Looking in and looking out: the Insights editions

How do you communicate the spirit of the educational philosophy, as well as ideas of personal significance, to the wider School community? Schools have long grappled with this question and Girls Grammar is no exception.

One way to provide an answer is to communicate directly to the students and families of the School. The Girls Grammar example is BGGS News. This publication has a long history (March 1972 saw the first edition) and has morphed from a weekly informational School newsletter into a much more substantial online publication that celebrates the activities of the students and affords those who are not daily visitors to our campuses a glimpse into the diverse and creative school lives of the staff and students.

The nine editions of Insights

In 2010 there was a discussion at the executive level of a concept floated by Communications and Community Relations about lead articles for the weekly newsletter to be written by senior staff. Deputies, Deans, and Directors were asked to write thoughtful, significant pieces of relevance to the School community. There were no specific instructions about content, but this innovation was considered a ‘big deal’ and every author took the task very seriously. At the beginning of the year, contributors were allocated a specific week for their article. As a Director, I was asked to contribute, and it was more than a little intimidating to be published among such an illustrious group of imposing thinkers. At the time, being Director of Information Services, I was allocated a week that coincided with International School Library Day in October. At least I had months to come up with an appropriate concept. We all asked ourselves, ‘What should we write?’ How would we add both gravitas and engagement to such a diverse audience? There were many anxious discussions about topics—and the choice of topic did not become any easier as the years progressed.

Initially, it was thought the articles would only find their place in the digital BGGS News, but their calibre demanded a more permanent and physical manifestation and a wider audience. Then Director of Communications and Community Relations, Ms Loren Bridge, explained: ‘The articles were such high quality and thoughtfully written they deserved a longer life and wider audience to showcase their brilliance. We were also looking for a publication that leveraged the academic profile of Girls Grammar and played on the theme of “Renaissance”—part of the Strategic Design and positioning at the time.’

Some could say BGGS News offers insight into who we are and what we aspire to as an educational community. Perhaps that is why the word ‘insight’ was chosen as the name for a special, limited-edition periodical published annually from 2010 to 2018.

2018, Dr Bruce Addison’s article

The short explanatory preface to the first edition of 35 articles sets out the purpose of the publication:

This collection of articles published in the BGGS News, the School’s weekly newsletter, was written by senior staff in the School’s 135th year. Together they reflect the educational landscape and highlights of 2010 while providing an impression of Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s very special and particular educational identity.

The writers included the Chair of the Board, the Principal, Deputy Principals, Deans, Heads of House, Directors of Faculties, School Counsellor, and Psychologist. This group provided perspectives on a broad range of educational, social, and gender issues. Then Chair of the Board, Ms Elizabeth Jameson AM (1982), wrote about the strategic surveys completed by members of the School community and emphasised our aspiration to ‘continuously improve the provision of a leading quality education for our young women—now and in the future’, an aspiration that was at the heart of the School’s establishment and carries directly through to 2024. Principal, Dr Amanda Bell AM (2002-2012), concurred with the provision of ’21st century-focused and relevant educational opportunities’, but also looked to the future by asserting the desire to ‘actively encourage ambitious younger staff to prepare for leadership’ and to inspire Grammar girls to take up teaching as a ‘serious career option’.

Also included in this inaugural edition were photographs of School life from classrooms to Marrapatta, co-curricular activities, groups of students, and aspects of buildings. The articles, combined with the visuals, provided a special and idiosyncratic portrait of a school and a school year. Later editions showcased stunning and diverse student artworks; an addition Ms Loren Bridge called ‘the perfect complement to the articles by staff’.

2010, The inaugural edition featured images of school life

The publication, with its distinctive square shape and tactile cover, was very well received by the School community, but also more widely, as it was distributed to not only those in education but also to a more general readership, including major donors and stakeholders. The volumes were also gifted to visitors and guest speakers to the School. The nine editions were coloured-coded using House colours, with Mackay white the first one. Ms Loren Bridge (2024) also explained that the ‘House colours came as a playful addition. It was not something that was publicised, but a nod to the history of the School while also allowing for a creative approach to the collection’. They make a beautiful and essentially Grammar collection to be proud of.

The House-coloured, embossed covers—'a nod to the history of the School'

In 2013, to extend the scope, approach, and reach of this publication, Principal, Ms Jacinda Euler Welsh, added student voices. Ms Euler Welsh wrote a foreword to each of these discrete, centrally-situated sections that were colour-coded to match the cover. The first of these sections was entitled ‘Fresh Perspectives’, and the next five ‘Important Perspectives’. In her initial foreword to the student pieces, Ms Euler Welsh wrote of the importance of the process of exploring, researching, reasoning, constructing, and writing a considered piece—especially in the era of digital messaging and social media. She saw this opportunity as a ‘platform for their voices’, asserting ‘good writing is powerful’. Over the life of these sections, students were able to express their diverse opinions, from broad global passions and concerns, to their lives as Grammar girls. They wrote with eloquence and aplomb. From 2014, articles included the texts of winning Senior and Junior Merle Weaver speeches, presentations that deserved a wider audience than the student cohorts present.

2018, Lara Triscott’s (2020) Junior Merle Weaver winning speech was published in the Important Perspectives section

It would be impossible to single out the articles that touched my heart, made me laugh, and caused me to reflect, so perhaps it is politic to avoid that minefield. The professional and credentialed staff of Girls Grammar are diverse, deep, and professional thinkers. What they produced was thoughtful, potent, and relevant. Perhaps this is why, after a break of five years, 2024 sees the reintroduction of this concept with a regular BGGS News item, this time entitled Reflections. The first of these was written by Director of English, Ms Jo Genders—and what a compelling and fascinating article it proved to be. There was a wonderful synthesis of the demise of Hamlet as a Year 12 text and the abdication of Queen Marguerite of Denmark. In many ways, this is what the Insights articles did as well. They were able to choose often ‘fairly esoteric (often subject-specific) interests and craft articles that were interesting and relatable’ (Fogarty, 2024).

Year 12 students, Jasmin Burgess (12E) and Emily Crosisca (12M), peruse Stephen Fogarty’s 2017 Insights article

I would like to conclude this article with further thoughts by fellow Insights author, and Director of Health and Physical Education, Mr Stephen Fogarty. ‘The thing about writing (or any creative endeavour) that amazes me is the idea that there was once nothing on the page … and then there is something. To have these “somethings” published by the School was very gratifying’ (Fogarty, 2024). He also applauded the standard of the content and the writing, explaining that these elements made him feel, as I did, that ‘my next article had to be better than the last. It made me further appreciate the environment that I work in. It is a privilege to work with thoughtful, intelligent people and these articles were/are a tangible expression of that’ (Fogarty, 2024). I could not agree more.

Mrs Kristine Cooke (Harvey, 1967)
English Teacher

Bridge, L. 2024. Email correspondence 27.02.24

Euler, J. 2013 Insights 2013 Brisbane Girls Grammar School.

Fogarty, S. 2024. Email correspondence 27.02.24