From the Head Master

I suspect that most of the citizens of Sydney are feeling a profound sense of relief as the re-opening of the State draws near. While the extent of our confinement has been less than that of our friends in Melbourne, fifteen weeks is no small amount of time to live under stay-at-home orders. While there have been silver linings, and some aspects of a more restricted life have been a blessing, we are more than ready to re-emerge.

I trust that the communications provided to families on Tuesday this week regarding the return to School provided some sense of clarity as to our plans. We discovered (once again) the wisdom of not projecting too much into the future when the Premier announced yet another change to the road map on Thursday. Thankfully, our plans for the Preparatory and Junior Schools are not substantially affected by this change. However, in the Middle and Senior Schools we will see Years 7 to 11 return to classes full-time from Week 4, which is one week earlier than we had planned. We will publish more information about the arrangements and precautions that are being made for this return in Week 3.

In making our plans, we tossed and turned on the question as to whether to bring Year 12 students back in Week 3. The challenge was to weigh the potential benefits with the potential costs. The benefits could include the opportunity to see friends and staff, to have a chance to come back to classes for a final time (while knowing that it is the final time), and to continue preparations for the examinations. We did not diminish in any way these good things. However, the potential cost weighed more heavily. If one of the boys was infected or became infectious because of that return, it would potentially prevent many members of the cohort from attempting their examinations, with the IB Diploma boys beginning the examination period in Week 4. In the end, we deemed that this risk was not worth taking. The chance to gather again as a cohort will take place with the Valedictory Events after the examinations are over, in the early part of December.

One issue that guided our thinking in this matter, and that continues to loom large in my thinking more generally, has to do with the rate of vaccination amongst students. A high rate of vaccination will give us more confidence in managing COVID-related risks. In the communications that went home to MS/SS families on Tuesday, I asked families to inform the School as to the vaccination status of the boys. This information is not being sought so that we can discriminate between boys, but so that we can evaluate risk based on cohort vaccination rates. NSW Health has also indicated that the ongoing management of COVID-19 cases in schools will vary, depending on the vaccination rates of the student body.

With this in mind, I would like to make two requests. The first is to request families to act on the public health recommendations and seek vaccination for all those who are eligible. The second is to complete the form that was linked in Tuesday’s communication and inform the School as to the vaccination status of your son(s). Like all other medical information provided to the School, this information will be confidential and available only to those staff who need to know in order to deliver our duty of care. Accurate information from families in this matter will help the School to care for all our students. Please help us to help the boys.

There is one final matter that I would like to raise. From time to time, parents will experience frustration with some aspect of the School experience or have cause to communicate with the School regarding some concerns. I want to reassure you that the School will always treat your concerns with respect and will deal with issues in a manner that is respectful, professional and thorough. Parents do not need to make their concerns known with aggression in order to get our attention. An unduly belligerent approach does not help, and is actually harmful to the wellbeing of staff who are (I believe) extraordinarily hardworking, committed and helpful. In raising your concerns – and I encourage you to do so as necessary – please have the confidence and the kindness to do so with respect and politeness. Be assured that we will respond to the best of our capacity.

Detur gloria soli Deo.

Tim Bowden | Head Master

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