From the Principal: 23 March 2020

From the Principal: 23 March 2020

Melbourne Girls Grammar considers the health and safety of every member of our community to be of utmost importance. Considering the developing status of COVID-19 and the global impact, the School acknowledges the importance of responding in an agile manner, utilising the most up-to-date information. To this end I write this Messenger as Principal in very unchartered waters and leading in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) times. 

One of the many strengths of MGGS is our innovative work in the learning technology space and in our ability to deliver our curriculum online in remote settings. It is now time to put this learning into action. From Tuesday 17 March until the end of the term our Grammarians will be learning at home. By taking this initiative we can facilitate a smooth transition to remote learning in a calm and timely manner. We have the infrastructure and capability to provide for this scenario and to deliver our curriculum remotely. This has been a difficult decision and has been discussed and considered with the support of the School Executive and School Council. 

Our Grammarians are very prepared for this and I am confident that they will engage in their remote digital schooling with a positive approach. Education will continue and it will be exciting to see what kind of rich learning we can co-create in this alternative setting. I have met with every student cohort from Prep through to Year 12 and have communicated why we are doing this and my expectations over the next little while. I have instructed our Grammarians that they will need to stay at home during this time and to treat each day as a school day, allocating time for each of their subjects, just as if they were at school. Their teachers are also very well prepared and will have regular contact with all students, digitally. I have reinforced in this communication to our students, that if they are unsure of what to do, they are to just ask and know that our conscientious teachers are there for them, because of them. With any situation there will be wrinkles to iron out and our staff will be proactively problem solving as we go. It is most important that our Grammarians receive a consistent and undisrupted education. This is a learning opportunity for us all and pre-emptive communication is the key. 

This is an ethical decision. In these unpredictable times, it is incumbent upon all of us to protect ourselves and vulnerable members of our community. In the first line of our MGGS Vision, we speak of ‘ethical women of action’, we know that our MGGS community will adopt these measures in solidarity with the broader community. I am confident that our students will exercise self-discipline and commitment to the continuation of their learning and demonstrate compassion and integrity in response to the evolving circumstances. 

Premier Daniel Andrews declared an unprecedented state of emergency in Victoria, and the state will be taking extraordinary measures to limit contact between groups of people. Social distancing is an important measure and our remote learning model supports this. Our MGGS values based philosophy, and ethical framework means that we must act; we know that our MGGS community will adopt these measures in unity in the support of ensuring the safety of all Victorians. We have been preparing for this since the global outbreak in January and have kept our community informed. 

Our actions to date include: 

  • From the beginning of the academic year, MGGS has been vigilant in ensuring the health and safety of the community. 

  • We have been proactive and established a self-quarantine period early on. 

  • We have actively reinforced hand and respiratory hygiene across our campuses. 

  • Our Emergency Response Action plan was reviewed and refined to incorporate these unprecedented conditions. 

  • Teaching and Professional Services Staff were prepared with relevant communications, training and information about what COVID-19 means for their area and have been planning accordingly to safeguard against Business-as-Usual impacts. 

  • Online portals with access to materials have been updated to improve the user experience. 

  • Appropriate learning and teaching platforms have been tested to ensure minimal disruption. 

  • The School’s Executive have met daily to review and revise our Action Plan.

  • Council have been involved in discussions as have members of our parent and Old Grammarian communities to ensure everyone is aware of the measures the School is taking and the decision making process enacted. 

  • From Wednesday 18 March, learning and teaching were provided remotely ensuring an uninterrupted 8-day period leading up to the Term 1 break. 

  • Further decisions about the return to school will be made as new information arises.  

We will remain proactive, agile and vigilant in ensuring the safety of our community and that of all Victorians by the contribution we can make to ensuring healthy practices and understanding within the community around COVID-19.  

During this unsettling time, our Boarders have shown great resilience and fortitude. They have been united in their support for each other and I know that they are very pleased to return to the care of their families and guardians. For some of our international Boarders who cannot return to their homes, the very best of care is being provided. Thank you to Ms Amanda Haggie, Ms Kerry Bacon, Ms Dimity Harris, Ms Luci Ellis and our Residential Staff for their calm and careful approach. 

Congratulations to our entire MHRC family.  Even with the cancellation of the Head of School Girls Regatta over the weekend, our rowers’ sense of comradery and upholding of our school values is inspiring.   The message we strongly communicate to our Grammarians is that the joy of participation and teamwork are the most important keys to any sport. Thank you to our families for supporting their daughters in the rigorous training and build up for the event and thank you to Mr Angus Seller, Mr Anthony Bruhn, Mr Alistair Matthews, Ms Sally Bailey and all the rowing coaches who have worked with our Grammarians this season. Additionally, thank you to our Rowing Captains Beatrix and Millie for the exemplary leadership in the face of disappointment. 

One of the hallmarks of great schools is strong governance and leadership over time. On Saturday 14 March we held our annual School Council Strategy Day. On this day we focused on the strengths of the Council and the delivery of our new Strategic Plan. It was a day of discussion and visioning. School Council and its overarching governance of our community is often not something talked about in Messenger. However, it is important to take time to say thank you for the important role the Council plays in supporting me as Principal to lead the School in the provision of the best possible educational outcomes for our Grammarians. Each Councillor brings their own valuable life skills and knowledge to the role and I am regularly reminded when we meet of the thoughtful approach each one gives to ensuring that MGGS is one of the finest schools in the world. At this time of year, the School Council ratifies the 2019 Annual Report and so I have been working on this document and reflecting upon the contribution of many to support our Grammarians. The 2019 Annual Report is a tangible sign of a community walking and working together with common goals; it is my belief that this happens because of our School Council acting as a strong foundation.

Our School Council processes are characterised by a mutual sharing of information, knowledge and ideas and at our meetings, there is a focus on dialogue in which all can exchange information, share experiences and honestly express their perspectives. Each Councillor does this in a voluntary capacity and with a generosity of spirit that I am grateful for. At the end of this month we farewell our longest serving Council member, Deputy Chair, Chair of the Development Committee, Ms Tania Brougham commenced her role on Council in April 2011, and has completed nine years of service to MGGS. Tania’s role with the Development and Engagement Committee meant she oversaw the most successful Annual Giving Program in the School’s history, raising sufficient funds for three full scholarships in one day. Tania brings to the Council a special measure of positivity, empathy and an eye for developing the organisation. Tania will be sadly missed from the Sub-committees, but more importantly from her engagement with so many members of the community.

At this challenging time, I encourage you to reflect on the following quote from the Kindness Factory titled #OneSmallAct: 

‘Every handshake that we don’t make must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise. Our COVID-19 pact.’ 

In 1942, during World War 2, MGGS was evacuated to Marysville under the leadership of our sixth Principal D.J. Ross. The crisis united our scholars and they developed a resilience and loyalty to one another and to the School. It is part of our history and so too is this. I take inspiration from D.J. Ross at this complex time. 

It is important to me that our Grammarians gain a years growth of learning for a year, and so we will purposefully roll out our remote learning with this in mind. As parents and guardians, you will be an important partner in your daughter’s learning in the ‘at home’ context. In the next edition of our Messenger early next term we will gather examples of what this looks like in the MGGS setting.

Take care everyone. Be safe. Keep communicating. 

Author

Dr Toni E. Meath, Principal