22 Feb 2021

A Letter from the Head, 22 February

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

It has been a busy and purposeful first week back in lessons after the half term break. We were delighted to hear the confirmation on Tuesday that we will be able to bring our Nursery to Primary 3 children back to school in person from Monday 22nd February. I know that Mrs Hay has already been in contact this week with all Junior School families, to provide detail about the return for those younger pupils, and about the continuation of supported home learning for the Primary 4 and 5 girls. Mrs Nettleton will be writing today to Nursery families with further information about the additional health and safety measures that are recommended by the Chief Medical Officer.  I look forward to seeing and hearing them in school again after the weekend.

Thank you to all Primary 5 parents who joined the Looking Ahead to Lower School meeting yesterday evening; we hope you found the event helpful. This is of course just the first step in the process of helping your daughters to prepare for their transition to Lower School, and we will ensure that we give them plenty of opportunities to find out about life in Primary 6 over the next few months.

In Upper School the one to one calls with a senior member of staff, for girls who are making their course choices are well under way. Most Upper 4s have had these calls now, and we will move to Upper 5 and then to Lower 6 in the next two weeks. These conversations are always valuable from our point of view, and it is so interesting to learn about the girls’ decision making and to have a chance to discuss their future plans with them at this stage. Mrs Edwards will be writing today to Upper 4 parents, with information about the mechanics of entering these choices, as the girls will be doing this at home this year.

We are very much aware of the ongoing uncertainty for those girls who would have been taking examinations this summer. We are still awaiting the findings of the Ofqual consultation, which will determine the processes that will be in place for the GCSE and A Level awards. As soon as anything is published we will let you know, but at this point you have information about the timetable in place to carry out practical work in school for named GCSE subjects. In relation to the Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications, girls who are able to attend school in order to carry out practical work have now been informed and are aware of the timetable that is in place for them for the rest of this term. The final date for submission of their Provisional Results is 25th June, so we know that we will have a significant amount of time in the summer term in order to gather evidence to support their grades.  Later this term, once we have more information to give you, we will offer live presentations and Q&A events for parents of girls in these year groups, to give you all an opportunity to hear directly from us about the processes that we will have in place to support your daughters through the next few months.

The wellbeing of all our students and staff has been a priority for us throughout the COVID period, but, conscious of the impact that this second period of lockdown is having on mental health in particular, we are having a special focus on wellbeing in this second half of term. Next Thursday from 7 to 8 pm we are hosting a webinar, targeted at families with children in Primary 6 upwards, led by Dr Aric Sigman, entitled Preventing Mental Health Problems in Children. Mr Verrecchia sent out a link in a SchoolPost on Wednesday, and we will send a further reminder in the course of next week. I hope that many of you are able to join us for this event. Our House teams have devised an exciting and creative programme to run for the rest of this term, which we are delighted to support, called #BeYou. The House Captains will launch this initiative with girls in an Assembly on Monday, and will also be writing directly to you via SchoolPost with more details early next week.

One element that we know is essential to all our wellbeing at the moment is the feeling of remaining connected with friends, family members and teachers. We recognize that there will be all sorts of reasons why girls will feel self-conscious about having their cameras on during live lessons, but please could I ask you, where possible to talk to your daughters about putting their cameras on for at least some of the time when they are working with their peers online. Seeing one another, even when they cannot be together, is so important, and I think they will feel the benefits if they do take this step, even if for a short period.

With my best wishes to you all,

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

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