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The Value of COURAGE

Etched HandCOURAGEToday sees the launch of Grayston Prep’s new core values. They are;

Lifelong Learning

Each core value will be shared with you through powerful stories, but not just any stories. Each of the stories will relate to a core value and will be true and specific to Grayston Prep, as told through the events of a Grayston Prep child, parent or staff member.

The first core value of Courage was announced by our Headmaster, Mark Hayter, in assembly on Wednesday. Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficult danger, or pain, without showing fear. Our story of courage is told by our Headmaster, Mark Hayter.

The Value of COURAGE, as told by Mark Hayter

Mark Hayter struggles to speak into the microphone, and when he does, speaks as if he is dictating.  He corrects himself frequently and rerecords numerous times. This is a careful, cautious man, and that makes his story – a story of personal courage – all the more incredible.

In 2010, Mark was approached by parents of a girl who suffered from very poor muscle strength for a place at Grayston Prep.  Her mobility issues were extreme – to the point where she could not stand or walk unaided – but her parents were insistent: “She must learn to function in a real world environment!”

Mark was in a difficult situation. “Having had previous experience with children with disabilities, we were concerned with longevity, especially with respect to moving around the classroom and campus. The senior areas of the campus require children to climb a number of stairs to get to their classrooms.” Tied to this longevity is cost – replacing the stairs with platforms that could take a wheelchair was just the start of changes that would need to be made.  And there were concerns regarding reputational damage to Grayston – would other parents begin to think the preparatory school was lowering its academic standards? All of these issues weighed on Mark’s mind.

On the other hand, the girl was academically very strong and came from a high-achieving Grayston family. The school already had an Academic Support Unit and was expanding its services to serve the community. “At the time, we took the decision to engage the services of an Educational Psychologist,” Mark recalls.

“From our previous experience, we also understood the enormous gratitude for children and teachers watching special needs children achieve success.”

Mark, in a display of the cautious courage he has become famous for, made the decision to accept the child into Grade R – with the proviso that the decision would be revisited at the end of Grade 3, and that the child must have a full-time facilitator.

The decision turned out to be a good one. The child settled well and coped excellently. Her physical disabilities did not hinder her academics. In fact, her admission brought many unforeseen but welcome results for the entire Grayston community: “We have seen a huge number of positive spin-offs [of her admission] for parents, teachers and students. One of the biggest effects has been on the children in her year group. They have learned a huge amount of empathy and will volunteer to assist her with cutting, pasting or being her buddy. Children want to give support, at stages even wanting to replace the facilitator!”

Fast forward three years, and the decision to continue enrolment until the end of Grade 7 was an easy one for Mark and the Grayston staff to make. The student is fully integrated – in the top academic stream and playing music in her class band. Her health is improving – to the point that she participates in swimming lessons with the rest of the class.

Mark describes how the decision to continue her enrolment was made: “Staff and children are attached to her. She is an inspiration to staff and students in her approach to learning and facing challenges. In making the decision [to keep her enrolled], the entire staff agreed to shuffle classrooms on an annual basis to keep her movements to one floor – a huge decision for educators who are used to keeping the same classroom year after year. People are prepared to adapt to be supportive of people with learning difficulties.”

Mark reflects on the lessons learned from the decision taken to allow a special needs child to pursue education at a mainstream school: “Each party can make a success of an adverse situation. Too often we see a learning barrier or difficulty as a stopping point in educational process. If we are adaptable and flexible, we create amazing unity in a community – and within that unity this results in everyone achieving and growing more, and has positive impacts across the community.” In another example of success coming from adversity, the student’s first facilitator has discovered a passion for teaching, and has since joined the Grayston staff and is working towards qualifying as an educator.

In taking the decision, Mark demonstrated the greatest of courage – that of moving through one’s fears for the greater good.



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