04 Sep 2020

A letter from the Head, 4 September 2020

Alex Hems, Head of St George's School for GirlsDear Parents and Guardians

I hope that the first couple of weeks of term have gone well from your perspective and that your daughters are settling back into the daily routines of school life, albeit slightly different ones. We have been impressed with their adaptability and I would like to convey my thanks to you for your support of all the measures that we have in place to maintain a safe and healthy environment at school, for everyone. I know that for some of our younger girls, a full week back at school was very tiring last week; I am sure they are all sleeping well when they get home!

You will be aware that we are beginning to expand our co-curricular programme; we know how much that matters to you and to the girls. So many of the activities that we traditionally run operate across many year groups; we usually celebrate the links between girls of different ages that this encourages, but at the moment we have to try to minimise this mixing and so this has inevitably limited what we are able to offer. Nonetheless, technology is coming to the rescue, enabling us to run Debating via Teams for example. With UK Space Design, plenty of hockey, music ensembles, socially distanced play rehearsals, Amnesty International and Music Technology all on offer, it is good to see that there is still plenty to choose from. We look forward to being able to add more into the programme in due course. We are delighted that we have been able to resume lending books from the Upper and Lower School Libraries, and girls heard about how the excellent ‘Book a Book’ will work through our on-line assemblies this week.

This week our Upper 6 have been hearing about the experiences of the 2019 Leavers, who joined us via Teams again, after their first year at university, and gleaning invaluable advice from them. For our leavers of 2020, university terms begin over the next few weeks. We have been working closely with a number of them, while they wait for their final grades to be confirmed; this has been a difficult time but we are delighted to hear good news from them as their plans fall into place. As yet we do not have definitive information about timings of SQA or GCSE examinations next summer; we will let you know as soon as we can, but, as I have said before, please do bear in mind the possibility that GCSE examinations at least may extend into what is usually our summer holiday period.

We returned to school determined to hold on to, and build upon the best of what we learned as professionals from the experience of Supported Home Learning. We have expanded Mr Leask’s role as E-Learning Coordinator, and are grateful to all of you who have responded so positively to our move towards Bring Your Own Device, especially in the Upper School. This has enabled us to progress very much more quickly than we anticipated. We are aware that there are teething issues to iron out still in some areas, but it has been exciting to hear my colleagues speaking so enthusiastically about new ways of working that mean that they can make even more effective use of precious classroom time with the girls, and can offer more immediate and nuanced feedback using Class Notebook for example. Equally heartening has been the feedback from so many girls, that the experience of lockdown has made them appreciate their teachers, the opportunities available to them, and the sense of community of school all the more. Balance is all; I do not believe that digital technology can ever replicate the magic that a great teacher weaves in the classroom, with their knowledge, warmth, skill and passion. A great teacher knows, however, when and how to use all the tools available to ensure the best possible experience for a class.

I wish you all a very good weekend.

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

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