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

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 2 - 2022

The end of Week 4 is upon us and the complexity of living with COVID-19 continues to prevent us from doing all that we want to and, in some cases, need to. As a community, we all share together the responsibility of raising our children into well educated, kind, grateful, useful, purposeful and brave individuals, encouraged to contribute to our society in a meaningful manner.

One platform for the sharing of key messages to the whole community is our School Assemblies and, unfortunately, we have not yet been able to hold a whole School Assembly. This is an event we are very much looking forward to holding when permitted to do so.

Looking ahead in our dealings with COVID-19, we need to be acutely aware that we now need to play the ‘infinite game’ not the ‘finite game’. Currently, the governmental focus around COVID-19 is to contain its spread and keep the infection rate at a level that can be dealt with by our health infrastructure. It is highly likely many of us will contract the OMICRON variant in time but with restrictions in place, we are not catching it all at once. In effect, the total number of people who become infected will remain largely the same but spread over a longer timeframe. The ‘finite game’ is won.

In education, it is time to turn our attention to the ‘infinite game’. The long-term impact of COVID-19 and its enforced restrictions on our students is yet to be seen. We are seeing reports nationally of increased mental health problems among school-aged students, resulting from COVID-19 and its restrictions. Many of our children have missed or had significant rites of passage delayed, cancelled or truncated.

There has been extensive research carried out around the world regarding the impact of COVID-19. We know children have the capacity to be highly effective vectors of COVID yet the impact of the disease on them is mostly minimal. Australia’s own Murdoch Institute reported last year, prior to the OMICRON variant, that while statistically COVID-19 disease in children and adolescents is rarely severe, and very rarely causes death, there are other risks that will become more prominent. These include the ongoing wellbeing of children and adolescents in a pandemic with lockdowns and school closures, and indirect, longer-term effects on mental health and education.

But little research has yet been able to quantify or qualify the sinister creep of the losses of ‘normality’ for our youth because it requires a meaningful timeline to do so. We are seeing published articles by experts in wellbeing, willing to predict and warn us about what follows the ‘finite game’, and these opinions are growing in their numbers. Collectively, we have to all start playing the ‘infinite game’ and help bring about as much ‘normality’ as we can for our children. The externalities or flow-on effect of COVID-19 and what it will mean are yet to be fully realised and understood. However, unless we now start playing the ‘infinite game’ together, they will grow exponentially and create a pressure that is far beyond what could be imagined. Like so many of the externalities, we ‘adults’ create the impact that will be borne by generations to come.

Westminster will continue to follow guidelines but, as a leader in education, we’ll look to seize every opportunity to advocate for our students. With the encouragement of our School community, we will have an important voice in the growing conversation about life beyond the horizon of the ‘finite game’.

Simon Shepherd