Published on July 10, 2020

By Dionne Molina – Director of Marketing and Community Relations and Janelle Kelly – Communications Manager

It may seem unusual to find the authors of this article anyone but the Principal. When asked about our reflections of our School’s experience with COVID-19, we thought it fitting to share our observations of how our School so aptly handled a crisis nobody could have predicted, thanks to strong leadership and the courage and trust of our entire community.

people helping each other illustration

Many will say ‘don’t look back’, but particularly in times of crisis, reflection is vital. It’s an integral ingredient to learn and improve, celebrate achievements and move forward.

For HVGS, our community, Australia and the world, COVID-19 was, and remains, a crisis; and will be remembered long into the future as such.

In a time when nothing is certain – except that everything is uncertain – how does a school best navigate an emergency of this proportion, particularly when the very nature of education becomes heavily politicised? How do school leaders respond and react to safeguard the health and wellbeing of students, staff and families while ensuring exceptional teaching and learning and a sense of community connectedness and calm?

Reflecting on HVGS and COVID-19, we took a step back to consider our situation as observers of the School, and we saw clear and extraordinary leadership. Not just from an individual but all individuals who make up our community; our staff, our students, our families. During this crisis, our staff became leaders in innovation, and they did so in the most challenging of circumstances drawing on skills never before tested; with their students’ wellbeing and education top of mind, always. Developing a culture of innovation at HVGS has always been essential. This was especially apparent as staff needed to ‘lean in’ to change and challenge, support each other intently, dare to think differently, develop and share new skills, and work in flexible new ways.

When HVGS had to transition to a mixed learning platform with some students at home and some in classrooms, all options were considered. These were difficult decisions, and we saw the weight of their impact. It was the School’s responsibility to ensure that our students received continuity of quality learning necessary to keep them engaged, connected and on the path to fulfilling their goals and aspirations. To ensure the Kindy student can continue to master their first sentences or a Year 12, only months off graduating can still achieve the ATAR they have worked toward for 13 years. We didn’t ‘follow the leader’ and default to the position of other Schools outside of our context. Instead, our leaders stood by their considered and educated decisions, as true leaders do, knowing what was at stake for our students.

Our School continues to rise to the challenges that COVID-19 presents. Welcoming students back to School, reintroducing co-curricular activities, the realisation that important student events,  like our athletics carnivals, may not run (and then working tirelessly to ensure they did), managing hygiene and social distancing; all scenarios we never imagined would require consideration at the start of 2020. But again, HVGS leaders stepped up. It is visible when our staff walk students to and from their classrooms knowing that parents can’t get out of vehicles. It’s teachers sharing videos and photos from the classroom with parents. It’s hours making online presentations to ensure families can make informed decisions about subjects choices, when parents can’t attend information sessions, and it’s supporting the most vulnerable students, families and staff to learn from home when they needed to.

While the crisis has born many a leader at HVGS, it has also created a School of shining stars. From the youngest children in the ELC through to the young adults in Senior School, HVGS students have shone in their own leadership, resilience and innovation and with the support of their families and HVGS staff, transitioned back to classroom learning with great enthusiasm. Our ‘new normal’ feels much like our ‘old normal’ with classrooms and playgrounds again filled with youthful energy and vibrancy.

From an observers’ view, it’s clear that leadership and success during a crisis at HVGS is a group effort. No matter whether you lead the School, a year, a class or a household, everyone has a paddle in the canoe.