29 Jun 2021

A Message from the Head, 29 June

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

As this year draws to a close, I would like to thank you all for your support for the school and for your daughters throughout this period. We recognize how disappointing it has been for you all that we have not been able to welcome you into school to celebrate the rites of passage that normally play such a key part in the summer term calendar. We have missed being able to share these events with you too, but I hope that the live links and recordings that we have provided have offered you a window into the way in which we have been able to mark these moments for the girls.

These final days of the term have brought many highlights. The Sports Olympiads for Lower and Upper School on 23rd June saw Olympians, commonwealth athletes and representatives of local and national sporting bodies sharing their expertise and love of sport with our students, giving them an opportunity to sample judo, football, rugby, tennis, netball, cricket, volleyball, hockey and wheelchair sport. On Thursday evening it was inspiring to hear from Melanie Woods who, until a bicycle accident changed her life, was a PE teacher, and is now competing at international level in wheelchair racing. She spoke of the choice that we all have, to determine outcomes for ourselves, through our individual response to adversity, a powerful and humbling message for the Leavers gathered at the Sports Presentation Evening. On Monday our conference Women of the Future: Leading and Living in the 21st Century, brought together a truly inspirational group of leaders and change-makers from sport, academia, the music industry, business, health care, law and finance. Thank you very much to the parents who volunteered to take part in this event, for sharing your experiences and perspectives. So many of our speakers referred to the importance of staying true to one’s values, and hand in hand with that, they spoke of the need for courage – the courage to take a leap of faith, based on following your interests, passions and core beliefs. ‘Speak up, even when your voice shakes’, was a phrase that resonated very powerfully with me. Importantly, they made clear that they are not afraid of failure, seeing it as a chance to learn and progress rather than as an end point; ‘embrace challenge as a gift’, in the words of Claire Nelson, CEO of Netball Scotland. We were delighted that Claire was able to join us, to bring our day to a close, with a rousing and energizing speech. I look forward to being able to let you know very soon more about the closer relationship that St George’s will be forming with Netball Scotland, by opening up our facilities to the wider community, connecting our students with outstanding role models, as well as sharing educational expertise. They are a dynamic and forward-looking governing body, and we are excited to be part of their programme to re-energize Netball as we emerge from Covid.

As always, at this point in the year, we find ourselves saying farewell to members of staff who are retiring or moving on. You will already be aware of some of these names: Mrs Hay, who retires after ten years as Head of Junior School, and 27 years at St George’s in total. Mrs Robertson retires after 25 years at the school, having been Deputy Head of Lower School since 2013. Mrs Stenhouse, who has led Business and Enterprise since 2003, retires after 23 years at St George’s in total. Mrs McInally, Teacher of Mathematics, joined the school in April 2000 and is also taking retirement this year. Mr Lamont, Curriculum Leader in Design and Technology, retires after 18 years’ service to this school. Mrs Porteous first came to St George’s in 1985 and worked here until 1994. She returned in August 2007, and since 2019 she has been joint Curriculum Leader in Modern Foreign Languages. Mrs Latimer, who has been Head of Mathematics since 2014 moves on to take up the post of Deputy Head at St Margaret’s School in Aberdeen. Miss Ashkanani, Teacher of Modern Studies, and Head of Year since 2019, moves on to teach Modern Studies at Dunbar Grammar School. Miss King, Graduate Boarding Assistant in Houldsworth since October, leaves to take up a post as Resident Tutor at Wycombe Abbey. Miss Monczko, who has worked in our Nursery since January is also moving on. Mrs Sloan, whose warm welcome and care will have shaped the experiences so many Lower School families and girls, is retiring as Lower School Student Welfare Manager after fourteen years. We are deeply grateful to them all and wish them much happiness in the next stage of their lives.

Looking ahead to next term, we look forward to welcoming around ninety new girls to St George’s, as day girls and boarders. At this stage we do not have final information about the framework of Covid guidelines that will be in place for the start of term, but I hope to be able to give you much more clarity in mid-August, when we will write with more detail of the arrangements. I can confirm the following, however: students in Remove to Upper 6 should continue to wear PE kit on days when they have sport or PE; at all other times full school uniform should be worn. It is our hope that we will be able to revert to offering full school lunches across the school. We will retain the two-week timetable, as it has reduced the number of single periods which has allowed us to maximise teaching time and reduce movement around the school.

Over the summer holiday, thanks to a bequest from a former pupil, who has asked to remain anonymous, work will be undertaken to refurbish the Upper School Hall and Crush Hall. We are excited to have this opportunity to restore the Hall to some of its former glory. We plan to run most of our annual Welcome Evenings at the start of next term online, but would like to invite you to a drinks reception on 15th September, in the Upper School Hall, to give you an opportunity to see what has been achieved in the Hall, and also to welcome you all back to school in person again. I shall be in contact with more details of that evening before the start of term, but please do put the date in your diaries now. As I said at the PTF meeting last week, I am very keen to rebuild the social aspect of school life, and I am most grateful to those of you who have already stepped forward as volunteers to join the new Parents’ Social Committee. I am keen to recruit a representative from Lower School if possible, so please do get in touch if you would be interested in being involved and your daughter will be in Lower School next session.

I wish you and your daughters a restful and restorative summer break and look forward to seeing you again in August.

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


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