Update, 9 April 2020

Father, forgive them.

These final three words said by Jesus as he hung on the cross are so prophetic. Forgiving is a most important human trait. Forgiveness is never easy whether it be Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Sudan, Bali, East Timor, Rwanda, the Middle East or some selfish acts we have seen during the COVID-19 crisis.  Closer to home, forgiveness might be needed to mend a broken heart, rebuild a broken relationship, or repair the damage from an act of selfishness.

Easter is a time to forgive. It is also a time to rest and spend time with family. Like our family, you will probably share hot cross buns together. You will also probably have the annual chocolate egg hunt which is enjoyed by the adults as much as the children. In the following days you too might find chocolate stains on the couch and wonder why the kids have lost their appetite. In the following weeks bits of chocolate coated silver paper will be found stuck to your children (or partner’s) waste paper basket, sliding along the bottom of the washing machine or firmly paper mached into the top pocket. The dog might even surprise you with the regurgitation of a silvery chocolate amalgam onto your new carpet, which was the egg you and your children did not find in the garden. Just remember, forgiveness starts at home!

Please take time to remember the central message of the Easter story. It is of a man’s humble and selfless sacrifice in the face of treachery and greed. Its message today is as profound as it was, in a very different world, some 2000 years ago. 

Jesus’ death is a statement of love. Jesus’ resurrection three days later shows that we can experience the new life he promised. Whatever your religious commitment, I hope you will reflect upon the hope that comes through the promise of new life. This underpins the Christian Easter story and is an important focus in the commitment made by Melbourne Grammar School as an Anglican school.

Our Chapels of St Andrew and St Peter are home to some wonderful stained-glass windows which provide beautiful visual representations of these profound messages.

The video included below highlights one of these windows – I am the Good Shepherd. This window shows Jesus Christ carrying a lamb on his shoulder and reminds us that Jesus taught us that, in addition to forgiveness and love, the importance of caring for others, particularly the most vulnerable, is central to who we should be as human beings.

Many thanks to the students, staff, parents, volunteers and Council members who have contributed so positively in response to the significant challenges we are facing with the COVID-19 crisis. It seems to me that forgiveness, love and caring for others are needed more than ever just now.

Our Senior Chaplain, Rev’d Hans Christiansen, has written a special prayer for this moment in time, which families may care to share.

I hope all members of the Melbourne Grammar Community have a happy and restful holiday and that Holy Week is a special time for prayer, rest and reflection.

Arrangements for next week, the first week of Term II

In keeping with my  update to you on 2 April we will be continuing with our off-campus learning model into Term II and the arrangements for next week have been altered.

On Thursday 16 April all students will be involved in House or classroom pastoral sessions. VCE Units 1 – 4 classes will also be held online that day. Based on advice from staff and students, we have modified the previously published program to include Units 1 & 2 so that we also support these students and their learning through these sessions.

Classes will commence for all students on Friday 17 April.

VCE Units 3 & 4

As many of you are aware, the Victorian Premier announced changes to the VCE program for 2020 earlier this week. In summary he announced VCE students will still receive an ATAR, the GAT test will be postponed to October or November, VCE examinations are expected to be postponed until at least December, and universities have been asked to delay the start of the 2021 university year. We will continue to research these announcements and put in place plans to support our students learning and welfare, our staff and our parents. We will communicate such plans at the earliest available opportunity.

Adapting our VCE subjects into this new framework will be the highest priority for VCE teachers when they return to work next week. This is, in part, why we scheduled an additional professional development day for staff on Wednesday 15 April. Of course, many will have taken action already.

Students studying VCE Units 3 & 4 will be briefed on the proposed changes to their program on Thursday 16 April. Parents will also receive advice about this matter later that day.

My two daughters completed their Year 12 studies not too long ago and being a former VCE teacher and as an experienced independent school Headmaster, I am acutely aware of the pressures and demands that students experience during Year 12, and the associated anxiety that some parents feel. I acknowledge that the current situation is far from ideal.

Nevertheless I want to be very clear about one point. Our teachers are expert in what they do. They have a deep knowledge of their subject matter, are very capable at getting the best out of each student and are used to adapting their program to meet individual needs (through, for example, illness) during the year. I have every confidence that our students are in the best possible position they can be, given the teachers they have.

As I am sure you appreciate, it will be important that parents maintain a calm and optimistic attitude in relation to this matter so as not to add to their son’s own concerns. Please remind them that their teachers will guide them through this change with great care and skill, and that they should be confident in their own ability to cope with change.

Together, we will work to ensure that all Melbourne Grammar students achieve the best possible learning outcomes this year.

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, we will continue to provide on-campus supervision at Grimwade House for children of these parents in Prep – Year 6 during normal school hours from Monday 20 April 2020. This service 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 and giving these key people the opportunity to continue to serve in their crucial roles.

If you are a healthcare provider engaged in efforts combatting COVID-19 or work in the emergency services, or are a carer of a Child at Risk, and you require care for your Prep – Year 6 child, please follow the instructions here to apply for a place by midday Tuesday 14 April. Please contact the Acting Head of Grimwade, Nathan Boller njboller@mgs.vic.edu.au for further information.

Term II Fees

Yesterday you will have received an email from Mr Michael Bartlett, Chairman of School Council, and me advising that the School Council has determined that the following rebates will be applied to Tuition Fees for Term II, 2020:

Grimwade House (Prep to 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 (Year 7 to 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 not be charged while the Boarding House remains closed.

Our School Council will continue to put in place measures that support our families and maintain the long term financial security of our school. Fees for the remaining 2020 School Terms will be reviewed with consideration given to all prevailing circumstances at the time.

Staying in touch

We continue to update the COVID-19 Resource Hub with information and advice about the School’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and support for you and your family. Please connect with us through this site and provide your feedback on improvements which might be made via newsletter@mgs.vic.edu.au  We have made the decision to make this a public website as we want to share our resources with other schools and the wider community.

There continues to be significant challenges ahead for all of us. I thank you for the ongoing support you have shown to our staff, in particular, during these difficult times. We have received numerous messages from parents expressing their gratitude for the effort that our staff are making to provide their children with the best possible learning experience within this strange, new world. I know that staff have appreciated these measures of support.

There is a time when this will end. I am sure we will look back proud of the way the Melbourne Grammar community has worked together and supported each other, as well as the broader community, during this health crisis.

With my warmest wishes,

Philip Grutzner

Be Kind, Creative and Connected