Newsletter – 30th July 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians

The past two months that we have been at school engaged in on-site teaching reminds me of the proverbial curate’s egg. At a time of great uncertainty and deep anxiety we have managed to keep our school open and functioning despite the many challenges which COVID-19 has brought about. This is due, in no small measure, not only to the tenacity and commitment of our teachers but also to the determination and support of our parent community. If we have taught our young people anything, it is to be resilient, flexible and courageous. The term “new normal” is over-used and I suspect that once the danger that this virus poses is in the past, we will return to most of our old habits and ways of doing things. However, if we learn one thing from this crisis, it is that our school is a place where people care and where we will persevere.

When I look back on the Trinity Term, I am amazed by the manner in which things have changed in such a short space of time. Blended learning is now a prominent feature of our educational landscape. While Digischool may never become the key method of delivery, it will always remain part of the supplementary offering which St Catherine’s promotes. This means that teachers have had to upskill themselves and parents will need to consider ways in which they are able to facilitate access to devices and data. It is universally accepted that on-site learning and teaching remains the most effective method of curriculum delivery, but it also recognised that e-learning plays an invaluable supporting role. The flipped classroom is here to stay!

Despite the uncertainty and confusion relating to this year’s academic calendar, the school will continue to operate on the revised calendar which we published recently. This means that school will reopen for all staff and pupils on Tuesday, 1st September at the normal time. Please remember that all the current entry protocols will continue to apply and that masks remain obligatory for everybody. We have been told that the peak of the pandemic will be experienced in Gauteng during the course of August, so hopefully we will return to school at a time when the worst of the crisis is starting to subside. Whatever the situation, if I do not communicate with you all during August, be advised that we will start the Michaelmas Term as planned.

One of the major casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the co-curricular programme. No sport has been allowed and all cultural activities were curtailed. The re-introduction of sporting activities will depend on the Lockdown level which applies when we return. We are hopeful, however, that we may be able to salvage some of the swimming and cricket seasons in October and November. At present we are not planning to host parents at any of our usual functions such as the Senior School Executive Induction, Valediction, Founders’ Day or the year-end concerts. Alternative plans are being made in this regard, and we will keep you posted regarding further developments. These functions and events are important markers of our school’s ethos, and if we can commemorate them in any way, we will most certainly attempt to do so.

One of the goals which I have cherished for our school is the development and expansion of the music offering for both the Prep and Senior Schools. To this end we appointed Mrs Lorraine Kirk as the music co-ordinator in the Prep School with the specific mandate to recruit additional part-time music teachers to offer lessons to pupils who may be interested. An additional piano teacher is already working with junior pupils and I am very pleased to announce that we have secured the services of Mr Abri Venter to join the music department. Mr Venter is a son of Germiston who has returned to his hometown after spending several years at Michaelhouse as a music teacher and specialist. He has extensive experience in teaching piano, marimbas and voice coaching. Several of our pupils are already taking lessons with Mr Venter and all agree that they are thoroughly enjoying the experience. I encourage parents to consider sending children to Mr Venter for training. He is available on most afternoons and operates from the school’s Chapel. For further information, please speak to Mrs Kirk in the Prep School.

When one considers that the start date for this term was Monday, 20th April, I have no doubt that we all agree that these winter holidays cannot come soon enough. To this end, I wish to extend my best wishes to all members of our school community for the holiday period. May you enjoy the time spent with family and may you return at the start of the Michaelmas Term refreshed and ready to deal with the challenges that lie ahead. To our staff I also extend my gratitude and appreciation for all they did to ensure that our school could fulfil its mission and continue to deliver quality education despite the myriad of challenges we encountered.

Yours faithfully

Mr D.I. Maritz
Head of School