26 Feb 2021

A Message from the Head, 26 February

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

It has been such a joy this week to see the children in Nursery through to Primary 3 in school; their delight at seeing one another and their teachers again has been a pleasure to witness. Senior girls who have practical work to undertake for their assessments are also coming in to school, albeit in very small numbers. As yet, as you will be aware, we do not have final confirmation of when the next stage of return might start, although we have our fingers crossed for 15th March, and hope to hear more detail about that on Tuesday 2nd March.

I know that the ongoing uncertainty around the alternative assessment methods for the summer examinations has been a cause of anxiety for our older pupils. Yesterday Ofqual, the body that oversees GCSE, reported at last following their extensive consultation.   We are now finalising the dates for our internal assessment and evidence gathering process and will be able to let you and your daughters know much more detail early next week. On Thursday 4th March at 6pm Mrs Edwards, Dr de Ville and I will lead a live presentation for all parents and girls in Upper 5, to talk you through the school’s plans, and to give you the chance to ask us any questions that you may have. On Monday 8th March Mrs Bryce will join us as well, and we will do the same for Sixth Form students and parents.  I hope that you will find these events helpful. Mrs Edwards will be writing later today with information about our contingency plans to support the gathering of evidence in the event of girls being unable to attend school for any reason in the summer.

Earlier in the week I was able to write to parents of girls from Nursery up to Primary 5 to let them know that we have appointed Mrs Lisa Nettleton to succeed Mrs Sue Hay as Head of Junior School and Nursery from August. Currently Head of Nursery, Mrs Nettleton joined St George’s as a teacher in the Junior School in 2009 and in 2013 became part of the Junior School Leadership Team when she took on the role of Curriculum Leader, with responsibility for Literacy across the whole school and Learning for Sustainability in the Junior School.  I look forward very much to working with Mrs Nettleton in this new role, and I know that she is keen to get to know as many of you as possible once current restrictions are lifted.

Last night we hosted a webinar entitle Preventing Mental Health Problems in Children, led by Dr Aric Sigman. If you were not able to join us, Mr Verrecchia will be writing to let you know how to access the event via Stream on your daughter’s Teams account. Dr Sigman has a refreshingly common-sense approach which by no means belittles the seriousness of the mental health challenges that young people can face, but offers practical steps and advice for us all as parents. He reminds us of the enormous influence that our own behaviour as adults has on our children, whether through our use of our mobile phones or the way in which we speak about alcohol for example. I was struck by his mention of the significant benefit that comes from hearing the voice of a friend or loved one, and the suggestion that we encourage children to use their ubiquitous phones to speak to one another, not just to engage in text exchanges. Given that spring definitely feels as though it might finally be within reach, there was a timely reminder of the demonstrable positive impact that time spent in the natural world can have on children’s wellbeing, and especially the benefits of being involved in gardening, as well as more energetic forms of outdoor exercise.  Thank you to all of you who took part last night. We hope to work with Dr Sigman in the future, and will certainly make use of the webinar format again, which clearly enables a much larger number of parents to participate than a conventional in-person event.

On the subject of wellbeing, I would like to commend to you the excellent initiative that is the brainchild of our House Captains, #BeYou. This is an opportunity for girls from Primary 4 upwards to record anything that they do that takes them off screen and off-line, and which is an expression of their individuality. Dr Sigman spoke powerfully about the need to establish a sense of control in one’s life in times of uncertainty, and that one way to do that was to immerse oneself in an activity that is all-consuming. This could be reading, baking, playing in the garden, taking exercise, caring for animals; for every child and young person it will be something different. We want to give the girls the chance to recognise the importance of these moments and activities in their own life, and celebrate them, and I am grateful to our senior students for championing this in such a creative way.

I look forward to being able to write to you soon with more information about the next phase of return to school. In the meantime, I wish you all a restful weekend.

With best wishes,

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


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