Update, 30 April 2020

Welcome to my Week 3 Update.

Enjoying the outdoors

It is no secret that I love being out in the open air. Bushwalking is a great passion I share with my wife and daughters. We really enjoy heading into the wilderness together whenever we can.

My interest in the natural environment was flamed through the Outdoor Education program at Melbourne Grammar. Beyond the Gates didn’t exist when I was a student here, but LGR and year level camps did.

My favourite recollection from LGR was heading out into the mountains with seven other students, many of whom who would become lifelong mates. Everything we required for the next week was stuffed into our backpacks. We climbed mountains, crossed rivers, cooked on fires, engaged in meaningful conservation and laughed a lot. We also had to take responsibility for any navigation error, stomach bug, crook meal or tiff.

Sadly, one of my classmates, James Elliot, died on one of these camps. I thank Melbourne Grammar for the way the tragedy was handled at that time, but also the commitment to continue with outdoor education.

None of this could have occurred without the commitment of a Melbourne Grammar staff member at the time, Peter Dick. Peter’s leadership of this program allowed me to learn more about myself and others, leadership and resilience than any leadership course I have since undertaken. I have also benefited from a lifelong passion for the outdoors. It was therefore an emotional moment for me when Peter and his wife Elizabeth, came to my Commissioning in February where I could publicly thank him. Peter, you are a true legend.

Although students don’t head off to camp until Year 3, Outdoor Education currently commences in Prep at Melbourne Grammar. In the early years, the program focuses on fostering an understanding of the value of the natural world and concepts relating to sustainability. Later, the experiential learning component challenges students to think independently, solve new problems and build confidence in their natural ability to cope with change.

Our Outdoor Education staff have put together some terrific resources for families which contain plenty of ideas about how Outdoor Education can be adapted to an urban environment. Suitable for students of all ages, I encourage you to delve into the package and support your children to explore some of the activities within it.

This is also an opportunity for some families to try something new. I am sure you’ll find at least one activity you will all enjoy, and it might just be the start of your collective love for the open air.

In this video, recorded at Grimwade House before current social distancing measures were in place, I highlight the importance of continuing to be active and heathy, and describe a secret game I used to play when I was there as a student.

Student, parent and staff survey results

Thank you to those parents who responded to our survey about off-campus learning last week. We have reviewed your feedback, as well as those of our students and staff. While the results indicated a high level of satisfaction with our off-campus learning program, support and activities, we have made some modest modifications to our program in line with your advice.

In reviewing the results, it struck me how well our students have adapted to their new style of learning. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. The natural resilience and optimism of young people is quite remarkable.

We recognise off-campus learning is new, challenging and not as good as on-campus learning. I thank you and our staff for your patience and commitment to provide the best experience we can for our students under such unusual circumstances. On the whole, our students seem to be coping well with their current situation. It is important to recognise this and celebrate it with them.

Of course, there are some negative aspects to our current learning situation but, if we focus on those, then we run the risk of missing the opportunity to foster self-confidence, independence and resilience in our children. Life is full of changes, big and small. Each day please remind them of how well they are doing with their current, but temporary circumstances.

I am seeing media reports about parents expressing concern about students falling behind in their learning through online programs. I hope, like me, you believe this is not pertinent for Melbourne Grammar students. Our teachers are expert in what they do. Every child they teach is different and teachers are well versed in delivering learning programs which meet students at their individual point of need. Core learning continues, and students are progressing well. Yes, some catch-up in some areas may be required when students return to campus, but teachers are already planning for this. Please feel free to liaise with the classroom teacher, pastoral care team or Campus Head if you have any major concerns.

Return to School

We are all missing the daily interactions between staff and students and look forward to the time when the School resumes normal on-campus operations.

I know we are all keen for this to occur as soon as practicable but please understand that any decision relating to the School commencing on-campus teaching in whole or part will need to be made in the context of advice from the Victorian Government. As you would appreciate, there are a range of issues that may need to be considered including the Chief Medical Officer’s advice, occupational health and safety legislation, the Education and Training Acts and Regulations and equitable access for all students across all schools.

In light of Victorian Government directives and guidance, the Melbourne Grammar School Council will make decisions based on recommendations from the School Executive in which the safety, health and welfare of our students and staff will continue to be our highest priority. We will keep the School community informed of developments.

The current restrictions are to be reviewed by the Victorian Government on 11 May 2020.

Additional support for medical and emergency services personnel, families with special needs 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 provided on-campus supervision for children of parents in these roles at the end of last Term, and this has continued, for children in Years Prep – 12, into Term II.

If you are a healthcare provider, work in the emergency services, are a carer of a Child at Risk, or are unable to make arrangements for the supervision of your child and need assistance in caring for your child, please follow the instructions below:

For Grimwade House students (Prep – Year 6), please complete the form here, and contact the Acting Head of Grimwade House, Nathan Boller njboller@mgs.vic.edu.au for further information

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 Federal and State Departments of Health. I thank our staff involved in providing this important service.

Premier’s VCE Award success

I am delighted to advise that eight 2019 Year 12 students have recently been recognised for their outstanding academic achievement through the Premier’s VCE Awards. Around 300 students across Victoria received an Award this year from a cohort of around 50,000.

Congratulations to:

  • Fedele De Campo – English and Philosophy
  • Harry Gell – Philosophy
  • Jasper Harrington – Drama and Literature
  • Thomas MacKinnon – Australian History
  • Joshua McGlaughlin – English
  • Zacch Seah – Music Performance
  • Ben Solomon – Latin
  • Matthew Wong – English and Latin

This recognition is testament to the talent, hard work and dedication of these young men. It also celebrates the professionalism and capabilities of the many fine teachers who supported their learning, for some, since Prep at Grimwade House.

New to the COVID-19 Resource Hub this week

  • This week’s book reading is The Spirit of Hope by Bob Graham. In this story we discover how the happy Fairweather family deals with some bad news. Bob has kindly waived copyright, so no password is required this week.
  • We are receiving many wonderful stories and photos highlighting the great work our students are doing at home. You can view a small selection here. Please send in a contribution if you can. It is just one way we can all stay connected.
  • Some parents have requested advice about how they can assist their child to exercise safe and responsible cybercitizenship . You will find a set of useful resources here.
  • You will find an article written by our Head of Counselling and Psychological Services, Barbara Jones, on coping with the grief and loss associated with change and isolation here.
  • Advice about healthy eating and exercise parameters for adolescents is available here.
  • We recommend a new podcast – Parenting in a pandemic. You can find out more about it here.

Uniform Shop now online

As you may be aware, our Uniform Shops are currently closed due to the health pandemic. However, I am pleased to advise that you will still be able to purchase uniform items via our new Uniform Shop website, which includes online shopping.

The Shops are currently only able to take orders online, not in person or over the phone. Please feel free to email uniformshop@mgs.vic.edu.au with any questions.

With my very best wishes,
Philip Grutzner

Be creative, caring and connected.