Fr. Andrew Cranshaw was kind enough to give us a deeper look at the great work being accomplished at St. Thomas Aquinas College giving us a closer insight at the present situation.
Father Andrew Cranshaw, Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas College, Tynong VIC
Interviewer: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy role as Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas College to join us for this interview today!
Interviewer: Father, can you give our readers a brief background about yourself?
Fr. Cranshaw: I was born and raised in New Zealand. I studied Architecture and then went on to train for priesthood at Holy Cross Seminary, which in my time simply offered the year of spirituality and the two years of philosophy. After this I was sent to our seminary in Econe, Switzerland where I completed my Theology and was ordained a priest in June 2002. From there my first posting was in Brisbane, after which I was sent back to my homeland where I obtained my Diploma in Education and became the Prior and Principal of St. Anthony’s Church and St Dominic’s College in Wanganui. Since 2018I have been the Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas College, Tynong.
Interviewer: What can you tell us about the College?
Fr. Cranshaw: St. Thomas Aquinas College was founded in 1997 and is now in its twenty fifth year - we are preparing for the twenty fifth anniversary next year. The school is situated in the small rural township of Tynong which is about 75 kilometres south east of Melbourne. Here at the school we offer education for students from Foundation through to year 12. The whole aim of the College is to form in each youth, the true and perfect Catholic. The priests and the staff strive to co-operate with God’s divine grace to ensure souls are ultimately returned to God, their ultimate destiny. We have as our objective to develop our youth with a strong Catholic character, ones who will live by principles, and who have a deep understanding of the Catholic faith and a true love for Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. We foster a love for the traditions of the Church, and seek to rigorously challenge, while not overburdening our students. We develop in our students the cardinal Christian virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. We form their characters in charity, affability, respect, good manners, and instill in them a constant readiness to oblige.
Interviewer: It is now more than one year since the Covid crisis, what impact has this had on your students?
Fr. Cranshaw: Many people may not realise this statistic which is daily increasing - over the past year, our students have had to work from home more than half the days of the regular school year. Our Secondary staff and students are operating in a new world of online teaching and learning, while our Primary teachers put together learning packs for their children. During lockdown periods, we have ‘pack pick up days’ where learning packs are picked up in a drive-through type arrangement and drop-offs where parents drop work off work into our specially activated dropbox. It is a credit to our staff, parents and students that this system is actually working quite well.
Interviewer: How have you managed to stay engaged with the student body?
Fr. Cranshaw: The College leadership team closely monitor student engagement and welfare and provide their findings back to me almost daily so we can respond appropriately. We run student welfare surveys and keep in regular contact with the parents of struggling students. We try to quickly identify and respond to students who are disengaging, suffering from anxiety or unequipped to cope with remote learning. Then we work to support students or families in crisis in order to get them through the most challenging periods of the lockdowns.
Interviewer: Can you tell us how the graduating class of 2020 fared, considering that last year was a very interrupted year?
Fr. Cranshaw: The dux of 2020 achieved an outstanding score of 97.55%. Putting this in context, this student is placed inside the top 1,250 students out of more than the 51,000 students who received scored assessments in the State of Victoria. This is a particularly impressive result considering the trying circumstances faced. It is a reflection of their hard work and dedication over many years.
There were also a number of other outstanding results. Given the exceptional nature of the year and the unique challenges our students had to overcome to get to the end of the year, our students performed very well. Our Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) results this year, in particular, were very good, with over 70% of our students receiving scores that would get them into University. Given the desire of some of our students to pursue other pathways, this was very pleasing.
Interviewer: Obviously the lockdowns have posed significant challenges, are there any positives from them?
Fr. Cranshaw: Difficult circumstances are a time of grace, and we have been afforded many opportunities to obtain grace, so that is a first positive. Coming down a level, the challenging circumstances have taught our students to become independent learners and resilient souls. It has forged closer ties between parents and teachers; it has given our staff a greater appreciation and sympathy for the hardships families face; it has given parents a greater appreciation for the dedication of our teachers; it has given us all a greater awareness of human fragility; it has reminded us how much we have taken things for granted; it has given us a better appreciation of what we once had by contrast to what we now endure as the pandemic continues. Such is the silver lining on the COVID cloud.
Interviewer: Are you accepting enrolments for the 2022 year?
Fr. Cranshaw: In terms of enrolments and planning, it is business as usual. Enrolments are open for 2022. Every student coming to the College will be offered the same formation which our students are receiving which is a complete education taking into account the whole of human life; spiritual and physical, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social; in accordance with the example and teachings of Christ.
Our ‘application for admission form’ can be downloaded from our website www.stac.vic.edu.au and can be located under the enrolments tab. You are also most welcome to phone the College on (03) 56292500 for more information.
Interviewer: How can someone help the College?
Fr. Cranshaw: Primarily by your prayers, for it is a work of grace, “I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase.” Secondarily, there is of course the material consideration. To continue this important work in forming souls, the school depends on the generosity of the community. Donors may make a one off donation or set up a recurring donation to our school building fund where they will be entitled to a tax deduction for every contribution over $2. Please simply request a receipt from the College by emailing, [email protected]
Account Name: School Building Fund STAC
Account No.: 84-758-9180
Interviewer: Thank you for your time, Father. Our thoughts and prayers are with the College, its staff and students!