Update, 7 May 2020

Welcome to my Week 4 Update.

Celebrating Mothers Day

It will be Mothers Day this Sunday and how could we possibly forget that? We will be bombarded with junk mail, television ads and other marketing material trying to persuade us that our mothers “need” this or that.

And sadly, the stereotypes in these advertisements continue. Wouldn’t it be nice if our television advertisements showed the fathers in the supermarket aisle, making the school lunches and applying the toilet cleaner and mothers buying the ute, using the new brand of motor mower and earning a hard-earned thirst? The blame for this does not rest entirely with advertisers because they do their market research and they understand who holds the spending power.

Australian society has made great progress in the past 100 years with important landmarks being women voting, equal pay and maternity leave. Thankfully at modern day social functions no-one would dare include a message ‘Ladies bring a plate’, women are no longer excluded from sections of the MCG and various occupations that were the domain of just women, or men, have opened up to both genders. Women in Australia’s defence forces can serve on the front line. We welcome men entering the health care professions and more women engineers.

In wider society it is pleasing to see great progress in the equality of women and that we are making progress in overcoming stereotypes and eliminating discrimination. There is no longer a widely held view that women are just the homemakers and caterers. However, society still has a way to go. Sadly, the proportion of women in senior positions, board rooms and in politics, including our current Federal Cabinet, is not as high as it should be. In addition to this, many working women are not only spending long hours in the workplace, but are expected to manage the entire busy family schedule at home as well.

We too have work to do at Melbourne Grammar School, with an under representation of women in senior leadership positions. Our current leadership team is doing an amazing job, especially leading us through the challenges of COVID-19. However, the optics for our school do not look good and a greater diversity amongst these teams can only add to the richness of discussions and quality of decision making.

Fortunately, education has changed too. Various school subjects were divided along gender lines – woodwork was ‘for boys’ and needlework and home economics were ‘for girls’. We have to prepare our boys and girls for a world that is diverse, progressive and where respectful relationships and equal opportunity are demanded. This is a good world filled with hope and opportunity.

I hope each Melbourne Grammar School family can leave aside the crass commercialisation surrounding Mothers Day and show thanks for the past, present and future contributions of mothers in a non-commercial way. At Melbourne Grammar School we acknowledge the contribution of our mothers. They are the workers, teachers, board members, volunteers, fee providers, supporters, homework helpers, mediators, problem solvers, confidants, sports coaches, readers and drivers. Now if the same could be said of all fathers; that would be progress!

The importance of relationships

Relationships lie at the very heart of who we are as human beings. In this video, recorded before social distancing measures were in place, I highlight the importance of working together and building solid friendships.

I am hearing about many novel ways parents are helping their children to stay in touch with their friends while they can’t physically be with them each day, and how teachers are helping students to connect beyond the classroom. Congratulations to those who have identified new ways of interacting. Please share your ideas if you can. I am sure others would benefit from your clever thinking. Find out how you can make a contribution here.

Rev’d Hans Christiansen, Senior Chaplain, has written an interesting reflection on social distancing and the importance of maintaining strong relationships. Please take the time to read it if you can. I am sure you will find it to be thoughtful and uplifting. You can find the reflection here.

Rev’d Christiansen has also provided a useful collection of prayers for personal and group use at this challenging time in our lives, when may be struggling to find words to express how we feel. You can find the booklet here.

Return to on-campus learning

We are all keen to see all of our students and staff back on campus as soon as practicable.

The health and wellbeing of our students, staff, parents and the wider School community are our highest priorities during this COVID-19 pandemic, and are guiding the School’s COVID-19 response from a regulatory, governance, risk management, and public perception perspective.

As an educational institution registered in the State of Victoria and, currently, with the State of Emergency in place and the State Government’s directives on Education clearly defined, we believe Melbourne Grammar should not act in any way other than in accordance with the advice provided by the Victorian State Government and its Chief Medical Officer, with regard to returning to on-campus learning. Should Melbourne Grammar or any school reopen before any directive from Victorian Government we would:

  • be in breach of their registration with the regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority
  • receive adverse reaction from other schools who would rightly claim an unfair advantage
  • likely to breach the current social distancing laws as the current laws make a return to any form of on campus learning impractical
  • have significant moral and legal liabilities should a student(s) or staff member(s) become seriously ill from COVID-19

School operations are running smoothly and the feedback from our staff, students and parents is that they are, by and large, managing well despite the circumstances.

As you may already know, the School is currently offering on-campus supervision to the children of medical and emergency services personnel, families with special needs, and Children at Risk, and will continue to do so for as long as it is needed.

Melbourne Grammar School is fortunate to be part of a group of leading schools from around the world, the G30 Schools Group. The Heads and Directors of Learning and Research have been meeting regularly over the past few months via teleconferencing. This group is in a remarkable and privileged position with each school and country being at a different stage of the COVID-19 infection rate. We have been sharing ideas, resources and plans, which is helping to inform our plans and decisions.

At Melbourne Grammar School we continue to monitor very closely this complex and rapidly changing situation and we shall ensure that a return to normal schooling, when it occurs, will be as efficient, safe and practicable as possible. The School Executive is working very hard on return to school scenarios and plans which are greatly dependent upon the State Government directive, which we have no details yet, but hope to know what that directive will be on or before the current restrictions review date on 11 May. 

Our return to school plans will then be communicated to our school community as early as practicable after that time. 

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.

Book reading: The Gift

My book reading this week is The Gift by Michael Speechley.

This is a wonderful tale about human relationships. In this story, the house across the road from Rosie looks abandoned, but she knows someone lives there. Rosie decides to leave her mystery neighbour a gift, with surprising results.

2021 Term Dates

2021 Term Dates are now available on the School website here.

With my very best wishes,

Philip Grutzner

Be caring, creative and connected