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A letter from The Head – 23 November 2022

23 November 2022

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Discipline matters

A disciplined life is a life of great resource. The journey towards a life lived with a value-set that reflects that which we believe makes a gentleman and an upright citizen is not necessarily an easy one, especially against the backdrop of a society that seems to have lost its moral compass on many matters in the recent past.

At Hilton, we speak regularly with our young men about appropriate and right behaviour. Life Orientation lessons, House Prayers, chapel services and assemblies are moments we use to educate, to admonish and to set expectations of proper behaviour.

As in the days when we parents were at school, young people will often test the boundaries of adult sensibilities and adult rules. Rules and regulations are, however, in place for very good reason and, as such, are expected to be followed to train up our young men to live lives that are beyond reproach.

Over the past year, as is often the case, a few boys transgress and err. In most cases these boys demonstrate remorse, learn from their mistakes, and recommit to living out our values. They serve the sanction imposed as part of their learning and they grow into better people.

As a learning institution, we also believe in second chances and in boys learning to behave appropriately. There are, however, a few instances when a second chance at the same institution is not necessarily best for the boy concerned or the broader school community. This is always unfortunate and disappointing.

I would ask you to take some time during this holiday to look through our discipline document, Beacons, which is available on the school app and which is updated annually. This document acts as a set of guiding principles by which we govern behaviours, along with the regular educational conversations as detailed above. Every boy goes through this document with his tutor at a point in the year, to ensure there is full understanding of the rules that govern us all.

Certain contraventions of our code are naturally more problematic and carry far-reaching consequences for boys who choose to act in ways that are unbecoming of a Hiltonian. These include bullying, racially motivated indiscretions, and abuse of substances (alcohol, vaping, performance-enhancing supplements, recreational drugs).

Unfortunately, vaping remains a significant challenge at schools across the globe at present. Hilton is no exception. I, and other senior staff members, have spoken to the boys about the dangers of vaping and, indeed, about the consequences of breaking the rule which prohibits the use of vapes. I am not convinced we are winning the war on this issue and my request is that you speak to your son about the dangers of this practice.

I am reliably informed that vaping will most likely be regulated by government in the near future and the use of a vape by an underage person will become an illegal act, as alcohol use is – all the more reason for us to address this practice with greater resolve in the future.

I am unequivocal in my resolve to ensure that our school produces young men of good character who are upstanding in their choosing to do the right thing regularly and with conviction. Many boys do this admirably and consistently.

What does astound me, however, is when boys are aided by parents in contravening our regulations. There are too many instances when parents model the attitude that they themselves are above the law. A few examples: exeat processes and procedures disregarded; late return of boys after leaves; early departure (without merit) at half-term weekends or end of term; allowing underage teenagers alcohol at parties, despite this being against the law.

The impressionable young men we are entrusted to educate and to mould must laugh at our efforts to teach a life lived according to moral virtues if the messaging from the adults in their lives is incongruent with our value-set.

Our aim remains to ensure that every boy walks through the McKenzie gates after five happy years at this great school after forming and collecting memories for life. When this is not fulfilled, we all hurt. We must, however, be certain to maintain a code of conduct that honours this life we share and affords us all to live freely and without a slide towards anarchy.

I believe that we have all subscribed to the values espoused in our code of conduct, hence my writing this newsletter as a reminder. When these values are disregarded, we may need to enforce them through our regulations, and we will do so to ensure that Hilton College is a safe space for all and that we uphold the good name of our school and its people.

Please take a moment to sit with your sons and unpack the benefits of a life founded on sound values and the challenges that may come his way should his behaviour contravene our code of conduct in a significant way. Most of our boys understand our code and the values underpinning it and make wise choices. My request is that you support us as we support you in speaking with one voice on these matters. My thanks to the many parents who are aligned with us.

Kind regards,

George Harris

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