It seems that Stephen Newton may have been destined to be Principal of Caulfield Grammar School. He was born on 25th April 1955, the 74th anniversary of the founding of our School, into a family with a strong commitment, over many generations, to serving the community.
Early teaching career
After completing his schooling at Scotch College in 1972, Stephen knew that he wanted to become a teacher but began studying arts and law at Monash University to keep his career options open. Having subsequently decided to concentrate on teaching, he graduated from Monash with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees. His teaching methods were legal studies and geography, and his first teaching appointment was at Melbourne Grammar School.
The Head of the Legal Studies Department at Melbourne Grammar at this time, Tony Hewison, was appointed Principal of St Michael’s Grammar School in 1980 and, in 1981, he asked Stephen to come to St Michael’s, which had recently moved to full co-education, as its first Director of Studies. Stephen was to undertake a thorough review of its curriculum. In addition to a substantial administrative and teaching load at St Michael’s, Stephen also made a significant contribution to its outdoor education and co-curricular programs.
At the age of just 30, Stephen was appointed Principal of Hamilton College, commencing in 1986. Founded in the 1870s, Hamilton College had become co-educational in 1962 through the amalgamation of the Hamilton and Western District Boys’ College and the Alexandra (Girls’) College. This appointment was a formative experience for Stephen as by Melbourne standards Hamilton College was a small school, meaning the principal had to be directly involved in many areas of its operations (e.g. enrolments and marketing), which were devolved to others in larger schools. Many of his ideas and innovations at Hamilton were later reflected or extended when he was appointed Principal of Caulfield Grammar School, following the retirement of Rev. Angas Holmes. These included: the introduction of Mandarin Chinese at every year level; the marketing of the School overseas; the strengthening of the sport, music and drama programs; a significant building program; and increasing the school’s public profile through visits to the school by Vice-Regal and Government representatives, together with his own involvement in peak educational bodies.
Prior to Stephen taking up the position of Principal at Caulfield in 1993, the decision had been taken to extend co-education to all campuses. Girls were enrolled at the Caulfield and Malvern Campuses in a limited number of year levels for the first time in 1993. The Wheelers Hill Campus had been co-educational since its establishment in 1981. One of Stephen’s first decisions as Principal was to bring forward the introduction of full co-education, so that girls and boys were enrolled in all levels at each campus by 1995.
Another important early decision he initiated was to consider the establishment of a campus of the School in the People’s Republic of China. This came to fruition in 1998, when the Nanjing Campus was opened, providing Year 9 students with the opportunity to spend five weeks in China, their visit including time in Shanghai and in Beijing as well as in Nanjing. This initiative reflected Stephen’s view that his students, as members of a globally mobile workforce, would have many more opportunities than their parents and grandparents to live and work overseas. A structured program managed by the School in Nanjing would therefore provide them with the experience of living in a country of importance and significance in their region, but with a very different culture from their own. This would stand them in good stead for their respective futures. The establishment of the Nanjing Campus was “a first” for any school in Australia, and its subsequent success positioned Caulfield as a leader in the sector.
During Stephen’s time as Principal, Caulfield’s total enrolment grew from just under 2,000 to over 3,000 (with extensive waiting lists) and the enrolment of both girls and boys on all campuses became well established. It now became the largest Anglican school in Australia.
Improvements and new developments
Amongst the many improvements to the fabric of the School in Victoria were: the establishment of Early Learning Centres at both the Malvern and Wheelers Hill Campuses (for three and four year old children); the Twin Halls Project (providing the same auditorium and performing arts facility at both secondary campuses, combined with the Chapel of St Mary and Function Room at Wheelers Hill Campus and the Music School, Creative Arts School and Archive Centre at Caulfield Campus); the refurbishment of the gymnasium, the enclosing of the pool, the refurbishment and extension of classroom clusters in Junior and Senior schools, and the upgrading of the ovals at Wheelers Hill Campus; the refurbishment and extension of the Chapel of St Paul, the construction of the Lindsay Thompson Sports and Physical Education Centre, the Roy Hoult Centre and Hepworth Centre at Caulfield Campus; the refurbishment of the Leckey Wing for younger students and the construction of the Year 5 and 6 Building at Malvern Campus; the construction of the Ullin Centre (gymnasium, physical education and office facility) in the Junior School at Wheelers Hill Campus; the construction of the Earth Studies Centre (Wadambawillam – “meeting place”), Eco Cabins, and new Dairy at Yarra Junction Campus (all to introduce a new strand of learning in environmental studies); and the development of the infrastructure necessary for the widespread use of computer technology across the School.
Other new programs and developments during Stephen’s principalship included: the introduction of Learning Mentors to work with specialist teachers in Years 7 and 8 (with the aim of still better meeting the learning needs of every student); the introduction of the student-centred Learning Journeys program at Year 9 level and of VCE studies at Year 10 level; the further enhancement of the opportunities offered to students in music, theatre and the visual arts; the employment of external coaches in the sports program, which in turn made possible the introduction of professional development programs each week for all members of the teaching staff; and the deepening of the spiritual life of the School.
While at Caulfield Stephen continued his involvement in, and contribution to, the broader community through leadership positions in educational and other bodies. Appointments included: Chairman, National Council of Independent Schools’ Associations (1999-2002) – the peak body for the Independent Schools Sector in Australia; Chair, Association of Independent Schools of Victoria (1995-99); President, Centre for Strategic Education (2005-10); President, Incorporated Association of Registered Teachers of Victoria; Secretary, Executive, Victorian Branch, Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia; Founding Council Member, Victorian Institute of Teaching (2003-08); and Chair of the St Paul’s Cathedral Education Centre Committee.
Awards and honours
Stephen’s contributions were recognised through a number of awards, including: the Hedley Beare Educator of the Year Award, Australian Council for Educational Leaders (1999); the Sir James Darling Medal, Australian College of Educators (2010); the Jiangsu Friendship Award, Jiangsu Province, China (2010) – given in recognition of the contribution of those who are not Chinese citizens; and the John Laing Professional Development Award, Principals Australia (2011).
In the 2012 Australia Day Honours he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia “for distinguished service to education in the independent schools sector, through executive roles with professional organisations and advisory bodies, and to the development of educational development opportunities with China”. It is believed that Stephen was the first person to receive this level of recognition in Australia for a contribution solely to the schools’ sector. In 2013 he was one of a number of alumni to receive a Monash University Fellowship in recognition of distinguished service to the community and he was one of a hundred past students who were profiled in the Centenary History of the Old Scotch Collegians’ Association (1913-2013) because they were viewed as having reached the pinnacle in their fields.
Stephen was made a Fellow of the Caulfield Grammarians’ Association in 2010 for his outstanding contribution to both the School and to the Association during his time as Principal. The Fellowship was presented at the CGA’s 2010 Annual Dinner at which, in introducing the award, CGA Past President and then CGA Honorary Treasurer, Shane Dawes, made the following comments:
As you know, Stephen Newton announced in January that he will be retiring as Principal of our School at the end of the year. As second term has just commenced, and Stephen still has much work to do as Principal, this evening is certainly not one for farewells. Nevertheless, given that this is the last time that we will welcome him to our Annual Dinner as Principal, the CGA Committee feels that we should not let the occasion pass without recognizing the magnificent contribution that Stephen has made to our Association over the past 18 years.
During his term as Principal, Stephen has worked with nine CGA Presidents and four Executive Directors. He has always made time available to meet with them to discuss matters of mutual interest to the School and Association, and to offer support and advice regarding the various activities of the Association. Stephen has also attended CGA Committee meetings on a regular basis, providing Committee members with a very comprehensive report on the current activities of the School at each meeting and making many valuable contributions to the discussions that have taken place.
Stephen’s contribution to the Association’s reunion program has been outstanding. As Principal, he has attended numerous class reunions at which he has led tours of new School facilities, provided those present with an update on the activities and developments at their School, and spent time chatting with, and answering questions from, individual past students. He has also travelled to many reunions held interstate, particularly the functions held in Sydney and Brisbane each year, again providing those in attendance with a detailed report on the activities of the School. To the members of the CGA’s Chapters, particularly the older Grammarians who are members of our Buntine, Archer and Marsden Chapters, Stephen is now “old friend”. He has rarely missed a Chapter luncheon during his time as Principal and Chapter members are always eager to hear his School Report at these functions and to ask him questions about what is going on at the School.
In addition to being patron of the Caulfield Grammarians’ Football Club – the CGA’s largest affiliate – Stephen has been a strong supporter of the activities of all our affiliate bodies. Whenever one of our affiliates has sought assistance from the School, particularly with regard to the use of School facilities, Stephen has gone out of his way to help. The current healthy state of the CGA’s affiliate network is due, at least in part, to Stephen’s support and that of the School generally.
The award of Fellowship is the highest honour that can be bestowed on a member of the Caulfield Grammarians’ Association. The criteria for the award of Fellowship are listed in tonight’s program and I am sure that when reading them you will agree with the CGA Committee’s unanimous decision to award a Fellowship to Stephen Newton. As a Fellow, Stephen also becomes an honorary life member of the Caulfield Grammarians’ Association.
Therefore, in awarding a Fellowship to Stephen Newton tonight, the CGA not only recognizes the magnificent contribution that he has made to the Association, and the Caulfield Grammar School community, as Principal of our School, but also welcomes him as a continuing member of our great Association beyond his term as Principal.
Retirement and beyond
When Stephen announced that he had decided to conclude his term as Principal at the end of 2010, he quoted Matthew Lloyd’s words when he announced his own retirement as Captain of the Essendon Football Club – “better a season too early than a season too late.” A Facebook site then appeared called: Mr Newton shouldn’t retire from Caulfield Grammar School at the end of 2010. It quickly attracted some 2,000 followers and remained active through to 2014. Stephen subsequently agreed to continue as Principal for first term 2011 to help ensure a smooth transition to his successor.
Since his retirement as Principal, Stephen has maintained his involvement with the Caulfield Grammarians’ Football Club as its Patron and has retained his commitment to, and interest in, the Caulfield Grammar School community. He is a regular visitor to the School and often attends School and CGA functions, including class reunions and alumni luncheons. A day house was established at Caulfield Campus in his name in 2012 and he chose as its Motto “Into the Future with Confidence”. The Nanjing Campus has been named “Newton Hall” in his honour. He visited the Nanjing Campus for the first time since his retirement as Principal when the 20th anniversary of its opening by the then State Governor Sir James Gobbo, was celebrated in 2018.
Stephen has sought to make his next contribution to the community through voluntary involvement with Boards in the community welfare sector. To this end, he has served as Chair of the Board of Anglicare Victoria and is currently a Trustee of the Hugh D T Williamson Foundation, a Director of the Epworth Medical Foundation, and an advisor to other Foundations. He was recently appointed as Chair of the Board of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, like Anglicare a major Anglican welfare agency. He also provides mentoring advice to current school principals and continues his interest in the independent school sector.
Stephen is a valued member of the CGS Foundation. He is the third longest serving Principal/Headmaster of Caulfield Grammar School.