutzner’s mother Angela was editor of The Melbourne Anglican and its predecessor See and was media director for Archbishops David Penman and Keith Rayner in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The new Headmaster thanked his wife Dr Yasmine Layher, a consultant anaesthetist, and their daughters, Emily and Isabella, for their support.

“It was such a happy day 26 years ago when Yasmine and I were married in the Melbourne Grammar Chapel of St Peter.”

Mr Grutzner was most recently Principal of Carey Baptist Grammar School after a career that began in 1987 at Camberwell Grammar School, where he taught Biology, Mathematics and Science, coached tennis and football, and served as a Housemaster.

He spent a year at Manchester Grammar in England, becoming Headmaster of Braemar College in Woodend in 1997, then Headmaster of St Peter’s College in Adelaide from 2005-10 before taking up his appointment at Carey.

Mr Grutzner has been a board member of the Australian Anglican Schools Network, he is on the boards of the peak bodies representing independent schools in Victoria and nationally and chairs the G30 Schools, a group of 30 leading schools from around the world.

He thanked the teachers and other staff who had inspired him, as well as all staff, past and present.

“Thank you to those who have taken up teaching, such an inspirational calling, where you teach knowledge, but far more importantly you have the capacity to make each student feel valued and for each to understand what are strong values, commitment and responsibilities,” Mr Grutzner said.

“When the collective school staff is truly committed to the students, it is inevitable that the school will be an inclusive environment, irrespective of gender, sexual preference, religion, race, nationality or background. Such diversity is evident in tangible ways, and I know that Melbourne Grammar School has been proactive in fostering such an environment.

“I want us to be a school that has bold goals, whilst remaining grateful.  The American sociologist, Dr Brene Brown, makes the observation that ‘Privilege without gratitude is entitlement’.

“We are privileged to be part of Melbourne Grammar, but this should never be drawn as a criticism. Yes, photos of our magnificent blue stone buildings and clocktowers will continue to be splashed across the front pages of various newspapers with the usual headlines of elitist, rich or exclusive.

“But we know we are lucky to learn and work in such a school and we must accept this privilege with a strong sense of responsibility. A responsibility not to be arrogant or complacent, but to make the most of the opportunities we have, to be grateful, a responsibility to serve others through social justice programs in which where we find connections with those who need and appreciate our help.

“The words we heard today from Romans 12 of ‘Many parts one body’ remind us that the performance of the team is far more than the sum of the individual parts.

“I am very happy to be back at my alma mater as the 15th Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School. I know part of the challenge will be to sustain optimism when embracing a world that can appear volatile, and to steer a direction for our students that navigates such uncertainties.

“I am convinced schools will continue to have a vital role in preparing our children for a dynamic world that is filled with opportunities.”

Mr Neil Andary has taken an unconventional path to the leadership of South Yarra’s Christ Church Grammar School, the only remaining Anglican parish primary school in Victoria.

Mr Andary spent the first 20 years of his working life in business, managing a family warehousing and distribution company and then an indoor sports centre in Adelaide.

“I reached a point where my wife Dianne and I had three young children and I was looking at what direction to take next in my career,” he told Domain Review. “I knew I wanted to do something fulfilling.”

A school camping trip with his then eight-year-old daughter, Rebecca, set him on the path that eventually led to teaching and to Christ Church Grammar, founded 122 years ago as a choir school for boys and co-educational since the early 1920s.

“I was given the role of taking some of the children for an exercise session each day and I loved every minute of it. I loved working with the children. That memory and the enjoyment stayed with me and two years later I knew that teaching was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Mr Andary came to Christ Church Grammar after 16 years at the Uniting Church-affiliated Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, including as Head of the Preparatory School, Deputy Headmaster and Acting Headmaster.

He believes relationships are at the core of education.

“We all want to be valued, heard and cared for. If you know your students and you value who they are and their differences, then they will generally work much harder.”

Mr Adrian Farrer is the 12th Principal in the 117-year history of Trinity Grammar School Kew, having most recently been Principal of Cathedral College Wangaratta for seven years. Cathedral College is a leading independent coeducational Anglican school with 1030 students from Prep to Year 12.

He worked for seven years at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School and spent nine years at Camberwell Grammar School, mainly as Head of Middle School. He has taught English and History across many year levels, as well as coaching football across the schools.

Mr Farrer, like Mr Grutzner, attended Melbourne Grammar School. He studied at Melbourne University and recently completed the Wollaston Certificate of Theological Leadership.

He succeeds Mr Phil De Young, who has retired after a long and distinguished career in some of Melbourne’s most prominent schools.

Mr De Young had led Trinity since 2018 after Dr Michael Davies resigned as Principal following weeks of turmoil over the dismissal of his deputy, Mr Rohan Brown (later reinstated), for publicly cutting a student’s hair on school photo day.

At the time of his appointment last year, Mr Farrer said Trinity Grammar was one of Australia’s finest schools, with a long, proud history of nurturing well-balanced boys who made great contributions to society.

He is state representative on the Anglican Schools Australia National Committee of Management.

Ms Natalie Charles, who had been Head of Senior School at Carey and succeeds Mrs Fran Reddan as Principal of 121-year-old Mentone Girls’ Grammar School, said she felt an enormous sense of privilege to have been given the opportunity to join such a wonderful community and praised Mrs Reddan’s legacy.

“The school is in such good nick and has such a strong sense of purpose and identity,” Ms Charles said in a video message to the school community.

In her Principal’s Welcome on the school website, she writes: “Because we’re a small school with a big history behind us, we’re in the enviable position of being able to create an intimate environment where every girl is known, seen and heard so that a strong sense of belonging, underpinned by high quality teaching and learning is a feature of their time with us.

“The 21st Century with its rapidly digitalising economy, community platforms and 4IR clearly demands a broad and discrete set of employable skills; our role for over 120 years at Mentone Girls’ Grammar has always been to balance what it means for our girls to make a good living (in a future that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous) against what it means to live a good life for the betterment of all.

“If ever there was an imperative to exercise one’s rights and responsibilities in a proudly independent single sex girls’ school it is now. Leading and inspiring the next generation of women to take their place in a world that paradoxically seems to simultaneously empower and disarm them, celebrate and shame them is imminently achievable, however, when we focus upon each girl’s life-long need for traditional knowledge acquisition; her future industry’s need for a range of responsive, transferable skills and society’s need for the purposeful development of a set of innately human capabilities so that she is better prepared to navigate the personal and professional complexities that await her. And if we do this properly we will address her deep-seated need to find meaning, purpose and belonging which in turn brings hope… powerfully transformative forces any way you look at them.”

Ms Charles’ teaching career has included teaching English and Literature at Melbourne Grammar and serving as a VCE English examiner.

Ms Katrina Brennan takes the reins at Shelford Girls’ Grammar, having returned there as Director of Staff 18 months ago after working there in the early 2000s.

After leaving Shelford in 2006, Ms Brennan spent five years living at Wye River and working at Trinity College in Colac, a Roman Catholic co-educational college, before moving to Fintona Girls’ School in Balwyn, where she was appointed Vice-Principal.

An English, English Literature and Legal Studies teacher, Ms Brennan has a double degree in Arts/Law and practised law before being drawn to education and retraining as a teacher. She is the 11th Principal since Shelford Girls’ School opened in 1898 (it became Shelford Church of England Girls’ Grammar School in 1921).

In her Principal’s message on Shelford’s website, Ms Brennan writes: “We are living in a time of fast-paced change; of environmental and economic challenges, global connectivity, and evolving workplaces and social contexts. Today, more than ever, our students need to develop capacities to adapt, innovate and problem solve. To expect the unexpected, and to work within changing paradigms.

“Relationships are at the core of what we do. Our students flourish because they learn in a community that nurtures, stimulates and challenges them, and in which they are encouraged to be courageous.”

Ms Brennan is to be commissioned as Shelford’s Principal at Oaktree Anglican Church in Caulfield on 22 March.