A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 17 - 2020

Term 4 Week 6 has not ended the way many (if any) of us would have envisaged, in lockdown. We now find ourselves being brought out of lockdown earlier than expected and back at School on Monday 23 November, but still in a restricted environment akin to pre-lockdown. We were all looking forward to the Official Opening of the Inquiry and Innovation Hub, our Prize Giving Ceremony, Valedictory Service and Valedictory Dinner. Unfortunately, due to the South Australian ‘circuit breaker’, our State-wide shut down has meant that we weren’t able to hold these events this week. We are hopeful that we will be able to reschedule some of them but it is a case of waiting to see what transpires. On Wednesday 18 November, we were to open the Hub with a special video recorded for us by the Honourable Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia, while His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia, was to officially ‘cut the ribbon’.

While this auspicious event couldn’t proceed, we can share the superb videos we had ready for the opening. Our Chairman of School Council Phillip Styles (’66) and Marketing and Advancement team did a tremendous job in planning and preparing for the Official Opening so please enjoy these videos, indicative of the quality of the event organised.

Yesterday, Thursday 19 November, we would have normally been sharing the success of our students, this year evolving our Speech Day into the Prize Giving Ceremony. We may be able to hold this event later but will have to wait until we have a clearer picture as to what might be possible. No matter the outcome, we will still share the successes of our senior students with you before the end of the year and will do the same for our Preparatory School students if similarly affected. The Valedictory events were also cancelled. However, determined to ensure that we make the most of every opportunity, we held an impromptu online Valedictory Service with our Year 12s. At this Zoom event, we were able to announce two important awards, normally reserved for the Valedictory Dinner and an audience of over 500 guests: the Spirit of Westminster was awarded to Harvey Bock and the Old Scholars’ Award to Mae Johnson – both outstanding and deserving recipients – congratulations!

While the State has been in lockdown, many schools had closure and student-free days. Prior preparation earlier in the year and careful planning by our staff have meant that we have been able to continue with meaningful learning, despite the School campus being closed. We anticipated some ‘moments’ as online learning fired-up, whether at School or home, particularly as we all had to find and settle into a new rhythm during this very sudden change into our lives. We are immensely grateful that you have chosen Westminster School for your son or daughter’s education and we commit to making sure student learning is available online at home as an option in extraordinary circumstances such as these. However, while we unreservedly continue this commitment, we will always completely respect what decisions you make in these times to best manage your family’s wellbeing and the pace of your homelife. Class teachers across the School will have been in contact to offer access to various learning tools and programs that will naturally vary according to age and subject. The dedication of our teachers and their commitment have been resolute this year and demonstrated by their willingness to continue to deliver the best education they can, even if other schools did not.

We hope the decisive actions of the State Government in trying to contain the spread of COVID-19 is successful and as we return to face-to-face teaching on Monday 23 November, the disruptions to our students’ education will have been kept to a minimum. This year has certainly been one full of surprises with many meaningful events cancelled or postponed, but we cannot dwell on these. Instead, we need to focus on what we have been able to achieve - from activities like the Art and Fashion Show, Music, Drama and Dance productions through to sporting fixtures and Outdoor Education trips, while still contributing to our community as windows of opportunity opened.

Our Westminster community is unique and in a year full of challenges, the strength and spirit of our community has shone through. I hope as we are still faced with some uncertainty and a different end to the term and school year, we can, as a community, continue to focus on being kind, grateful and useful.

Simon Shepherd