Principal's Comment - 26 August

Covid 10 Update

Guidelines issued on Monday by the government have introduced compulsory wearing of masks/face coverings on public transport beginning on Monday 31st.  We have one week for students and staff and their families to make or purchase masks.  There is no Government or MOE funding, nor assurance of supply for such masks.  Students who use buses to travel to and from school must wear masks from Tuesday 1 September (Monday is mid-term break).


I want to begin this newsletter by reminding everyone that mid-term break is this Friday 28 August and next Monday 31st.  We instituted this break some years ago as a way of having a few days for winter bugs and ailments to clear so that absences are reduced.  That motivation continues, with the added element of the current Lockdown Level 2. 

Thank you to parents for not spectating at sports matches in the last two weekends.  The same rules apply this weekend, as they guarantee that we don’t violate the 100 maximum in a crowd guideline for Level 2.  As long as we observe this restriction, sport can continue.  That’s important, as the season has already been much-disrupted.  We will have far fewer students engaged in Winter Sports Week next week due to the season’s disruptions and the inability to include Auckland school students in competitions.  The details of which regional events are on and which are cancelled are elsewhere in this newsletter and on our website.  Best wishes for those of our students who do manage to play competitively next week. 

This week is busy, and that’s not unusual at our school.  A feature event is the Mental Health March, organised by senior students to show support for those who are experiencing dark moments and to say to them that help is available.  The students have had to wrestle with what Level 2 requires of them and part of that is abandoning their original hope to have 200+ senior students on the march.  Instead, Thursday’s march will restrict numbers to fewer than 100.  It will still end with a BBQ back at school at the end of the 10km walk.  This is a timely reminder of support; we are told by guidance that sustained anxiety is very much a worrying and destructive outcome of this year’s disruptions and the need to normalise talking to others and seeking assistance is very much in the minds of the student organisers.  

Last week ended with a Day of Silence, an event where students could nominate themselves as participants.  The exercise is one where those taking part use their lack of words - usually reinforced by tape across their mouths - as an emblem of the challenges some students have with forming their identity in the face of what can be hostile social pressures driving them towards silence.  This is particularly focused on gender identity and invites support for students.  The participants made comments on a spreadsheet about their motivation and these were a genuine affirmation of the worth of the day.  Many spoke of friends they wished to support or circumstances in their own lives where public support mattered to them at a private and deeply personal level.  As a school, we affirm the right of each of us to be who we are, without that being anyone’s business but our own. 

During this week the exercise is extended through Pride Week, celebrating our freedom to be who we are.  The week has a series of lunchtime activities open to all and it is the hope of the organisers that the wider school will support and encourage the week’s affirmation activities.  Pride Week reinforces important steps in building the celebratory and exuberant society that is contemporary New Zealand.

There is a resonance here, of course, with what else is happening nationally this week.  The sentencing of the man who last year sought to destroy those in Christchurch with whom he had a clash of philosophy occurs this week.  It is not just our Muslim students who feel the power and the pall of this moment.  All of us experienced horror and disbelief at actions that seemed and still seem incomprehensible.  To those in our community who share the faith of the victims, the sense of violation of their safety and security in New Zealand challenges their confidence in who we are. We see ourselves as a peaceful people and so often we live up to that.  The fact the shooter was not of our country does not change the fact that a human being was capable of this huge act of hatred.  As fellow human beings the message I see above all else is a warning that humans are capable of huge evil as well as transcendent acts that unite and inspire.  We all have the challenge of supporting and championing that which allows us to live freely and differently, celebrating diversity and not fearing it, and enjoying the complexity of this wonderful thing that is our society. 

And that brings us back to Pride Week.  It’s a week to celebrate and support the range of who we can be, without an overlay of anything other than our desire to reject hate ideologies and instead to support that which makes us capable of living as our best selves. 

Ross Sinclair