May 4 – Update from St Patrick’s College

May 4, 2020

Acting Principal Mr Stephen Hill has provided the following update for the wider St Patrick’s College community:

“Dear Parents, Carers and Guardians of St Patrick’s College,

Traditionally, and in any other year, this would have been a week of great celebration at St Patrick’s College, commencing with Edmund Rice Day activities such as the walkathon and St Pat’s Has Talent, and culminating in our Annual Mother’s Day Mass and Breakfast on Friday morning.

However, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic mean these events, along with so many others must be re-imagined and re-invented. I will provide more details on these later in this letter.

This week is further darkened in sadness by the loss of our much-loved colleague Mr Gerard Sullivan (pictured) who sadly died on Friday night following a brave battle with cancer.

Gerard’s wife, Suzie, and his children, Ella and Lucinda, were with Gerard as he passed gently.

All at St Patrick’s and the wider EREA community pass our condolences to Suzie, Ella, Lucinda and Gerard’s extended family. Please keep Gerard’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.

We first met Gerard in 2016 when he was appointed to the position of Deputy Headmaster – Student and Staff Wellbeing after many years of senior leadership in a variety of positions in the Sandhurst Diocese.

The St Patrick’s community came to know Gerard as a man of great faith who valued the relationships he had with so many of us above all else.

Gerard will be greatly missed by many in our community, staff, students and parents alike, who came to know him as a man of integrity and honour.

Gerard’s funeral will take place on May 8 from 10:00am and he will be buried at the new Ballarat cemetery in the Birdsong section.

The College is planning several ways in which we can honour Gerard and his contribution to our community.

Firstly, and most importantly, the College is aiming to live stream Gerard’s funeral into the school  for staff to pay their respects to a dear friend. As a result, there will be no online classes offered at the College between session 1 (8:40am) and the end of session 6 (1:10pm) this Friday (May 8). Online classes will resume from 1:55pm on Friday.

We anticipate that all members the community will also be able to access the live stream of Gerard’s funeral. Details will be made available once arrangements have been confirmed.

Secondly, one particular trait that was synonymous with Gerard was his penchant for crazy, colourful socks. Each day he would proudly display his kaleidoscopic choices, much to the delight of students and staff members. As such, we are encouraging all students and staff members to wear their craziest socks in honour of Gerard on Friday (May 8).

Finally, Gerard’s family have requested that if any members of the community are posting online tributes to Gerard, on whichever platform, that they include the hash tag #memoriesofgerard. This will enable the family to easily find these messages of love and save them for future use.

Parent survey

I take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of families who responded to our Parent Survey on Remote and Flexible Learning which was emailed home ten days ago. We have been overwhelmed firstly by the number of parents who volunteered their time to complete the survey, and secondly by the incredibly positive responses.

Of the 315 responses, 91% said the College’s transition to remote and flexible learning this term had either met, exceeded or far exceeded their expectations.

Equally pleasing is the fact that 88% of respondents said their son was coping either as expected or better than expected.

This feedback is incredibly encouraging for our staff who continue to work so hard to make the best of a difficult situation, and also for our students, many of whom are working just as diligently to make this experience as successful and engaging as possible.

We are also thankful for the many constructive comments parents supplied in the survey, particularly around student workloads, and have worked to implement changes in our classrooms which should be evident this week.

Many staff members are also following up on any concerns raised in the survey by making direct contact with those who supplied their details. We have also deployed staff members in the past fortnight to randomly call parents to check in that everything is ok at home and to seek further feedback on parent and student expectations of the College.

Return to school

One aspect of the past week which has been disappointing is the way schools have been used as something of a political football between various governments around Australia. At times of worrying uncertainty for all, greater unity is required between various levels of government and various political parties, particularly around the topic of education.

While we would all love to be back to a usual routine with our students and staff on site, we must ensure that any return is managed in the safest possible manner and at the safest time. In this regard, St Patrick’s College staff have continued to work incredibly hard behind the scenes, readying our grounds for a safe return.

Increased social distancing signage has been installed around the campus, more hand sanitiser stations have been installed, a thorough clean has been conducted on all surfaces and floor markings have been placed in high traffic areas to guide foot traffic.

St Patrick’s College will continue to abide by the advice of the Victorian Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government, the Catholic Education Office and Edmund Rice Education Australia to determine when and how classes will resume and we will be sure to provide you with all the details as soon as possible.

The statue of Edmund Rice

Edmund Rice Day

As I mentioned earlier, traditionally this week would be a time of great celebration at St Patrick’s College.

Tomorrow, Tuesday May 5, is Edmund Rice Day, a day in honour of the founder of the Christian Brothers, and a day on which we would traditionally hold the College Walkathon and the St Pat’s Has Talent Quest.

While the St Pat’s Has Talent is being conducted in an online environment, the walkathon cannot occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, that does not mean we cannot come together as a community, even in these times of social isolation.

This week, along with other Edmund Rice schools across Australia we are asking our community to focus on the theme of: Looking out my window – with hope.

All in our community (students, staff, parents, Old Collegians) are invited to take a photo looking out from their own personal window of hope and then to share the photo along with some brief thoughts about your great hope.

We will then collate these images and thoughts into an online gallery which will be published at the end of the week. It will remain as a permanent reminder of our communal hope in this time of challenge.

To share your photo simply upload it along with your thoughts at the following link:

Students wishing to enter the St Pat’s Has Talent quest are also encouraged to do so online. The details, including a great video produced by some of our senior Performing Art students can be seen at this link:

While on the subject of student videos can I also congratulate both our Student Council and our Director of Sport Ms Tina Benoit. Both the student leaders and Tina have been working hard to produce weekly, entertaining videos in an effort to provide some greater connectivity between students during this time and reminding us all that learning needs to also be about fun. The videos can all be seen on the College’s Facebook page at

Mother’s Day

More than 600 people attended the 2019 Mother’s Day Mass and Breakfast

Finally, I take this opportunity to acknowledge all the mothers in our community ahead of this weekend’s Mother’s Day celebrations.

Our annual Mother’s Day Mass and Breakfast is one of the landmark moments in the College’s calendar. Last year more than 600 people attended this wonderful celebration.

While we are unable to host such an event in 2020, this does not mean that our appreciation for our mothers is any less. In fact, I believe our Student Council are working on a very special tribute to mums which will be shared in the College community later in the week.

On behalf of everyone at the College I thank all the mothers in our community for being such wonderful beacons of light, love, strength and joy.

We hope you all enjoy a wonderful day with your families on Sunday.

Stephen Hill

Acting Principal