It is impossible to make sense of the tragic events that unfolded in Manchester this week; the sadness and loss of life struck at the hearts of many across the world, none more so than the parents of young children. For many teenage girls, music concerts are a rite of passage, a joyous occasion shared with girlfriends and the noise of excited girls familiar to the volunteer parent who attends as chaperone for the group.

During times of rolling media coverage that unravels a story across the 24 hour news cycle, it is easy to forget just how important it is to make schools a safe haven for children; a protection from the maelstrom and turbulence of life. I share for you below the words of Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders in the UK who described the role of School leaders and educators at times of great challenge as experienced this past week:

“My guess is what school leaders know foremost is that routines matters. Schools are safe places, and part of their safeness derives from the clearly enforced routines – the assemblies, the lesson changeovers, the familiarity of register names being called out and answered. I learned early on in headship that when the world outside appears to have fallen apart, you make sure the world inside remains reassuringly familiar. Routines today will have carried many through.

Across all schools and colleges, whatever their intake, today will be a day when their sense of community, of cohesion, will have been to the fore. More staff will have been on duty, mingling with students, talking to them, asking how they are. It’s a sign of how civilised many of our schools are, that students are likely to have asked about the wellbeing of staff. In assemblies, in classrooms, the lunch queues, there will be a heightened awareness of how lucky we are – to be part of a community, to be with people who care, to be alive.

Being a teacher, being a school leader – these are never easy jobs. Too much of what they do goes unnoticed. Today, quietly and without fanfare, the education profession will have done us proud.”

Closer to home, a senior psychologist for disasters with the Australian Psychological Society, Susie Burke, suggested intense media coverage of disasters — such as terrorist attacks, plane crashes, floods, and earthquakes — can trigger a strong emotional response in many people with young people particularly vulnerable and sensitive to such coverage. The ABC News article linked here provides parents with some guidelines to help children cope with shocking news coverage.

I also note for parents’ interest, that in recent months the St Catherine’s School Leadership Team has engaged a security consultant to provide expertise and advice to improve the security of our Boarding House and School site perimeter, in addition to the development of security provisions to be implemented in the new Junior School and emergency management across a range of risk areas. This has resulted in the addition of more cameras and monitors, improved protocols and electronic and swipe controls for all external doors.

Junior School Musical – Hakuna Matata!

Following many weeks of rehearsal, and much excitement filtering through the air in Barbreck, our Years 5 and 6 students brilliantly performed the Disney Musical, The Lion King Jr, this week. The colourful performance was a wonderful showcase of the Arts program in the Junior School. The artistic achievements of costume, hair, makeup and scenic design, proved to make the show visually spectacular and the talented cast of singers and dancers was a great credit to the emerging musical expertise and development of the girls. Congratulations to our Coordinator of Junior School Music, Mrs Melissa Dods (also the Director and Music Director) and choreographers, Miss Kirrilly Wootton and Mrs Chris Barratt and the team of staff who made the whole production a wonderful showcase.

I thoroughly enjoyed the beautifully timed comic relief of duo Timon and Pumbaa, played by Zara Krause (Year 6) and Ellen Vote (Year 6), and the Hyenas, ably led by Millicient Brown (Year 6), Scarlett Pringle (Year 5) and Nadia Mohamed (Year 5). A number of students performed outstanding solo pieces, none more so than the strength of Joanna Mathers (Year 6) cast in the role as Rafiki, mastering the rambling African click language, Mufasa beautifully played by Emma Gregory (Year 6) and Rhea Werner (Year 5), ever convincing as Scar. Our two Simbas – Young Simba, played by Georgia Hennessy (Year 5) and then Freya Cantwell (Year 6), both clearly enjoyed their roles and performed with confidence through their extensive lines, reflecting their dedication in rehearsal. Brydie Read (Year 6) as Sarabi, Claudia Sowerby (Year 6) as Zazu, Katherine Graham (Year 6) as Sarafina, Young Nala played by Coco Marshall (Year 6) and Nala by Livia Gowrie (Year 6) all performed brilliantly. Congratulations to all cast and chorus members. There is something about listening to a group of singers perfectly harmonising African music, the use of torches on stage added to the feeling of the show and the humming and chanting echoed through the Hall tricked us into believing we were in the Serengeti! Congratulations girls, a most enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Snowsports Swap

With the winter chill well upon us in Melbourne, the mood of our St Catherine’s Snowsports families quickly elevates in readiness for the opening of the ski season. Last weekend, the Snowsports Auxiliary once again held a very successful Snowsports Swap, enabling families in the wider community to equip growing children with snowports equipment and clothing. The ‘Swap’ raised $15,000 in funds which will be used to provide lessons and purchase equipment used throughout the school season. In preparation for the Swap this year, over 1600 items were tagged by a busy team of St Catherine’s parents and in just over 2 hours 138 jackets, 99 ski boots, 93 skis, 100 pants, 50 ski poles, 37 helmets, 22 goggles, 11 snowboards were sold.  The Auxiliary were also pleased to donate four enormous bags of jackets/pants to ‘Off the Back’, a charity established by Toni Joel (Silver ‘82) almost 9 years ago. This clothing, in the form of winter clothing provides warmth to homeless over the coming months. The annual Snowsports Swap, in its 9th successive year, is a tremendous demonstration of recycling and sustainability by the School. Thank you to the Snowsports Auxiliary Committee members and the leadership of Mrs Jodie Cody and Mrs Tamsin Greig for their extensive preparation and organisation of the Swap.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal