I have had a number of comments and responses to my Behind the Green Gate article of a couple of weeks ago about the School Strike 4 Climate which is happening on Friday. I do thank all of the parents who wrote to me – some thinking that I had made the wrong decision, and others who agreed with or supported my stance.
I also received a letter which was signed by a very large number of (mostly) younger Old Girls, encouraging me to take a different position.
I met with two of the SCEGGS Alumni who were signatories to that letter – Olivia Schmidt and Stella Maynard. They are two of the most impressive young adults you could ever wish to meet. They were thoughtful, considered, intelligent, well-informed. They were also so empathic – wanting to demonstrate solidarity with students at SCEGGS who are rightly expressing significant concern, anxiety and sometimes despair surrounding climate change, but also demonstrating empathy to me, understanding the complexities of my position and wanting to listen, understand and engage with me on my concerns and hesitancies. I couldn’t be prouder of those two and would hold them up as beacons of all I want our young people to be!
I have been somewhat swayed by them both! I have already articulated my beliefs around Climate Science, and I repeat it here for clarity:
As I said last time, I believe the scientific evidence which tells us that the currently observed Climate Change is real and anthropogenic, and that the impact of human life on our world is significant. I believe that Governments should be doing far more long term thinking and specifically much more than they are doing currently about Climate Change, to protect the future health and sustainability of our planet.
I asked my Scientist friend (Prof Tony Haymet, Distinguished Professor and Director & Vice-Chancellor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California) about how to think of this. Here is what he said:
Yes, things are looking very bad for planet earth. Most of the heat caused by burning of fossil fuels has gone into the ocean (93%), causing sea-level rise, changes to fisheries and ecosystems, changing ocean currents, and changes to rainfall for almost all our farmers. Air temperatures are rising inexorably. Glaciers currently on land are melting, adding even more to sea-level rise. It’s bad. When I visited Bangladesh twice earlier in 2019, I felt famine was just around the corner.
Fortunately, we know EXACTLY what is causing this. It is not natural. It is 100% caused by humans emitting extra Greenhouse gases (GHG). What we have done in 150 years, we can undo, although simple chemical kinetics tells us it will take much much longer in the reverse direction than in the forward direction. Up to 2000 years according to Susan Solomon at MIT.
More good news: we know how to produce all the electricity we need without making more GHG. For example, California will do that by 2030, possibly sooner. In transport, we can use electric small cars, or hydrogen power small cars, all running on pollution free fuel. For trucks and construction equipment, we have more research to do. But no-one in my world is daunted.
For aeroplanes and big ships we need to manufacture liquid fuel which uses up as much GHG in its manufacture as it emits. We can already do that with fuel produced with algae. Aeroplanes have flown on algae fuel. The US Navy has green ships.
We need to reduce GHG pollution from agriculture. We have more work to do, but there are plenty of young scientists and farmers stepping up to the challenge.
Probably we will overshoot the “sustainable” amount of GHG in our atmosphere. So we need to actually remove some. Again, we have not perfected that technology yet, but there are great ideas out there, and pilot plants in operation. Sweden for example has CO2 removal built into its GHG legislation.
So what’s the problem? The problem is politicians, and vested interests who have been allowed to pollute “for free” since the industrial revolution, clinging onto their historical, mistakenly-granted privilege.
So what do we need? We need more young, ethical, well-educated scientists & engineers, farmers, economists and politicians. We need great teachers to educate not just this generation but the next and the next and the next until we have recovered from this global pollution overload.
I am not yet convinced that time off school to protest is more important or significant than doing a whole range of other things – some local action, some global movements (but in a student’s own time!). But it is a moot point anyway – you don’t get permission to strike either! So if parents give written permission for the girls to go to the strike, they will be marked Absent without Leave, but they won’t be punished, or “thought badly of”, and no negative consequences will flow in any way. I have been persuaded that this is a “unique and significant moment in international public advocacy about the future of the planet”.
As always, please let me know your thoughts and ideas about all this.
Head of School
School Strike for Climate Friday 20 September
I am aware that there is another School Strike for Climate on Friday 20 September. I am writing to let you know my position on this – that girls will not be allowed to leave School to attend this strike.
As I said last time, I believe the scientific evidence which tells us that the currently-observed climate change is real and anthropogenic, and that the impact of human life on our world is significant. I believe that Governments should be doing far more long term thinking and specifically much more than they are doing currently about climate change, to protect the future health and sustainability of our planet.
I applaud the girls who want to take a stance on this issue, but there are many things that they can do directly about this instead of attending the demonstration. So, we will be doing something on the day, and later in the year as well. On the initiative of Zoe Brenner in Year 11, and with my complete support, we are inviting some politicians to come one lunchtime to answer questions about their party’s environmental policies from an important group of first-time voters at the next election. To quote from her email to the politicians:
“Approximately 60% of the current girls in the high school will need to vote in the next Federal election (assuming that it is in three years) and about 75% will need to vote in the next State election.
The students at SCEGGS are concerned about what they can do about issues like the environment, jobs in the future, how our parents and families will be affected and what all of these things may mean for Australia.”
In particular, we would like you to share your views on climate change and the long term sustainability issues that face our country and the world."
In association with the day of the strike, we will have some activities – thinking of questions for the politicians, collecting ideas, having speakers and petition-signing on the School lawn, and a few fun activities as well.
I know that not everyone will agree with my decision not to let the students go, and some of you would have wished me to make a different one. I acknowledge the correspondence and discussions I had with some girls and parents after the last strike, and a couple of you who have approached me already about this next one. There was definitely a diversity of views! I do try to balance all these and make the best decisions possible. I trust I have your support.
Head of School
A huge thank you from me for everyone who worked so hard to make Sunday’s Fair an absolute success. What a fantastic day! Beautiful weather, great food and drink, wonderful games and activities, books, fashion, flowers, bargains, treasures... and the most uplifting celebration of the School community.
I know there were many parents who worked on the variety of stalls all day, hardly having time to go to the bathroom! I know there was a huge effort before the day too – making things, planning, coordinating everything needed.
So, thank you to:
• The Fair Convenors Penny Gerstle and Emma Holmes
• All of the Fair Committee and the Class Parents who coordinated the Year Group Stalls
• All those parents who volunteered on the day – in treasury (particularly Alex Locke, the P&F Treasurer), the Merry Men logistic team, and those who worked on the stalls themselves
• Keith Stevenson, our Facilities Manager, and his team of staff
• Daisy Bahen, Michelle Kadi and Airlie Murray from the Development Office
• Angelique Cooper, Tina Mavritsakis and Sarah Walters from the General Office
• The Musicians and the Music Staff who performed so delightfully
• Those staff and Prefects who agreed to participate in the Dunking Machine
• Sue Zipfinger, Juliet Schmidt, Sarah Stuart-Jones, Ulrika Aroney and the Green Team and the Waste Warriors
• Everyone who donated prizes for the Silent Auction
• All those who baked cakes, jams and all of the other goodies on sale
• Anna Pizanis for all of the beautiful flowers which she donated, and also to all of the other donations for stalls, large and small
• Everyone who came along on the day, enjoyed the community, smiled and laughed, enjoyed themselves, and spent up big!
I was truly thrilled – it was absolutely perfect!!!
Head of School
‘May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation, Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.’ - John O’Donohue
The Term III student leadership season is a highly anticipated one on our School calendar and often one of mixed emotions. Assemblies, Chapel Services and Year Meetings over coming weeks will be dedicated to addressing some of the philosophical aspects of leadership as well as some practical elements of the roles, including the qualities required to fulfil such a service.
Later in the term, all girls and staff in the Secondary School will be invited to vote for the 2019/2020 Prefects and House Leaders. First, voting for House Prefects, House Vice Captains and House Committee will take place in House Meetings on Monday 2 September. Then, voting for Head Prefect, Deputy Head Prefect, and School Prefects will take place after Assembly on Monday 9 September with all of Years 10, 11 and 12.
Students wishing to be considered as a Prefect or House Leader will be required to apply by completing and submitting a written application to me and therefore only those students’ names will appear on the ballot forms. Before being elected to the position, I want every future student leader to have taken the time to reflect on the importance of the role and the extent of its influence. I want every future student leader to have considered how her personal values and School values are aligned and demonstrated. I often remind the girls how valuable it is that we are a school where young women are prepared to put themselves forward confidently. It requires courage to apply and own one’s God-given talents. In doing so we also risk failure and while there is great joy for many in the Term III student leadership process, it is accompanied by great disappointment for others. Not all students will receive the highly coveted badge or role. I know that many girls dream of being a student leader at SCEGGS. I hope that many, many girls do apply. Lessons from women in leadership in corporate and professional life clearly teach us the importance of putting yourself forward and being confident of yourself and your abilities.
We seek not only good leaders in this process but also good followers. Good followers are discerning and judicious. When exercising their voting powers, good followers look up to and therefore elect those students whom they believe lead by example. I want all girls to reflect on the qualities and skills they see exemplified. We expect that our student leaders will be: positive role models, loyal to the School, young women of integrity and honesty, enthusiastic and joyful, compassionate and caring, reliable and committed, capable and resilient.
Being elected to School Prefect and receiving the badge does not mean that you have arrived and reached an endpoint. It marks the beginning of something formal and it also marks the continuation of the display of good character that others have recognised. It reflects the quote above and reminds students that leadership is about service.
The newly elected student leaders will be announced in the Final Assembly of the term on Friday 27 September. I look forward to working with them all in Term IV and beyond.
Head of School
At the end of each term, we have an Assembly to celebrate the achievements of the term, to profile the various activities in the co-curricular sphere, and to present a range of certificates, prizes, medals and other awards to outstanding students in each activity.
One of the many fantastic aspects of those end-of-term assemblies are the speeches given by the student captains of the particular activities of the term. They are always inspirational, and reflect the particular personalities and aspirations of the girls involved. The end of last term was no exception.
I thought you might like to read one such speech – from Aneka Henshaw, the Captain of Cross Country Running. Enjoy!
I know you’ve heard the rumours. Sylvie Stannage passing out on the IGSSA Cross Country course. People vomiting at our training sessions in Centennial Park. Girls actually using the showers in the sports hall change room – I know, shocking. This is the reality of SCEGGS Cross Country.
I’d like to preface my speech by saying that I do love running and cross country BUT the truth is, sometimes I’d rather lie down in the mud than try to keep up with Laura and Gabby. Running is hard, and I’ve been continually teased this term for talking TWO MONTHS ago about an “easy 3km run” – I have been assured that this is an oxymoron, so to those who were insulted by this turn of phrase, I offer my sincere apologies.
Honestly, though, I quite like hard things. Hard things like running, or physics or not pressing snooze on the alarm, teach us hard lessons. Cross Country doesn’t just make you physically fit, it forces you to become more disciplined, perseverant and courageous. My Cross Country girls know this well; there are no half-hearted efforts under Ms Thompson’s keen eye. All this talk of hard things, though, may be intimidating so I’ll stop. Let’s just say pushing through the hard stuff is worthwhile for the euphoric feeling afterward, for the Easter egg hunts and for the sunrise runs over the Harbour Bridge.
At the IGSSA Carnival we were blessed by Ms Dill-Macky and Ms Tucker in matching outfits, Ms Wymer who did the recording and helping girls in the spew tunnel at the finish line, as well as our usual support crew of Ms Gowan and Ms Thompson to whom we are all incredibly grateful. Five girls qualified for NSWCIS Championships: Audrey Ewington and Abigail Johnstone as well as Jacqui, Phoebe and Gabby who also qualified for NSW All Schools. So the infamous day down at Frensham went smoothly until Sylvie rounded a bend, fainted, fell on a fence, landed on a gravel road, was transported back to our tent in a car and then lain in a bed that she’d conveniently brought. Yes, a literal blow-up bed. She brought a bed to the Cross Country Carnival.
Like many things in life, running is hard, and this shouldn’t be understated because the effort that my Cross Country girls devote to this activity is immense and deserves recognition. So, thank you to all my running pals for what has been a crazy, challenging, laughter-inducing season of running up and down muddy hills in Centennial Park.
Head of School
It has been an absolute treat for me to watch Ashleigh Barty win the French Open. What a fantastic role model for all young people in Australia. She is such a wonderful Sportswoman – a fantastic tennis player and a gracious, down to earth young woman.
There have been other examples, too, of other female athletes at the top of their game – the Matildas, Women’s Rugby 7s, Women’s AFL... There are so many great role models in Australia for women and sport. And a little closer to home, in an earlier edition of Behind the Green Gate, we acknowledged the achievements of Old Girl and current SCEGGS Netball and Cross-country coach Amy Parmenter. Amy is a member of the Giants Super Netball team (Sydney’s premier Australian league team in the Suncorp Super Netball competition) and was voted MVP in a recent match. It should be inspiring for all the students here at SCEGGS – I hope they are seeing what can be achieved with talent and hard work.
On this note, you might like to read this article about the captains of four English women’s teams in cricket, netball, football and Rugby Union: English women's teams.
On a different but related note, there is a great deal of research about the importance of Sport and Physical Activity for all young people. All the research points to the fact that young people who participate in sport and organised recreational activity enjoy better mental health, are more alert, and more resilient against the stresses of modern living.
If you are interested in more, here is an article on this topic: importance of Sport and Physical Activity.
Co-curricular activities at SCEGGS have always been important, and I want our girls and young women to participate in a broad range of activities. I want them all to be accomplished, well-rounded young women - active, contributing, healthy, flourishing. Being involved in sport and physical activity (either inside school, outside school or both) is an important part of that.
We have been reflecting on this at SCEGGS, and how we can strive for an even better Sports program. There will be three prongs to this drive for further improvement.
Firstly, we want a renewed emphasis on the importance of commitment to participation when a girl signs up for an activity. I wrote about this in last week’s Behind the Green Gate. We want to ensure that there are clear expectations of turning up to all matches and training sessions and that girls consistently meet those expectations with 100% attendance, save in exceptional circumstances.
We also want to help girls not to be over-involved – to make careful decisions about their activities so that they can effectively manage all their commitments and make a good contribution to each.
We also want to work on the consistency of our sporting program, ensuring that the quality of coaching is as good as possible. We will employ some additional specialist Sports coaches who will oversee the development of a cohesive and coordinated program across all the grades and years of schooling, working with the coaches to improve their work with all teams and provide a more specialised and refined skills program.
Finally, we want to give a higher profile of Sport in Assemblies, particularly in the Primary School, giving greater recognition to sporting achievements and celebrating successes. I want to give a higher profile to Sport in our publications, profiling some high achievers (students, Old Girls, coaches, etc) and also promoting the broad range of Sports offered at the School, and also some of the other Sports which our students participate in outside of the School.
I want our girls to enjoy sport and physical activity – to be proud of representing their school, to strive to be the best they can be – individually as athletes and sports women and as team players, and to celebrate their own and others’ achievements in this arena. I want all girls to think that Sport is important and that SCEGGS does really well in this area, as much as academic studies, and cultural pursuits such as music and drama.
As always, please do give me a ring or drop me a line if you have comments or questions about this, or just to share your ideas.
I hope you all have a happy School holiday.
Head of School