11 Dec 2020

Alex Hems, Head's Blog 11 December

Alex Hems, Head of St George's School for GirlsAs you are probably aware, Yes She Can has become an unofficial second motto for St George’s. I am so proud that, as we come towards the end of an extraordinary term, my colleagues and our students are still demonstrating just how brightly that flame of belief and commitment burns here. Every one of us carries our own set of anxieties and uncertainties at the moment, but these last few months have felt like the ultimate celebration of ingenuity, resilience and determination, and I know that that is true for every member of this community, students and staff.

Different and creative approaches to Drama have allowed us to continue to work on the Upper School production this term, and we look forward to sharing the students’ work with you in the course of next week, which showcases their talents in devising, writing, filming and editing, as well as their personal reflections on the experience of lockdown. University interviews for Oxford, Cambridge and medical schools have been carried out at school this year, with girls getting to grips not only with challenging tasks and questions as one would expect, but also with the additional demands of on-line interviews. We are very impressed by the way that they have all take this entirely in their stride. This week we heard that Higher and Advanced Higher examinations will not take place in 2021, news which undoubtedly came as a blow to many of the Lower and Upper Six students, who also experienced the cancellation of their exams this summer. We have taken steps since the very start of this year to ensure that we were capturing evidence of their attainment right across every course, and will be able to provide them with opportunities to continue doing so all the way until the end of May. While this has clearly been disappointing news, it is already evident that they are doing their best to look ahead positively and focus on their mock exams in January, showing formidable spirit.

The way in which the girls themselves embrace and embody the Yes She Can ethos was wonderfully and exuberantly brought home to me in an assembly devised and recorded by girls in Remove P, about the women’s suffrage movement, which also took an insightful look at the modern world, and how much there is still to achieve for women. After watching that assembly, however, I was left in little doubt that the next generation will be taking the world by storm in a few years’ time.

As I write I am listening to the moving recordings made of the finalists in the 2020 Young Singer and Young Musician of St George’s competitions. That these competitions were able to take place at all is a mark of the determination of the Music Department to continue to provide safe opportunities for performance, which is no mean feat amidst the current regulations. The link to watch these recordings can be found in Mr Thomson’s SchoolPost, sent out yesterday. I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I did, and join me in congratulating all the finalists, who played and sang to such an impressive standard.  It has saddened us all to have to cancel this year’s concerts, Nativity plays and Carol Services, which are such precious and much anticipated events. We have been able to record some elements of the girls’ work in preparation, however, which we can share at Break Up assemblies and on Teams at the end of term. Next week we also look forward to sharing with you the work that has been done to capture the essence of the Upper School Carol Service, which would usually take place at St Giles on the last day of term. The Carol Service is always a truly special occasion, from the traditional candle-lit procession, the achingly beautiful solo performances, the familiarity of the readings to the splendor of the setting. A chance for the community to gather, poised on the threshold of term and holiday, for those of us in the congregation it is a priceless moment of stillness between school, and the hurly-burly of the Christmas holiday. For me it has always evoked TS Eliot’s memorable line, ‘the still point of the turning world’. I hope that, in the midst the prevailing uncertainty of the present, you all manage to find some time of peace over the holiday period when it arrives.

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


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