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

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 4 - 2022

Since our last eNews, a lot has happened in South Australia but not much of it should surprise us. We have had a change of Government and we are now waiting to see what implications this has for us as a State, as families and as a School community.

A change in Government always leads to a degree of uncertainty but this scenario is even more unsettled by the dynamics of the pandemic. One of the first announcements by the new Premier was to unenviably advise the people of South Australia that the number of COVID-19 cases is about to grow significantly through a new ‘close but more infectious’ variant. We do hope that through the weeks and months ahead Westminster can consistently provide our children with the very best education we can offer them.

Last week, I attended a National Heads of Independent Schools conference. It was the first time we have been able to gather since 2019 and it was very worthwhile. The Acting Minister for Education spoke and some of you may have heard or read his remarks in the media. While what he said had the capacity to polarise and cause division, there was a thread of truth in some of his commentary and some that he should have taken further.

He emphasised that quality teaching was at the heart of an outstanding education. We are fortunate at Westminster to have a quality staff who are dedicated to their profession and the students that they teach. He should also have added that the best learning takes place when students have appropriate learning relationships with their teachers.

The impact of COVID-19 on teachers across the country has been significant. Many are trying to teach students on dual platforms, some are teaching from home and others are teaching while trying to look after their own unwell children. All of this is having a dramatic impact on workload and the wellbeing of teachers.

Many of our staff also have family members who are contracting COVID-19. We are now in a position as a School where, under strict guidelines, we can apply for isolation exemption for critical staff, allowing them to keep coming to work. However, when staff become infected there is no opportunity for exemption. Over the coming weeks, in line with the predicted upward trend of cases, it is likely that more staff and students will contract COVID-19 and this will place enormous strain on the ‘normal’ day-to-day operations at Westminster.

With us facing potential staffing issues in weeks to come, the formation of relationships between students and staff will continue to be challenged by COVID-19. Classes and co-curricular have been disrupted significantly and, as such, our capacity to form excellent teaching relationships has been thwarted somewhat.

Despite all the adversity we are potentially facing, we are doing what we can to provide our children with all the opportunities they would have in a non-COVID year. This may mean, week by week, we are having to reschedule more calendar events later into the year than we anticipated. Please know that our teaching staff, even those trapped in isolation, are doing their utmost to deliver an outstanding education to your children. The relationships that we treasure so highly at Westminster are still developing and they will undoubtedly thrive as we slowly discover our new normal.

Following discussions between SA Health and education advocates, you will see some modifications as to how news of positive cases will be shared so as not to overload you with individually emailed notifications.

Thank you for your ongoing support as we work our way through the next phase of the pandemic.

Simon Shepherd