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23 Mar 2018

Alex Hems: Head's Blog Mar 23, 2018

A2.SMY AlexHems096 Crop 250wAs I write I think we must all be hoping that we might be turning the corner into spring at last. The weather has proved frustrating this term with a number of sports fixtures postponed or cancelled but in recent days we have nonetheless seen some excellent results in both hockey and lacrosse which bode well for the years ahead as a sign of the strength in the teams across the school. This week it has been the turn of the creative arts to take centre stage as it were. The Primary 6 girls impressed us on Friday with their collaborative project, Play in a Day, which saw them re-telling the Orpheus myth through music, art and drama, supported by senior students and staff. On Monday many of them were performing in the Dance Showcase, an event that is put together by our Sports Leaders in the Upper School, and featured tap, Irish, lyrical and modern dance. The energy and sheer joy of the girls in their dancing was uplifting to see. On Thursday night we were treated to a Choral concert which featured some moving and beautiful solos. It was a great pleasure to hear Junior and Upper School students singing together and also to sense the pleasure of all the performers in their music. The programme has  certainly whetted our appetite for the Senior Spring Concert next Wednesday evening.

I would like to thank the parents and members of the wider St George's community who joined us in Dalgety Bay last week. It was fascinating to hear from alumnae about their experiences of the school over many years of our history and the event enabled us to understand more about your reasons for choosing St George's for your daughters. We were grateful to current parents who took the time to share their experiences with families who are considering joining us, and we have learned more about your needs in terms of transport to and from school. This is an area that we continue to work on. We hope to hold similar events in other locations outside Edinburgh in due course. Anne Everest 240wMore immediately, however, I am delighted to be able to let you know about the formal opening of our new sports pavilion, which will take place on the morning of Saturday 12th May; you will be receiving more information about this via School Post. Please bring friends, family and your trainers and enjoy some lighthearted participation in a wide variety of sports with your children. Mrs Anne Everest, my predecessor and a key player in the early days of this project will be returning to open the new building, which will bear her name as a mark of our gratitude to her for her energy, commitment and vision.

Thank you too to all those of you who took the time to complete the questionnaires that we sent out a few weeks ago. I know that some of you found the range of available responses to be frustrating; I should explain that these questions and the framework for responses are drawn up by Education Scotland  and therefore not within our control. We have nonetheless found the exercise very helpful in guiding the next stage of our strategic planning, and I am grateful for all of your comments. We recognise your wish to have more information about assessment in school and your daughters' progress, and we will be working on ways to convey that information to you more effectively.

I am pleased to be able to tell you about some curriculum developments which we are preparing to roll out for the next school session. Lower School at St George's offers us a unique opportunity to focus on the developmental needs of 10-13year old girls on the Lansdowne campus. The facilities and environment of this part of the school enable us to introduce Secondary education in Remove, or Primary 7, with the girls benefiting from specialist teaching in all their subjects at that stage, and learning to organise themselves as they move from lesson to lesson, but within the smaller and contained setting of Lansdowne. Parents of girls in Primary 6 will know that their daughters have had a double period of specialist science teaching once a week this year. Next year we will start teaching discrete sciences to Lower 4 students for the first time, rather than waiting until the move to Upper 4. We will also offer the languages carousel to Remove in addition to Lower 4 next session, enabling the girls to have an additional year to focus on the languages they have chosen, from French, German, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Girls in Remove will also have a single period of Latin every week, which previously had not been available until Lower 4. These changes will allow longer for more thorough preparation for GCSE, and enable us to capitalise on the benefits of starting formal teaching of a foreign language in Primary 5. Further up the school, we will be offering Computing GCSE for the first time next session, and are excited to be introducing the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) to our Lower 5/Upper 5 curriculum. This will give those students who select it the chance to work more independently on an individual research project with the potential to lead to a qualification and, perhaps more importantly will foster in them a level of intellectual skill and maturity which will be invaluable as they move into the Sixth Form and embark on university applications.

The final days of term will be busy up to the very last moment. Senior girls will of course be focusing on revision but I hope that you are all able to spend some restorative time together over the holiday. With my best wishes to you all

Mrs Alex Hems MA Oxon
Head, St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

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