Where do I start? This term has been an extraordinary one, from the delayed commencement to the constant revision of what we can and cannot participate in, the reality of COVID—being unwell or isolating, often in rolling succession for many families—to the devastating impact of the floods and associated school closure. And all the while the relentless work required of our teachers to accommodate all of these scenarios, while living through it themselves, continues to ensure that our new senior system of education in Queensland is rigorously implemented and our eyes are kept firmly on the future and the academic road ahead, well beyond our current circumstances. Our teachers, pastoral experts, and professional staff have been extraordinary and I know our students and our families respect them deeply. But they could not have delivered all that they have without the greatly appreciated support of our families. It has been truly an entire School community effort to get us, nearly, to the end of Term 1 2022.
The return of some long-awaited events such as the rescheduled, but still stunning, International Women’s Day Concert and the—formerly Spring but ultimately Autumn—Lunch today have been welcome occasions of togetherness and happiness. We acknowledge the disappointment of those required to forfeit their tickets and while it is something we have all become quite used to, even philosophical about, it still saddens us when it happens. Next week, we look forward to all of the competitive spirit and colour of the end-of-term Interhouse Cross Country.
Staff and student absences
When the School returned to campus on 7 February there were very few absences related to COVID among staff and students. In the following weeks, we averaged between one and three per cent of both staff and students being absent. Last week, however, the number increased to approximately four per cent for staff and 10 per cent for students. This week the number has risen to approximately eight per cent (staff) and 13 per cent (students). We trust that the re-introduction of masks until the end of term will help to contain the numbers, and ongoing vigilance with other measures such as social distancing and hand measures remains very important.
The challenge of managing student and staff absences and the completion of assessment has required great flexibility and this will continue to be necessary throughout the next two terms. We all understand that our students are determined to do their very best and you will most certainly know this about your daughters. Grammar girls are hard-working, high-achieving, and that is something we support and are proud of. The realities of this year, however, will require us all to adjust our expectations—not forever, but for now.
Changes to assessment and Speech Day Prizes
External motivators like Speech Day Prizes are very important to many of our students but it is no longer a level playing field. With extended absences for so many students already and with the likelihood of this pattern continuing throughout winter, we will be making adjustments to Years 8 to 10 in the area of assessment to dial down the stress and worry about missing work and assessment, the pressure of catching up and missing out. For example, Speech Day Prizes for Years 8 to 10 will not be awarded this year. I know this will be disappointing to some and a relief to others. Please be assured we will always do what we believe is reasonable in the circumstances and in the interests of wellbeing and fairness, without compromising academic progress.
Last Monday, we had hoped for a somewhat routine kind of week but of course, it began at 8 am in peak drop-off time with an evacuation to Victoria Park. I did love, however, the typical Grammar girl optimistic spirit and undeniable pragmatism in the comment one student made to her mother: ‘It looks like half of my House Group has got COVID, but at least the only time I saw them was during the evacuation and we were in the open-air.’
Best wishes to all of our families for a weekend with some sport and social gathering for those able to participate and some rest and recuperation for others.
Ms Jacinda Euler