Over the last five months, our community has lived the uncertainty of the COVID-19 experience, and unfortunately, it continues. As I write this, we find ourselves in an increasingly concerning situation. The Victorian borders are closed, we are in Stage 3 Restrictions as a city and the lived reality is indeed worrying.
It is difficult to speculate what may happen next, however, what we do know is that we are stronger together when we care for each other as a community. I know that as a school we can rally well and support the processes in place to keep everyone safe and strong. When the COVID-19 pandemic first unfolded we did not know what we do now. We have bought time and understanding, and this has enabled MGGS to put into place a fulsome Emergency Response Plan and set up protocols and procedures to minimise transference of the virus. Given the fluid and rapidly changing nature of this crisis and the fact governments are taking unprecedented measures to deal with it, we are considering all possible scenarios. I know this, too, is of little consolation, but one of the hard lessons of this pandemic is that it defies predictions.
At this stage, our Years 10, 11 and 12 have returned to face to face learning at Merton Hall, our Barbara Tolson Centre is open and our Prep to Year 9 students are off campus until the government guides us to return. The staff who interface directly with our students are on campus supporting their learning, however, the staff who can work from home are. It is essential that we all play our part in enacting our safety and hygiene practices ‘to the letter’.
There are a number of measures we have put in place:
- Temperature checking on arrival – staff and students
- Voluntary, fortnightly COVID testing on campus – staff and students – to help identify non sympomatic cases
- Education of our students on campus regarding COVID and safe practices from our Medical Advisor
- Emergency Response Plan should an outbreak occur within our community and from one of our girls, or staff on campus
- Regular communication to our community via Messenger, eVI and Parent emails regarding our response to changes in the wider community and government information and actions.
If we do have a case of COVID-19, we will do as our Emergency Response Plan states and we will contact the health authorities, close the school, enact contract tracing and do a deep clean of the school. We will continue to communicate clearly and frequently with our community as we have all the way through since late January when the pandemic first came to light.
There is understandably a nervousness from staff, students and community. On the first day of our Senior students returning, I visited each class with our School Medical Advisor and paediatrician, Dr Lisa Barrow and Mrs Broadway to stress the importance of hygiene practices, social distancing and keeping each other safe. Dr Barrow spoke to our Grammarians about why this is important, how to wear a mask properly and answered a multitude of good questions.
This weekend, the Victorian government announced that mask wearing would be compulsory from midnight on Wednesday. We have adopted the approach that all students on campus will wear face masks to ensure the safety of everyone. Teaching staff will wear masks beyond the classroom however, in the classroom it is not mandatory for teachers to wear masks and we will leave this choice for them. Our younger Grammarians in the Barbara Tolson Centre do not need to wear a mask if they choose not to. This is in line with the announcement made today by Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education, James Melino. We have purchased surgical masks until the reusable cloth masks that we have on order arrive. These will be supplied to all students in Years 10-12 and have the ability to fit a PM 2.5 filter or layer of paper towel between the outer layer and the cloth that fits against the face. It is important that masks are worn correctly and are made of the right material. They are not a fashion statement but an added protection to safeguard our community when used alongside other hygiene measures such as hand washing and sanitisation, good ventilation and 1.5 metre distancing.
Reports and Parent Teacher Interviews
All Grammarians, excepting our VCE students, received their Semester 1 Report on the last day of Term 2 and will be invited to Parent/Teacher/Student Interviews via Zoom. School Reports are legal documents that are an educational professional diagnosis and record of the learner’s progress. These reports written during the COVID-19 pandemic reflect assessment of a different style of learning. On reading the Reports, one key observation has been that students are clearly able to show independence in their learning, reflective of their age and maturity. For some of our Grammarians, the off-campus learning seemed to promote greater engagement and for some it was difficult.
Our VCE Grammarians have now received their Semester 1 Reports after the extension of time for Units 1 and 3 and will also be engaging in Parent/Teacher/Student interviews via Zoom. I am so pleased that we continued to implement School Assessed Components (SACs) during the remote learning phase in Term 2 for these students. It allowed our Grammarians to continue with their learning in the last few weeks of Term 2, rather than halting for a stockpile of SACs to be completed at the School when they returned. The VCE Reports reflect adherence to the Victorian Curriculum Assessment and Authority (VCAA) guidelines and processes and upholds the integrity of the VCE Study Designs.
These Reports are a snapshot in time, and I am incredibly proud of our students and teachers for embracing the challenges of learning remotely. We are here to support each Grammarian in their learning and scaffold the learning continuum in a personalised way, ensuring solid foundations on which to build conceptual understanding, knowledge and skills.
This week with Messenger we are providing the opportunity for parents to provide feedback on how their daughters are managing with the changed circumstances. We have made a few alterations to the survey format from last term to better determine how we can support our families. Should you want to talk to a member of the staff about your daughter or her progress, please indicate that at the end of your feedback and use the comments field to define the area you would like to cover. As always, you can contact the School at any time via email or our main phone line (9862 9200).
Events in Term 3
Again, we find ourselves faced with the need to review our calendar of events this term. This is one of the unfortunate impacts of the pandemic. Our school has prided itself on the many ways we bring our community together each year – to celebrate the achievements of our students, to be entertained by their voices, musicality and dramatic expression, and through community events such as the Navy Blue Lunch.
We all love the Navy Blue Lunch, every year it’s an opportunity to gather together and over recent years a time to raise funds for the Scholarship program at the School. If you were planning to support the NBL this year, perhaps consider donating the price of your usual ticket to our Annual Giving Scholarship program instead. To date over 110 people have given to the School as we have raised 68% more money in support of student scholarship this year. This is a clear sign of the strength of our community to get behind a cause that supports girls who would not otherwise be able to attend our school.
The School will work with the Parents Association to develop something special when the time is right. We sincerely hope we can all come together again as a community soon.
Our uniform is distinctive and an outward sign to the public of affiliation with our fine School. Our Grammarians like our uniform and mostly wear it well, and on returning to school at the beginning of the academic year they demonstrated just how well they could wear it. However, fast forward to Term 3 and I think complacency has set in and perhaps with the disruption caused by off campus learning, the standards have slipped. To this end, we will be enforcing a blitz on uniform and holding the students to account.
In 2019 we introduced optional tailored navy trousers to be worn in Terms 2 and 3 and optional tailored navy shorts to be worn in Terms 1 and 4. It has been terrific to see our Grammarians wearing the trousers, however, a reminder of how to wear them correctly is timely and important. They are to be worn with the fawn socks and not to be rolled up. In addition to being worn correctly, I ask that you ensure the correct MGGS uniform pants are worn. Please note that these can only be purchased through our uniform shop and are not available elsewhere. The winter shirt needs to be tucked in and the tie worn knotted to the collar with the shirt buttons done up correctly. Blazers should be worn to and from school and the jumper should never be worn as the outer garment when the Grammarians leave the School grounds. The only exception to this is our Year 12 students, who have their VCE jumper and hoodie that can be worn as their outer garment.
A welcome change to our uniform is that navy tights have been introduced for our Grammarians from Years 5 to 12. This change has occurred as a response to listening to student voice in their desire to change the colour as it was strongly felt by the student cohort that more Grammarians would wear tights if the colour changed. Our Early Years and Prep to Year 4 will remain in fawn tights going forward, and Years 5-12 will have the option of both colours in 2020, and from 2021 there will only be navy tights for Years 5 to 12. The navy tights are now in stock for purchase online and in store at our Uniform Shop. Mrs Samantha Wilson can assist you with sizing and our uniform requirements. It is important that the tights and all garments including trousers are purchased at our MGGS Uniform Shop so that the correct pantone colour (MGGS navy) and style are worn.
Also, a reminder, that long hair should be tied up for health and safety reasons, that nail polish and make up are not worn and jewellery is kept to a minimum of a single set of earrings and watch. I thank you for your support in ensuring your daughter leaves home each morning appropriately attired.
Presently, in our world, there are a lot of unknowns. To concede that we don’t know the answer to every question is to acknowledge the humbleness of being human. We have all found ourselves without a script and working together to make careful, practical and sensible decisions whether that be with our family, friends or as a school. When we have good people around us, we can accept that the answers will come when the collective is invested and there is open, and honest communication. I am grateful that our community is connected and caring. We will weather this together and in the words of our Chaplain, Revered Kirsty Ross ‘all will be well’.
Take care, remain hopeful, stay safe and well.