Update, 23 July 2020

Welcome to my Week 2 Update.

Happiness and Resilience

Should we aim to be happy at all times? The pursuit of happiness is understandable, and we would prefer to be happy than sad, but permanent happiness is a false concept.

Dr Martin Seligman in his book Flourish (2011) argues we should strive for more meaningful and deeper pursuits than happiness, the PERMA model: Positive emotion/experiences, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. Dr Seligman believes, as do many other leading psychologists, that people flourish when they experience all or a strong combination of these factors. In Daniel Goleman’s famous book, Emotional Intelligence (1995) Goleman said resilience played just as an important part as academic ability in determining success at university.

Building resilience and therefore independence is an important part of growing up. When I was growing up, we made and rode our own billy carts, climbed trees, rode our bikes everywhere including to school, played in the dirt, not everyone in the sack race got a prize, played in the street until dark or until ‘Dinner’ was called and organised our own after school scratch sports matches in the local park. I agree with some good changes such as rules on firecrackers, wearing bike helmets and sun screen, and removing dangerous play equipment, but in minimising risks, have things gone too far?

I am concerned about the rising trend of parents who will not allow their children the space and support to let them fail. We hear of “Helicopter Parents” who are hovering over the children, ensuring no mistakes are made or the “Motor Mower Parent” who mows the grass ahead for their children’s paths. This is just as unhealthy for the parent and their child.

The staff and I often hear about “disasters”. Parents advise us that their child will be devastated by a disaster, because he or she did not get the lead part in the play, was dropped from the A’s sporting team, got a bad referee decision, did not get their preferred position in a sporting team, will not be with all of their friends in a tent group, received a poor assignment mark, cannot go on a school trip, did not get enough votes for a leadership position, had a tiff with a friend, or their sporting team was thrashed by a better team.

These are not disasters. Disasters are earthquakes, war, famine, floods, losing a child or loved one, heinous crimes, or the current impact from COVID-19 that we are seeing, feeling and dealing with.

When Melbourne Grammar School students have disappointments, our staff work with them and, if necessary, their parents. One of the first discussion points will often be on perspective. On the Catastrophe Scale, where does the event lie between 1 and 10?

I am sorry, but in life not everyone gets a prize, has the perfect job, home, marriage, family or life, or quite simply always gets what they want.

If we do not let children make mistakes, learn from them and hence build resilience, then how equipped will they be when they enter the tough world out there? There are many scenarios possible. Their boss might not like them, they won’t get to choose their work team, they will share an office with people they do not like, they will have to complete mundane tasks, will miss out on a promotion, lose contracts, get fired and not get the salary they think they deserve. 

If they are to be successful – and you might care to think about what the definition of this should be for a person – , they will have to learn how to build strong relationships, work incredibly hard and be resilient. This learning starts from home, is further developed at school and continues over a lifetime.  

Useful resources

Practicing a Balanced Way of Life during Lockdown 2.0

In this reflection, Rev’d Hans Christiansen, Senior Chaplain acknowledges that the balance and routine we once might have had in our lives has now been significantly altered, and this has impacted on our feelings. “In such times the best thing for us to do, at least sometimes, is to accept how we feel and make room for those feelings,” he says.

Rev’d Christiansen also highlights some pragmatic steps individuals and families might take to redress imbalances and improve wellbeing.

You can read the reflection here.

Faith in the Time of Coronavirus

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has sponsored some timely Bible studies under the heading “Faith in the Time of Coronavirus”. There are five in total, each with a short passage from the Bible, some reflective comments, a few thought provoking questions and a prayer. The first Bible study titled Do not be afraid is provided here and a related prayer here.

Archbishop Welby writes: “I pray that through these encouraging Bible studies, we will find comfort, strength and inspiration from God’s word, and be empowered by the spirit to share that comfort and grace in these difficult times.”

Face coverings are required while on campus

A reminder that, in line with the Victorian Government’s recent directive, face coverings are now mandatory for all persons over 12 years of age when on a Melbourne Grammar School campus. Teachers can choose to remove their face covering while teaching.

Given the responsibility of wearing a face covering that best suits each individual’s needs and preferences, the requirement that these be worn both within and outside the School setting, and logistical constraints, staff and students will be responsible for supplying their own face coverings.

Outdoor Education update

Beyond the Gates (BTG)

As many of you will already be aware, the School has made the difficult decision that the Year 10 Beyond the Gates (BTG) program will not proceed in 2020. Instead, students will participate in a continuation of their learning program during the time scheduled for this activity. We will provide Year 10 students and parents with more information about this matter in due course.

I am aware that many students regard BTG as one of the highlights of their time at Melbourne Grammar School and I, along with other staff, share their disappointment. Outdoor Education is an important part of our offering and one that makes a significant contribution to the development of our students.

The School Executive and School Council have taken many factors into account when making their determination. However, we must, as always, put the safety and welfare of students and staff first. There are considerable uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as highlighted by the current advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer, and we are unable to predict the health-related circumstances which we will be facing at the time BTG is scheduled to occur. We certainly would not be able to run the activity under the arrangements currently in place.

In addition, as you can imagine, given the size and scope of this program, planning for BTG commences almost immediately after the program concludes the year before to ensure that the myriad of arrangements necessary for the successful and safe running of the program are in place. Deadlines are now upon us in respect of many of these matters.

We also wanted to give students, staff and parents some degree of certainty in relation to BTG. We did not want parents to purchase equipment unnecessarily nor make family plans which may not be possible in the long run. We also needed to give staff adequate time to plan the continuation of the learning program.

We are also hoping to offer Year 10 students the option of participating in a shorter bushwalking activity late this year. This is being planned now, but it will depend on the COVID-19 situation at the time as to whether it proceeds or not.

Year 9 Camps

The Year 9 Outdoor Education program scheduled for the final week of Term III will not proceed at that time, although it may be held in Term IV, depending on the situation then. Instead, Year 9 students will participate in a continuation of their learning program during the time originally scheduled for this activity. We will provide Year 9 students and parents with more information about this matter in due course.

Other Year levels

The School is looking at possible replacement activities for Year 8 camps which were originally scheduled during this Term. No decision has yet been made. We will keep parents and students informed.

At this stage, we are continuing to operate on the basis that the Grimwade House camps scheduled for Term IV will proceed as planned. However, of course, this may change depending on prevailing circumstances. Again, we will keep you informed.

Additional support for medical and emergency services personnel and Children at Risk

Recognising the vital role that medical professionals and emergency services personnel play in combatting the current health crisis and caring for us all, the School will continue to provide on-campus supervision for children of parents in these roles.

If you are a healthcare provider, work in the emergency services or a carer of a Child at Risk, and need on campus supervision for your child, please contact your Head of Campus:

For Grimwade House students (Prep – Year 6), please contact the Head of Grimwade House, Royce Helm rahelm@mgs.vic.edu.au You will find information about completing the electronic consent form here.

For Wadhurst students (Years 7 & 8), please contact Greg Caldwell, Head of Wadhurst gjcaldwell@mgs.vic.edu.au

For Senior School students (Years 9 – 12), please contact Ben Hanisch, Deputy Headmaster and Head of Senior School bphanisch@mgs.vic.edu.au

The service will be available during normal school hours. It will operate according to the advice provided by the Victorian Department of Health. I thank our staff involved in providing this important service.

School Fees

Parents were advised of Term III rebates (by email) on Monday 20 July 2020. In summary, bearing in mind the current educational situation, and consistent with School Council’s decision pertaining to Term II School Fees, the following rebate will be applied to Term III Tuition Fees:

Grimwade House (Prep – Year 6)

A 25% reduction in the tuition fee that would normally be paid after allowing for any existing scholarship, bursary or concession support.

Wadhurst and Senior School (Years 7 – 12)

A 15% reduction in the tuition fee that would normally be paid after allowing for any existing scholarship, bursary or concession support.

Boarding fees will only be charged for those students who return to the Boarding House during Term III, in accordance with current restrictions.

However, it should be noted that such Fee rebates are not sustainable for the longer term as the costs incurred by the School are reasonably consistent regardless of the educational situation. Accordingly, COVID-19 Fee related rebates will not be able to be offered from the start of 2021.

Term IV Fee levels will be determined at the start of that Term.

Thank you

I continue to be proud to be part of our School community which is dealing so well with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Thank you for your continued understanding and support.

Best wishes,

Philip Grutzner