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05 Feb 2021

A Letter from the Head, 5 February

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

As we reach the end of this first half of term, I would like to congratulate all the girls for their high levels of engagement in supported home learning over the last four weeks. Thank you in turn for your support of the school by encouraging your daughters in adopting productive working routines and for assisting them in their Supported Home Learning in so many ways.

I am most grateful to those of you who took the time to fill in our recent questionnaire which we asked parents in Primary 6 upwards to complete; your feedback has been immensely helpful. 190 of you took part. The headlines are that 91% of respondents were very satisfied or fairly satisfied with our provision of supported home learning, which we have found most encouraging. We are keen to keep reviewing and refining the amount of work that we are setting; over 70% said they feel that we have the volume of work about right, but notably 22% report it being too high, and for 8% it feels too low. Many of you have commented on homework and feel that your daughters are spending too much time on screen and working after the end of the school day. Since issuing the survey we have taken steps to pare back the amount of homework we are setting across the school, so I hope that you are beginning to notice that difference, but it is something that we will continue to keep under review after half term. We are particularly concerned to monitor the girls’ wellbeing at the moment, and so it was, I suppose, encouraging to read that just over half of respondents felt that their daughters have adapted well to current circumstances and are able to make the best of the situation. This says a great deal for the girls’ resilience and positive approach. We note with concern although not surprise, that just over a quarter have noticed changes in their daughters’ mood and wellbeing.  All the feedback that you have given, especially about individual subjects and preferred styles of learning has been very helpful, and we will put this data to good use in our planning for the next few weeks of teaching. Our aim, above all, is to find the right balance for the girls, so that they continue to thrive not only academically but personally during this period. We know that we must continue to learn and keep what we are offering under review as the situation evolves.

We appreciate that this is an especially challenging time for the girls who would have been taking examinations this summer. After half term we hope to have more information from the GCSE examination boards about the procedures they will have in place for awarding of grades in the summer. Once this information is forthcoming, we will be able to publish a clear calendar for the girls. We now know that the Centre Assessed Grades for SQA qualifications must be submitted by 18th June. This allows us a substantial amount of time to work productively with Lower and Upper 6 students. Please be reassured that they will be told well in advance if a particular piece of work will count as evidence for their grades.

We are making plans now for the safe return of our Nursery through to Primary 3 pupils, from 22nd February, pending confirmation on 16th February. We are also putting together a timetable for girls in Upper 5 and above to come into school as necessary in order to complete practical tasks, and will be in contact as soon as possible after half term with the details.

This has been Children’s Mental Health Week, which has provided a focus for activities across the school, focusing on mental wellbeing. We are aware of the strain that lockdown is placing on families and young people and are conscious that remote learning inevitably increases screen time. On 25th February we will be hosting a live webinar for parents and staff at 7pm, led by Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist, lecturer and advisor to government. Dr Sigman will speak on Preventing Mental Health Problems in Children. We are delighted to be able to work with Dr Sigman, and I hope that you will find this event useful. Mr Verrecchia will be writing with further information about how to register to join us for the webinar.

I hope you all stay well and that your daughters are able to have a proper break and a rest over half term.

With best wishes,

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

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