Leaders look forward to a return to ‘normal’

Emma Begg readily admits to a few first-day nerves when school returned for 2022.

“Yes, definitely. I know how those new Reception boys felt,” said Mrs Begg, who this year joined Blackfriars as our new Head of Primary.

“It’s a big step starting school for the first time – and that also goes for a new Head of Primary!”

Head of Primary Emma Begg with students.

Mrs Begg – who replaced Frank Ali following his retirement at the end of last year – joined Blackfriars after 16 years at St Joseph’s School Kingswood and a stint as Acting Deputy Principal at St Francis of Assisi Newton.

She said the start of the school year had been challenging, but amazing.

“It certainly wasn’t the start we anticipated, with the hybrid return-to-school model, but we were all in the same boat,” she said.

“I was coming from an environment where I’d been for a long time, and I knew the job inside and out, so I quickly had to learn a new way of doing things, in a new school environment, while building relationships with lots of different people.

“But it’s been amazing. Everyone has been very welcoming and accommodating and we’re all on the same journey.

“Despite the challenges, it’s been great to be able to have events like the Primary Swimming Carnival and the ELC to Year 6 Sports Day, just to name a few.”

And she was looking forward to the rest of the year to come.

“The main thing for me is, hopefully, returning to some kind of normality,” she said.

Mrs Begg is part of a new-look leadership team at Blackfriars in 2022, with the school also welcoming a new Principal and Deputy Principal.

Principal David Ruggiero is certainly no stranger to Blackfriars.

He has spent a decade at the school, first as Assistant Principal: Religious Identity and Mission (APRIM) and then, from 2018, as Deputy Principal (Secondary).

Principal David Ruggiero with senior students.

He is also a Blackfriars old scholar and the first former student to be appointed Principal.

“There are always those first-day nerves and Covid provided us with a landscape that no one had traversed before,” Mr Ruggiero said of the start of the 2022 school year.

“But there was that sense of unity amongst staff, students and other schools because we were at the frontier of something challenging for everyone.

“It also galvanised us. We began the year in the most bizarre circumstances, with some students coming back, staff members in isolation, students in isolation, a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty. But I think we have been able to traverse that together.”

But, despite the challenges, Term 1 had been “incredibly successful”.

“I’ve loved the role and I’ve loved being able to work across the school, with different groups of people, from our boys, and the girls in ELC, our staff groups, our parents and the committees and boards … working with our chair David O’Loughlin on future strategies to continue the success of the school,” Mr Ruggiero said.

“Getting to know the boys and the new students and being able to welcome them into the school has been a real privilege.”

He echoed Mrs Begg’s sentiments, saying he was most looking forward to a return to “normality”.

“I’m looking forward to the celebrations where we invite families back onto the campus, community events, because people are the heart and soul of the school. Without them here, it really impacts who we are.”

Deputy Principal Brett Knowles with senior students.

New Deputy Principal Brett Knowles ­– who has worked in teaching for almost two decades, 12 of those at Blackfriars – said while the start of the 2022 school year had been challenging, it had also provided some real highs.

“I think the start of the year, that first day, is certainly a highlight,” Mr Knowles said.

“I think about my own time starting high school … I think about my own kids and their time starting new schools, and I think that was a highlight, seeing all the new boys come along, that’s a very special time.”

He said the Secondary Athletics Carnival, as well as the Ash Wednesday liturgies, held for the first time on the Front Oval due to COVID restrictions, also deserved recognition.

“I guess there are those elements that are going to be out of our control a bit … but I still anticipate the rest of the year will be really exciting,” he said.

“We’ll hopefully start seeing some more opportunities to do those things that we’ve probably been restricted a bit, both parents coming to school and us doing things outside of school.

“The COVID stuff, for every school, that’s been a really significant challenge. We’ve put lots of time into considering all the ‘what ifs’ so that we can continue learning and having a really good wellbeing environment for the students and some surety for families … but it’s a time when you just don’t know what you’re going to get.”


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