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18 Dec 2020

End of term Message, December 2020

One of the things that I have missed very much this term has been the chance to meet and get to know the parents and former pupils who make up the wider St George’s community. For those of you who have been new to St George’s this term I hope that your daughters have settled down happily and that they feel very much at home here now. I realise, however that we have not had the chance to spend time with you as parents in the way we usually would, at our Welcome Evenings, at school productions, concerts, Parent Teacher meetings or by the side of the hockey pitch while you watch your daughters play on a Saturday morning. Strong relationships are at the heart of this school, and I very much hope that in the course of 2021 we will be able to get to know you better.

I hope, however, that you have been able to sense something of the sort of school that St George’s is. This term I have been meeting one to one with all the girls in the Upper 6, as I always do at this time in the year. When I ask them what being here has meant to them, one of the answers that I hear most frequently is that it has felt like being part of a family. The strong sense of community that runs through St George’s is something that I have felt very powerfully this term. While we have not been able to see you as much as we usually would, we have been very grateful for your messages of support and encouragement for all that we are trying to do here. I know that the senior girls, who would usually have been working closely with younger students, as form prefects, House Captains, mentors or as paired reading buddies, have missed this aspect of their role but it has been so encouraging to see their resourcefulness, in finding ways to meet up outside for example, or to record messages and assemblies for the younger ones. As far as possible, we have wanted life to continue as normal for the girls, against a backdrop of one way systems, hand sanitisers and operating within their year-group bubbles. We have not had whole-school assemblies of course, but we have had a full programme of pre-recorded talks given by staff and students every week. The traditional cross-year House events have been tricky, but the resourcefulness and creativity of teachers and House captains alike has led to plenty of safe opportunities for fun and the normal friendly rivalry.

The values of teamwork have always been integral to this school; the whole community is enriched by the achievements of individuals within it. Never before I think, have we been so acutely aware of how much we all need one another in order to succeed. All our ‘Live’ on-line events such as Information Evenings, PTF meetings and Parents’ Evenings have been prepared and supported by our indefatigable IT staff, who have kept us connected with you. In the course of this term some of our support staff and teachers have been unwell or required to self-isolate. I would like to pay tribute to the efforts that they have made to continue working from home, and to those colleagues who have stepped in to keep the school running as smoothly as possible, for example the Finance Team who have cheerfully helped out with playground duties in Lower School.  Our Catering staff have been at the heart of keeping the school healthy, not only with their cooking but by providing the additional cleaning regimes across the site during the school day, and by greeting the girls every morning with a dash of hand sanitiser and a very cheerful smile. And of course, the creativity and versatility of my teaching colleagues has not ceased to amaze me. One group of parents whom I have had the chance to talk to face to face this term has been the hardworking team who run the Uniform Exchange. We are so grateful to you for staying open, and providing, so cheerfully, such a valuable service to all our families, especially as we all want to have more spare items of uniform at home at the moment.

I know that many of you and your daughters will have been disappointed that we have not been able to welcome you to the various concerts and productions that have such a key part to play in the final weeks of this term. It has saddened us all to have to cancel 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. The Upper School play has taken a different form this year, and we look forward to letting you see this work very soon. On Friday we will be able to share 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 splendour of the cathedral 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’.

My best wishes to you all. I hope that, in the midst the prevailing uncertainty and anxiety of the present, you all manage to find some much needed time of peace over the holiday period.

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

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