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29 Jan 2021

A Message from the Head, 29 January

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

I hope that you and your families are all well and finding your own ways through this current situation. Thank you to all those of you who took the time to complete our questionnaire last week. We are still working through the results, and will be able to let you know the headlines when I write at the end of next week. We are aware that many girls have noted an increase in workload, especially at the upper end of the school, and we started to take steps to address that last week, so I hope that your daughters have seen a difference in the last few days. Like everyone else, we are trying to find the right balance in life at the moment, and for teachers that means ensuring that we are still able to cover courses appropriately and monitor your daughters’ progress, while being acutely aware that we do not want the girls to be on their screens for any longer than necessary.

Junior School girls this week have been involved in Scottish-related activities inspired by Robert Burns’ celebrations. Designing their own tartans, reciting poetry and hand-made thistles in vibrant colours and exciting collage materials to name but a few. Primary 4 girls enjoyed their day dressing up as World War II evacuees yesterday, complete with gas masks and a packed lunch for their train journey out to the country. This weekend, Junior School girls have been encouraged to count the number of birds who visit their gardens as part of the RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch. At the online Upper 6 Burns Supper, the girls took on all the roles other than the Toast to the Lassies, showing expertise in chairing, reciting the Selkirk Grace and the Address to the Haggis, singing 'My Love is like a Red, Red Rose' beautifully, presenting an excellent Toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns, and replying in robust fashion to the Toast to the Lassies. The Vote of Thanks was heartfelt and well deserved. That the girls wanted to bring this event together is an indication of how much these school traditions mean to them, and was a very important opportunity for them to come together as a year group.

Next week is Children’s Mental Health Week, which is certainly a well-timed initiative. Our School Nurse Mrs Stirling will be writing to you today with information about events and links that you may find helpful to access either as a family or as parents, if you are concerned about your daughter’s mood and wellbeing. In addition to the regular wellbeing questionnaires that we use with the girls in Lower and Upper School, we are also monitoring girls’ engagement in lessons closely, and where we have concerns members of our pastoral team make contact directly with the girls, or with you, in order to establish what may be the underlying cause. We are keen that girls remain connected with one another as much as possible, and as part of this, actively encourage them to put their cameras on, at least at some point during their lessons. Mr Verrecchia will be writing to you about this today as well. We realise that some girls are self-conscious about being seen on screen, and certainly do not wish to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but I hope that they will find, that if they do have the chance to see one another during lessons, it will increase their feeling of engagement and connectedness.

We are aware that there has been a high level of demand for appointments for individual meetings with subject staff during Options Week next week. Thank you for your patience while we make these appointments; we realise how important it is for you and your daughters to have the chance to talk with teachers about these decisions. Mrs Edwards will be writing today to let you know about additional arrangements that we are putting in place, to offer you a variety of ways in which your questions can be answered.

With my best wishes to you all,

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

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