Update, 17 September 2020

In this update:

Never give in – ran overview of the governance and operational management of the School
Resumption of School in Term IV – dates and details
A homily from the Senior Chaplain – The Holy Cross
Thank you– from the Headmaster

Never give in

Never give in. Never give in! Never, never, never, never… In nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions or honour and good sense. (Sir Winston Churchill)

Many tourist visits to London involve a visit to the Churchill War Rooms. There you will see the above quote and many others, along with the plans that helped the Allied victory in WWII.

We are fortunate not to be at war or to be bombed every night. But COVID-19 continues to be a serious challenge. We are all deeply concerned by the impact from COVID-19 on health, confidence, employment, travel, socialisation and schooling. The technology since WWII has changed, but the success of managing that emergency, and each one since, relies heavily on great people, planning, resources and communication. In this Update I want to give you an insight into the work undertaken often behind the scenes at Melbourne Grammar School to manage the COVID-19 crisis.   

The School Council oversees the governance of the School, setting its strategic direction, and ensuring that its educational objectives are achieved in a financially sustainable way, within an appropriate risk framework.

The day-to-day management of the School is delegated to the Headmaster and the Whole School Executive, which is the most senior leadership and management body across the whole School. The School Council reviews, challenges and enhances plans submitted by the Whole School Executive and ensures the School has the resources and support to implement approved plans.

Support and expertise is provided by specialist School Council sub-committees: COVID-19, Finance & Audit, Building& Grounds, Risk Management, Investment Management, Nominating and Marketing & Communications. The Melbourne Grammar School Foundation plays a vital role in assisting the School’s fundraising endeavours.

During recent months significant decisions have been made by the Council, such as those relating to the moves to and from off-campus learning, tuition fee rebates for Terms II and III, ensuring there is a fair, transparent and confidential process in place for means-tested financial support for families in need, and maintaining as far as possible the School’s range of education activities, consistent with the advice and requirements of the Victorian Chief Health Officer.

The School Council empowers the Whole School Executive to implement Council policy and decisions and to lead and manage the School, its staff and students and to work with its numerous stakeholders. Early in the COVID-19 crisis the School Council and Whole School Executive reflected on the School’s Mission and Values, and confirmed the following strategic priorities to guide decision making during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • The safety, health and welfare of our students and staff.
  • The smooth running of our school to support the learning and welfare of our students, and our staff.
  • Having regard to the advice of the State Government Health and Education Departments and especially the Victorian Chief Health Officer.
  • Maintaining strong short and long-term relationships with our staff, parents, suppliers and other stakeholders.
  • The long-term sustainability of our school.
  • Be caring, creative and connected for the good of our school community and the wider community.
  • Providing timely and accurate communication.

The Whole School Executive comprises the Headmaster, the Heads of Grimwade House, Wadhurst and Senior School, the Directors of Learning & Research, Boarding, Human Resources, Finance & Administration, and Advancement & Admissions, and the Head of Teaching and Learning – Senior School.

Since March this team has met at least weekly. Apart from their usual responsibilities, this group has undertaken responsibility for the day-to-day management of the myriad of issues that have emerged from the COVID-19 crisis. Important components include:

  • Ensuring students are supported in their learning, wellbeing and connection to our school.
  • Responding to the Chief Health Officer’s directives especially those that relate to risk management, and the health, wellbeing and safety of our school community.
  • Supporting staff as they have responded to the challenges and new work patterns imposed by COVID-19.
  • Planning of major school activities, making contingency plans or considering postponement, online alternatives, or sadly, in some instances, cancellation
  • Providing a reliable, safe and comprehensive IT network.
  • Overseeing the smooth transition to and from off-campus and on-campus learning, and associated IT support
  • Engagement with parents, the Old Melburnians and wider school community the APS, the media and Government regulatory bodies.
  • Reviewing regular feedback that is received informally (letters, emails and telephone calls) or formally via student, staff and parent surveys, Friends of Grammar and school section leadership teams. Plans are reviewed in light of this feedback.
  • COVID-19 contingency planning

There are leadership teams at each school section level that seek feedback, and review and implement plans.

An extensive communication process has been established. For students this includes daily contact from teachers, regular contact from House and pastoral care staff, student assemblies and House meetings. There are regular staff meetings and emails. Parents, students and staff receive a weekly update from me, and weekly updates from the Head of their campus. This is supplemented by WebEx parent, teacher and student meetings, webinars and the COVID-19 Resource Hub. In addition, parents and students are welcome to make contact with an appropriate teacher, or school staff member.

In Churchill’s famous words, we will never give in.

Resumption of School in Term IV

As previously advised, our plans for Term IV are as follows:

Saturday 19 September to Sunday 4 October

  • School holidays will run as scheduled.
  • Trial Examinations (now online) for VCE Unit 3 and 4 subjects from Tuesday 29 September to Friday 2 October.

Monday 5 October to Friday 9 October (First week of Term IV)

  • Students in Years 7 – 12 will continue with off-campus learning on Monday 5 October.
  • Students in Prep – Year 6 will continue with off-campus learning on Tuesday 6 October. That is, there will be no classes held for Grimwade House students on Monday 5 October in line with previously published Term dates.
  • Year 11 and 12 students will attend on-site for essential assessments during this week, including the General Achievement Test on Wednesday 7 October.
  • On-site supervision for children of permitted workers and vulnerable students will continue to be provided in line with the dates for the students to return to off-campus learning, as outlined above.

From Monday 12 October

  • Students in Prep – Year 2 and in Years 11 and 12 will return to on-campus learning.
  • Off-campus learning will continue for all students in Years 3 – Year 10.
  • On-site supervision for children of permitted workers and vulnerable students will continue to be provided.

From Monday 26 October

  • Students in Years 3 – Year 10 will see a staged return to on-campus learning.

As you will appreciate, the staged return to on-campus learning next term will depend upon COVID-19 numbers, and the Victorian Government and the Chief Health Officer’s directions. The situation is uncertain and precise details for return to on campus operations remain subject to guidance from the State Government.  However, we anticipate we will be in a better position to give far more detail to all students, parents and staff during the second week of the holidays, and will provide a further update via email on Thursday 1 October, if not before.

A homily from the Senior School Chaplain

This uplifting homily by Rev’d Hans Christiansen, Senior Chaplain, centres on the cross – the most sacred symbol in the Christian faith, embodying hope, forgiveness and love. It reminds us that, by recognising and sharing our pain and suffering, we can truly heal.

Thank you

After another challenging term, I thank each of you for your contributions and support to our School community. For those who are fortunate to have a holiday, please enjoy it. Like you, I look forward to the continual reduction of COVID-19 numbers and all that is associated with that, including the return to on-campus learning and operations next term, as well as a pick-up in the economy, hope, jobs, the arts, sport and all things that make Melbourne such a great city.

In the meantime, I hope you and your family stay safe, healthy and optimistic.

Best wishes,

Philip Grutzner