The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

I take the opportunity early each morning to get some outdoor exercise that could loosely be described as my ‘campus walk’. Whilst the purpose is for me to enjoy these beautiful surroundings and to get in a good few steps in before the workday begins, such timeout on the estate also allows for some important meditation moments, and a connecting with God and nature.  

Since the boys returned on 1 February, our pool enclosure has come alive to the early sounds of our swimming and water polo boys enjoying their own form of exercise. My walk takes me past this buzzing, whirlpool of excitement each morning of the week. Apart from the fact that the boys (many as young as nine years of age) are getting up well before the sunrise having cajoled their mum or dad to get them to school by 06.10, what has impressed me in recent days is the fact that even the changing seasons and the colder water doesn’t seem to dissuade them too much. This says as much about the power and persuasion of the peer group and boys feeling the instinctive urge to belong, as it does about these dedicated young lads being determined to play their parts as members of the swimming and /or water polo squads.

With the boys having been back at school for a good few weeks now, we as educators, are delighted to see this same ‘fellowship through belonging’ playing out in a number of different areas within their daily lives. Whether it’s taking their place in what is now recognised to be respective home classroom spaces, finding their friendship groups to hang out with at break time, or connecting with each other within the afternoon club and sports activities settings, it has been so good to see boys thriving in each other’s company again. A heartening confirmation that the boys are beginning to awaken once more to that healthy spirit of brotherhood that so defines much that is so natural within an all boys’ school environment like The Ridge and that sadly lay dormant for far too long last year.         

2nd March Board Meeting:

The School governors and members of the Exco team met for formal online session to enjoy an engaging and worthwhile time together last Tuesday. As always there was much to discuss and debate but, needless-to-say, top of the agenda was the appointment of the new headmaster. I am pleased to be able to share with parents that an announcement from the Chairman, Itumeleng Kgaboesele, is imminent. 

In addition, a good deal of time was spent discussing the Action Response Plan that has been drawn up following the Strategic Review that was conducted towards the end of last year. We have identified 8 Key Imperatives that will be the central pillars upon which The Ridge’s revised educational offering and service will rest.

Parents are advised that an overview document is being drafted with the express purpose of bringing all of you up to speed with the process, the findings and the way forward. The Chairman and I are looking forward being able to share this with you all within the next few weeks. In addition, time will be found at which we will be able to host a few Parent Forum Meetings that will allow for a formal introduction of the new headmaster and that, in addition, will help us to elucidate on what is being put in place to bring to life these 8 Key Imperatives.

Covid-19 Update

The recent shift to Level 1 ought to provide for the easing of restrictions that will serve to benefit us here at The Ridge in the days ahead.

Gatherings:

  • Larger gatherings are permitted;
  • Indoor gatherings may not exceed 50% of venue capacity up to a maximum of 100 people;
  • Outdoor gatherings may not exceed 50% of venue capacity up to a maximum of 250 people;
  • Health protocols must be observed at gatherings, including the wearing of masks and maintaining of a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres between people.

Sport:

  • Our coaches and boys are champing at the bit in anticipation of us being permitted to reconnect with the inter-school sports programme. Unfortunately, we remain bound by the GDE’s Level 1 Gazetted regulations from October 2020 that stipulate that only non-contact inter-school sport fixtures will be allowed, whilst following strict Covid-19 protocols. In the interests of safety and staying within the law, all Gauteng Independent Boys Schools have agreed to wait for the revised Level 1 Gazette which ought to be gazetted within a few weeks.
  • We have, however, implored ISASA to represent us at the GDE level in order to hasten what we believe ought to be a relaxing in some of the regulations that will allow inter-school sport to begin again but without compromising in any way the ‘safety first’ responsibilities that we are compelled to honour.

A Final Word:  

I came across a few fine exemplars of the following two quotes during this past weekend and thought that several qualify for some broader sharing in the light of so much in our social conditioning and rhetoric that, I believe, requires important realignment:

Empathy and Compassion are signs of strength not of weakness …

Jacinda Ardern – Prime Minister of New Zealand

Beautiful People are everywhere:

The link below captures random act of kindness.

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/amer-kayyal_beautiful-people-are-everywhere-agree-ugcPost-6773269496166666240-fSAv/

This thoughtful delivery man will no doubt have saved the owner of the house both time and possible injury.

There seems to be so much on social media and, indeed, news media at large in our modern-day culture that almost intentionally seeks to disturb, to threaten and to cause disruption or pain. Let’s make it our intention and our purpose to be part of a healing culture that purposefully aims to restore and uplift, and to demonstrate kindness and compassion. As importantly, let’s make every effort as parents to bring to life the strength of this resolve in ways that will empower and inspire our children and so encourage them to follow our example.

God bless and warm regards

The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parent

What an absolute joy to be able to welcome our Ridge boys back on campus last week. We’ve said often enough in the past that a school only truly comes alive when the children are back. With so many hoops to jump through in the weeks leading up to Monday 1st February, this time around the delight of reconnecting with them all again was that much sweeter. This sentiment has, of course, and as expected, been expressed by a number of our Ridge teachers.

Now for the term coming into focus; with all that we hope to be able to bring alive for all our Ridge boys. The President’s address on Monday evening promised a relaxing of some of the restrictions that have been threatening to dampen many of our plans for the months ahead. As such we look forward to make the most of all that the broader learning programmes will be offering up, but without compromising in any way our ‘Safety First’ pledge. 

Thank you to the many parents who tuned-in to our Grade Parent Forum meetings during the past two weeks. As mentioned in the meetings, we aim to keep communication channels open, informed and supportive as we navigate the days and weeks that lie ahead. As such, we look forward to further contact opportunities with all parents on a more regular basis.

Covid-19 Update:

It is good to report that our boys have responded very well to our alerts, prompts and reminders apropos adhering to the daily safety protocols built in for their protection each day here at School. It is still early days but as we maintain adripping tap’ strategy and approach, we look forward to being able to maintain their compliance going forward.

Thank you to the many parents who have supported and are administering the screening of their boys prior to leaving for School each morning. The stats from last Friday morning confirm that 374 boys out of 494 who attended school were screened. These numbers beg the question, so what about the other 120 boys? I would make another impassioned plea for those parents who have not adopted this screening practice yet to please do so. 

I draw your attention to the COVID-19 Alert SA app that our President has endorsed and that many people have downloaded in the interests of safety and self-protection. It can provide a way of helping to shield oneself and our loved ones from possible exposure to the coronavirus. In simple terms, the app lets people know when they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. For your interest, please find the link here –

https://sacoronavirus.co.za/2020/09/01/download-the-app-every-covid-alert-sa-app-download-means-more-lives-saved-in-sa/

PA News:

Whilst a warm welcome was extended to Bridget Gerber, our new PA Chairlady, and her new PA Committee, at each of the Forum meetings these past weeks, it is appropriate to use this newsletter to again welcome Bridget and her team and to wish them well for the year ahead. Bridget’s motto for the year is ‘Let’s not focus on what we can’t do, but rather on what we can do. To this end, she and her committee will be planning to draw attention to and find ways to support so many NPOs and legitimate charities that are struggling at this time and will require some form of assistance and support. For those parents who may not have had the opportunity yet to watch the video sent out recently by Ijeoma Solarin and Bridget Gerber, please click on the link – https://youtu.be/SeirZ-ftVvQ

This coming Friday, 12th February, offers us one such opportunity as The Ridge focuses the support lens onto the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA.

About Flip Flop Day™:

Now in its 2nd year, CHOC Flip Flop Day is an annual event celebrated on 12 February 2021. It is a day of fun and colour because although childhood cancer is in no way light hearted, South Africans certainly are, and when it comes to our children we need to rally behind them, as CHOC SOLE-diers to truly show that we are a force to be reckoned with.

About CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA:

Childhood cancer is a frightening diagnosis that no parent should ever have to deal with. Unfortunately, it is a reality that many families across South Africa have to come to terms with on a daily basis. These families are facing the toughest battle they will ever have to face – along with their little warriors who are fighting right on the frontline, at the heart of the battle. Luckily, these brave children and teenagers, along with their families never have to stand alone.  

CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa is a non-profit organisation made-up of caring, committed and passionate people who stand-up for and support the well-being of children and teenagers diagnosed with cancer or life-threatening blood disorders, and their families.

A representative from CHOC will be speaking to the boys at Assembly on Friday 12th Feb. please note that if your son does not have a pair of flip flops, he will be able to wear a pair of track shoes.

Early morning Drop-off and Go arrangements:

Parents will know that we have implemented again the morning drop-off and go systems in the Lawley Road and Woolston Road car parks. These have proved to be pedestrian-safe, efficient and user-friendly ways of circulating traffic around these two car parks at the peak drop-off times each morning while also allowing for the important boys’ temperature check controls to be conducted before the boys enter the school concourse. 

Thank you to the large majority of parents who are playing your part in keeping the traffic flowing. It is greatly appreciated. 

Having observed all five days of the 07:00 – 07:30 drop-off in the Woolston Road car park last week I would ask of all parents or drivers to assist us in the following ways, please

  • To look out for boys exiting a vehicle on the car park side;
  • To be considerate of other drivers;
  • To, as much as possible, keep the drive through area, as demarcated by the cones, free for other vehicles to pass by relatively unencumbered;
  • Not to stop and drop in the drive-through lane as it causes a back up of traffic waiting to enter the school grounds; 
  • To try and not drive over the cones.    

Ceremonies, Assemblies and Services:

Grade 7 and 4 parents are to please note that we have set new dates for the hosting of the Grade 7 Induction Assembly (Friday 19th February) and the Grade 4 Capping Ceremony (Monday 22nd February). This years Ash Wednesday Service will take place on Hersov Field on the 17th February as scheduled. Unfortunately, the staff and girls for St Ks and APPS will not be able to join us on this occasion.

In an effort to find a way of accommodating Grade 4 and 7 parents being able to join us on Hersov Field for respective ceremonies that were originally planned for earlier in February, we have decided to wait for a few weeks in the hope that the Level 3 restrictions will be eased. 

If Level 3 remains in place, I would ask that parents respect that, under law, we are compelled to remain compliant to the regulations as imposed by Government. We will make sure, however, to record these ceremonies so that parents will be able view them later on respective days.

Now or Never… Growing Green Children

In an effort to reactivate our School’s response to the call to find ways of being more environmentally aware, we are wanting to commission a special Growing Green Children Committee to champion this cause for us here at The Ridge. 

Holly Ferrar (Head of Grade 2) and Terri-Lee Dix (mum of Zach, Grade 3) and I are planning to lead this campaign but require a new level of support as we look to bring deeper understanding and more sustainable, long-lasting attitudinal and behavioural changes into the lives of our boys. 

If parents are interested to be involved in this vital Now or Never – Our Environment on the Brink initiative, please will you let me know by sending through an email to rstanley@ridgeschool.co.za

Reminders and Updates:

Another Live Calendar meeting was held last week in the interests of making sure that relevant and up-to-date School information that pertains to parents remains ‘live’.

Due to the current Level 3 restrictions and the need to guard the Safety First compliance, much of what we had hoped and planned for during the month of February, in the form of tours, fixtures, functions, and parent in-person engagements have needed to be shelved for the time being. The Live Calendar will keep parents in the loop as to what we are still hoping to offer in the days immediately ahead and until current restrictions are lifted. 

A Final Word … Thank you to our amazing security men:

We have many wonderfully selfless and kind people involved daily in the life of our Ridge School; many of them unsung champions who go about their tasks and duties in ways that demonstrate commitment, humility and a sincere people-centredness. 

The following email that I received from Sue Steyn who runs our School Shop reminded me again of the amazing work that is done by our team of humble security men: 

“I would like to highly commend the security guards on their incredible assistance with our email ordering over the past 10 months, but particularly the past two weeks. We have been inundated with emailed orders and there has been a constant pile of parcels awaiting collection on the floor of the guard house, and only a very few collection issues – most due to the parent quoting the incorrect surname. The guards have been extremely helpful and pleasant; not once did I feel we were inconveniencing them by taking up so much space, although I am sure it was very inconvenient having to step around and over parcels all day and night.”

On behalf of all, my sincere thanks to Moses Machado (Guards’ Supervisor), Tuis Babedi, Dyke Kune, Fhatuwani Mufhadi, Samuel Mulongoni, Thomas Mzizi, Thabang Teba, and Kenneth Thiba for all that each of them does in support of our boys and for people wellness generally here at The Ridge School. 

I wish you all continued good health and God’s favour into the weeks ahead.

Warm regards

                      

The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents                                                                          

The next five days have been set aside as a period of national mourning for the victims of the Pandemic. Here at The Ridge flags will be flown at half-mast and we are asking that all Ridge boys and members of staff wear black armbands as together we observe this important time through which to pay our respects.

The Ridge School pays tribute to and honours the memory of the many who have died in our land as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 Update:

We are extremely grateful that very few of our Ridge families have been badly affected by Covid-19; something to give thanks for. The reality is, of course, that as a nation we are far from being out of the woods and that the call is as strong as it has ever been for us to continue to exercise caution and responsibility.

A quote taken from a national newspaper,Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, said on radio last Thursday morning that he is concerned about the rising cases, especially in the Eastern Cape. He attributed it to corona virus fatigue and people reverting to normal behaviour. He said that our behaviour needs to be “New Normal”, wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds and confined spaces and exemplary hygiene standards.”

As we bring the curtain down on this 2020 academic year early next week, we do so mindful of our role in continuing to place the health and safety of our boys and staff above all else. As such, the decisions that have been made around the Valedictory Picnic this coming Friday night, the JP and SP (Grades 4 – 6) Final Assemblies on Tuesday, 1st December, and the Grade 7 Awards and Valedictory Assembly on Wednesday 2nd December, have been made in the interests of safety first.

Only Grade 7 parents, many of whom will be saying farewell themselves, have been invited to attend their sons’ functions due to the regulations that limit numbers attending school functions. They will be expected to attend wearing masks and will sign health and safety clearances on entry.

As we look to the School reopening in January, parents are reminded that we are planning around a ‘modified normal’ return for the boys on 13th January. Modified, because of the reality that masks and physical distancing will still be the order of the day. Understandably, some of the details of this return are still to be confirmed depending on what restrictions might need to be placed on schools returning after the December holiday break. This will mean that only by Wednesday 6th January, will parents of all Ridge boys be told of how your boys will return to school the following week.

Giving Thanks:

It was mentioned earlier in this newsletter that it is important for us to give thanks at this time when, being able to look back, the interventions, work, support and wisdom of so many have brought us, relatively unscathed by the coronavirus, to this stage of the year. As headmaster, it is my sincere pleasure to thank all who have played a part in helping to bring this about. In particular:

  • To all our wonderful teachers and therapists who have gone beyond the call, and certainly what most signed up for, to reach meaningfully and with professional know how into new areas of teaching delivery, care-giving, flexibility and adaptability, emotional support, and teamwork on behalf of boys, parents and each other;
  • To our incredible Ridge boys who have shown again just how resilient and adaptable children can be. Little lads, young men and the many boys in-between who have ‘manfully’ taken on the challenges that this unsettled and uncertain year has brought their way. Done so with oodles of spirit, loads of maturity and plenty of ‘Right Stuff’ respect – for their School, their teachers and each other;
  • To my Exco and Manco management teams for the incredible work done in helping to lead into the unknown, for stepping up to assist when tough decisions needed to be made, and for standing in the gap on some unexpected occasions;
  • To our amazing IT admin team who have done many months of tireless work behind the scenes to make sure that our Internet and WiFi connectivity have been all that they have needed to be in order for remote teaching and learning to happen;
  • To all admin, support, service and security staff members who have weathered their own storms on individual levels but who have nonetheless stoically played vital parts in keeping stability and order within the schooling operation as a whole;
  • To all student masters and interns who have been called to step into substitution and support roles, sometimes at a moment’s notice, and who have answered that call with willing hearts and a real boy-centred awareness;
  • To you, our parents, for your understanding at those times when we were all ‘reaching into the mist’, not sure of which direction to follow, for the incredible job done in support of the online teaching and learning, and for trusting your boys back into our care as we came back into a schooling system this term that was far from normal;
  • To Ijeoma Solarin and her PA committee for so much work done as representatives of respective grades, for taking on important liaison roles and for staying in touch;
  • To the Chairman of our Ridge Board, Itumeleng Kgaboesele and his governors who were prepared to offer new levels of support, wisdom and advice; and who made a point of staying in touch as we journeyed through uncharted waters;
  • To our Heavenly Father who has again held us, as The Ridge School, in the palm of His hand during the year like no other in recent time.

A Few End-of-Term Reminders:

  • The Grade 7 Valedictory Picnic to be held on Friday evening, 27th November will go ahead, rain or shine. Parents, boys and staff will need to remain flexible apropos late arrangement and venue changes that might have to be made as a result of the weather;
  • Break-up morning, Tuesday 1st Decemberboys and members of staff only for both of these assemblies. All Grade 1 – 6 boys are expected to be dressed in khakis, long grey socks and closed shoes.
  • the Junior Primary boys and members of staff will attend their Final Assembly at 08.30. They will be free to leave at the times as indicated below.
  • the Senior Primary boys (grades 4 – 6) and members of staff will attend their Final Assembly starting at 10.00.
  • the Grade 7 boys will be involved in special activities on that morning. They will be free to go home at 10.00.

Staggered pick-up times for break-up day, 1st December:

  • Grade 0 – 10:30
  • Grade 1 – 10:45
  • Grade 2 – 11:00
  • Grade 3 – 11:15

The JP boys will be picked up from Lawley Road carpark.

  • Grade 4 – 11.00
  • Grade 5 – 11.15 
  • Grade 6 – 11.30

The SP boys will be picked up from the Woolston Road car park.

All younger siblings to wait for older brothers and both will be collected in Lawley Road

  • Break-up morning, Wednesday 2nd December …
  • The Grade 7 boys, their parents and members of staff will attend an Awards Ceremony starting at 08.30. Boys to be at school by 08.00.
  • This will be followed immediately by the Valedictory Farewell Assembly which will be finished by around 11.00.
  • The Grade 7 boys will be expected to come dressed in their summer blues. No blazers will be needed. The boys may bring an extra school shirt for ‘signing’ purposes.

A Final Word:

In searching for some homily that would prove fitting in offering some deeper insight and meaning to all that the past year has brought our way, and, in particular, what it might have taught us all, I came across the following story as told by a retiring Australian headmaster in his retirement speech to the school a few years ago. I have taken the liberty of borrowing the bulk of the story and adapting some of what he shared in the interests of finding some parallels to our 2020 context. Otherwise the story is largely told word-for-word and as taken from his closing address.

The Story of Pebbles

There is an old legend about a group of shepherds who were preparing to go to sleep one night when suddenly the sky lit up with a heavenly light that shone down on them. Being shepherds, they knew that something wonderful was going to happen and they waited with eager anticipation.

At last a voice spoke from the heavens. It said to them, “Gather up as many pebbles as you can find. Put them in your saddle bags. Travel a day’s journey and tomorrow night will find you glad and will also find you sad.”

The shepherds were disappointed and angry. They had expected the revelation of something great for them and the world. perhaps some heavenly choirs of angels singing and promises of a new dawn for humanity. It has happened before for other shepherds. But instead they had been told to do something that made no sense at all.

Grudgingly, the shepherds bent down and picked up a few pebbles, as many as they each thought would not be too big a burden and put them in their saddle bags.

The next day, they travelled their day’s journey and that night made camp. They decided to empty the pebbles from their saddlebags as nothing exciting had happened during the day and they decided that they had been tricked.

To their astonishment, the pebbles had disappeared and, in their place, sparkling diamonds, one for each pebble they had collected. The leading shepherd turned to his companions and said, “The voice spoke truth. Tonight, we are glad and we are sad. We are glad because we have these precious diamonds. But we are also sad because we did not pick up more pebbles and thus have more diamonds.”

We never know in life which pebbles are going to turn out to be diamonds. Everything you learn without knowing why you are learning it is a pebble. At the end of year or a school career, students will find that their mental and emotional saddlebags contain diamonds.

Here we are, approaching the end of a year like no other, and as students, teachers and parents start the process of reflection on a year gone by, it is worth asking some hard questions of ourselves:

Did we collect enough pebbles in the early months of this year, that would have been somewhat of a burden to carry, but which by now would have become precious for us? Some of these pebbles may have been adapting to lockdown, adjusting to working from home, loss of income, becoming accustom to Zoom and Google Meets, living with the wearing of masks and coming to terms with unnatural physical distancing requirements, or perhaps an old habit discarded or a new one commenced …

Are there diamonds that we have collected that we are still unaware of because we haven’t inspected our luggage? Is there someone we ought to be thanking? Is there a part of our life we are taking for granted which has grown and developed this past 2020 year but we haven’t thought about it yet?

Whilst this oft times dark and threatening year has certainly tested the staying power of the human spirit, looking back, and on behalf of our school community, one is able to reflect on the fact that the collective spirit that is the School family, has been remarkably resilient. Each in its own way providing, perspective, promise, hope and opportunity. Here at The Ridge, as we gather up the diamonds that have come with each silver lining, we are able to give thanks that through the trials and tribulations, the sadness and pain, the anxieties and fear, there is, too, a rainbow of hope that we will be able look to as the December holidays come into view.

In closing, I wish all members of The Ridge family every happiness, many magical memory-making moments, safe travels, and God’s covering and favour as you and yours enjoy some much needed rest and recuperation in the weeks ahead.

Go well and God bless you all

Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

Whilst chatting to the Director of Marketing from a prominent boys’ college a week or so ago, we shared a few notes on the projections into next year and how schools are preparing themselves for what is, at this stage still, something of a perplexing unknown.

Questions like: What health and safety regulations will still be in place? What will the pupil enrolment look like? How will the very tight budget controls limit growth potential and related plans in a new year? Can we expect to begin to see a few green shoots pushing through an economic landscape that remains in the grip of an ever-tightening recession.

As you will all attest to within your own business or work situations, I’m sure, very little is absolutely certain apropos how respective organisations and institutions will restart their 2021 campaigns. Oh, for the proverbial crystal ball.

Scenario Planning towards 2021

Here at The Ridge we have been holding a series of staff meetings in order to better visualize and prepare the operational ground for the scenarios that we might be faced with. Whilst we recognise that between break-up day on the 1st/2nd December and returning for the start of the 2021 academic year on the 13th January is a mere six weeks, we are nonetheless still hopeful that there will be enough of a shift in the health and safety restrictions to allow for a more normal return to school life for your boys.

As a result of our discussions, I can report that we are preparing and planning for two probable scenarios. The first, as Scenario ‘A’, is what is being referred to as a ‘modified normal’. This will mean that, going according to plan, we will be able to reactivate most features of our fuller daily educational offering while making sure not to compromise all necessary health and safety practices.

Whilst this plan takes into consideration that in all likelihood masks and physical distancing will still be very much a part of everyday life here at The Ridge well into next year, we are nonetheless expecting that we can look forward to rolling out the following:

  • Classes to be divided into their conventional three class groups in respective home classrooms. Where we have been able to enjoy seeing the JP boys back in their own home classrooms this term, limited classroom space, timetable requirements and physically bigger boys have meant that our SP classroom structures and supporting systems have had to be creatively rethought. First prize will be to get them all back ‘in shape’ as originally designed.
  • We will be returning to school for the summer term which will mean, hopefully, that we will be able to offer a fully functioning extramural programme for our boys; i.e. a ‘back to normal’ afternoon sports programme that will include cricket, swimming, water polo, climbing, tennis and basketball for our SP lads with the JP boys have loads of fun-in-the-sun with a composite of cricket, swimming and tennis activities.
  • Our choral music offering has been badly hit this year and so, under a ‘modified normal’ scenario, we look forward to getting an almost full choral music programme back on song, as much as the wearing of masks will allow for. This will hopefully mean that, in addition to our instrument music which Carol Shutte and her team of music teachers have worked hard to keep buoyant, we are expectant that our boys will enjoy again orchestra, ensemble and choir music that will again be on offer.          
  • We are looking forward to having parents back on the School campus in some form from January, but again, will be governed by what the health and safety regulations allow for.   

The Scenario ‘B’ plan is essentially a continuation of most of what the current daily operation is providing for. We have been very blessed to have been able to bring all our boys back to school every day thus far this term, and whilst the academic programmes have remained largely uninterrupted, what we are offering is clearly still well below the intended normal. Every indication at this stage, is that it will be unlikely that we will be held to this as we come back to school in the new year.

Given what the pandemic is doing in other parts of the world right now in the form of a worrying second wave of infections, one can’t ignore completely that such a situation might arise here in South Africa. Should such an unlikely state of affairs descend upon us again, then we will be compelled to activate what would be a Scenario ‘C’ plan. This has not been on the table for discussion at this stage.

Staff News:

With the end of the school year fast approaching, one always anticipates that there will be some movement of staff. Thankfully, this year, I am able to report that we will be saying farewell to relatively a few folk when we break-up in December.

  • Isaac Mogano will be retiring following an incredible 47 years in the employ of The Ridge School. Sadly, due to the coronavirus and the many related threats for people in the more senior age brackets, Isaac has not been back to school since March of this year. Nonetheless, he will be returning on break-up day to enjoy the end of year farewell gathering that we will be holding to honour and thank him and others.
  • Levy Kwape will also be retiring at the end of the year. Levy has been at The Ridge for 36 committed years but, like Mr Mogano, has not been actively part of school life since March.
  • Parents were informed some months ago that Debra Coetzer (25 years of service to our school) had chosen to take early retirement at the end of the 2nd Term this year. She too will be honoured at the same gathering.
  • Kim Hansen will be heading back to Cape Town to be with her parents after an all too brief year with us as one of our Grade 2 class teachers. We will be sad to say farewell to Kim at this time but wish her well as she begins a new chapter in her life down in that most beautiful part of the world.

A Final Word:

On half-term break-up day, I was delighted to receive a visit from a few of our Grade 3 lads who had been applying their creative carpentry skills to the making of bird feeders. They brought with them some personally written letters in which they requested permission from their headmaster to hang up the bird feeders somewhere in the school grounds. Clever boys, knew, of course, that it was a dead cert that their twitcher HM was bound to give them full permission.

Being the first few months of the new spring season, The Ridge School is playing host again to a colourful array of beautiful birds; many having returned from their winter migrations into the northern hemisphere. I thought that I would take the liberty of sharing a few shots of some of those that I have seen on and around campus in recent weeks.  

For those of you who are less familiar with birding, please forgive me taking liberties like this. Those who do have an interest in the wonders associated with our feathered friends, enjoy some of what Mother Nature shares into the lives of our boys here at The Ridge from time to time.

Warm regards and best wishes as you and your sons look forward to making the most of the final few weeks of the school year.

Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

Having been back at school for a little over a month, it is good to report that all formal teaching and learning systems are running smoothly and that, in particular, our Ridge boys are responding, as expected, with enthusiasm and energy to all that is coming their way each day. It is important to note too that we are maintaining our expected compliance to the wearing of masks, the enforcing of physical distancing, making sure that classrooms are being well-ventilated and that desk-top, chairs and touch-point sanitizing is happening in all classrooms and other gathering places at least twice each day. 

Not only has the month of October brought with it the welcome rains that a thirsty Gauteng and surrounds have been crying out for during the dry months of a very cold winter, but on the school operational front we have been able to whet the boys’ learning appetites by introducing a few important ‘seeking some normality’ features at various levels.

As already mentioned, whilst we remain fully compliant to the Department of Basic Education’s most recent health and safety regulations, we are determined, too, to explore what needs to be done to add more substance and meaning to what our Ridge lads are experiencing here at school each day. In addition to the re-introduction of a five-day school week for our Junior Primary boys and the welcome bringing back to life of some timetabled, club-type activities for our Senior Primary boys that were shared with SP parents last week, work has also been done to:

  • Improve home classroom structures so that live, in-person teaching can happen during every timetabled period each day;
  • In this context, we are expecting all boys to be back at school following the half-term break. Only if boys are genuinely ill or have a doctor’s certificate to say that, being comorbid, they must remain at home, will a boy be officially excused and so assisted online. 
  • Better co-ordinate and control the daily drop-off and pick-up arrangements for given grades. In this regard, we will be trialling a morning Woolston Road drop-off system through next week for SP boys and their parents. In order to assist parents and to alleviate some of the traffic congestion at the Woolston Gate, we will allow parents to drive into the Woolston carpark and around traffic circle in single file, drop their lads off, and then leave. There is to be no actual parking and parents are reminded to stay in their vehicles, please. The system is similar to the one that has worked so successfully in the Lawley Road carpark for the JP parents. Should the trial drop-off system work, we will formally implement it after half-term. SP boys whose parents choose to drop them outside the Woolston Gate will be required to enter through the pedestrian gate alongside the guard hut. The routine temperature checks and screening will continue to be administered.
  • Free up the Nicolson Hall so that we can again hold permissible special assemblies and staff meetings;
  • Begin to introduce a few summer games to the boys’ Physical Education lesson times.

Looking Ahead:

October month also brings into view much that is normally associated with a school’s end of year programme of events. Needless-to-say, a good deal of what we would normally plan for has needed to be rethought or, unfortunately, in some cases, cancelled due to constraints imposed by existing safety regulations. Nonetheless planning is well in-hand to be able host some of these traditional functions, just in different ways and under regulation-imposed conditions. There will be more detail on each of the following events and others in the days ahead:

  • The Grade 7 Market Days on Wednesday each week until the end of October;
  • The Remembrance Day Service will be conducted by the Grade 7 boys;
  • All Ridge boys, Grades 0 – 7, will be encouraged to participate in The Santa Shoebox Collection for charity this year. 
  • The Grade 3 Thanksgiving and Farewell Assembly;
  • Special but low-key JP and SP Christmas Carol Assemblies for the boys and teachers to enjoy;
  • Final Assemblies for Grades 0 – 3 and Grades 4 – 6 on the morning of Tuesday 1st December;
  • A Combined Prize Giving, Awards and Valedictory Farewell Assembly for our Grade 7 boys and their parents on the morning of Wednesday 2nd December.

Please note that, as alluded to above, given the expected continuation of current physical distancing regulations and the related limited number of people permitted in given spaces, we will need to bring break-up day for Grades 0 – 6 boys forward to Tuesday 1st December. This will primarily be in order to accommodate the important Grade 7 Combined Prize Giving, Awards and Valedictory Farewell Assembly that will serve to bring closure to the academic year for the Grade 7 lads on Wednesday morning, 2nd December.

Staff News:

We are delighted to share the news that Candice Fletcher (our Ridge School Psychologist) and her husband Ray have been blessed with the arrival of a beautiful, healthy baby boy. The little fellow is their second son, after firstborn, Grey.

Dress Code for Boys – also see The Ridge App

We are needing to tighten up on the dress code for all Grade 0 – 6 boys:
  • Grade 0 lads are permitted to wear PE kit – short white socks with blue shorts and blue shirts;
  • The wearing of khakis for boys in Grades 1 – 6 must be accompanied by the wearing of school socks and black shoes, or, alternatively, school sandals;
  • If Grade 1 – 6 boys choose to wear their PE kit then it must take the form of long white school sports socks, blue shorts, blue or white AirTec PE shirts and trainers;
  • Swimming costumes may be worn under a boy’s PE kit;
  • Boys are encouraged to wear wide brimmed blue Ridge hats as the spring sun begins to make its presence felt on occasions when they are outside.
  • Grade 7 boys may continue to come to school in their civvies except when required to come dressed in their summer blues on special occasions. 

Parents are asked to please make sure that all clothing is clearly marked with your son’s name.

Lightning Alert System

As we await the arrival of the welcome summer storms we must anticipate that a lightning threat will accompany them. We were reminded of this at lunch time of Monday this week when an intense electric storm arrived without much prior warning. In fact, the lightning was almost above us when the first siren sounded. On such occasions at the close of a school day, parents will understand, I’m sure, that we will need to keep the boys and members of staff under cover until the storm passes over. Every effort will be made to alert the parents in advance of such a decision in order to prevent a build-up of traffic in the roads leading towards the School.  Our lightning alert system here at The Ridge is in good working order having been recently tested and can be trusted again to give advanced warning of approaching storms. In summary, the system works as follows:

  • The lightning alert siren will go off if lightning strikes within a 15km radius of the school.
  • The siren is mounted on the Nicolson Hall and has a very powerful and far-reaching resound.
  • An ‘all clear’ siren will sound after 30 minutes should there be no more strikes within a 15 km radius. The ‘all clear’ will only go off 30 minutes after the last recorded strike.

No matter how good the system, there will always be a responsibility for coaches, teachers and parents to remain alert themselves, to use their own common sense and to act decisively if they believe that lightning is threatening. This is particularly the case at this time when usual and routine practices have been altered in the way they have in recent months.

To this end the following instructions have been issued to all members of staff:
  • The boys must stay in their home classrooms until told to move elsewhere;
  • When a storm is approaching, to anticipate that the lightning alert siren will probably go off. Should it not go off and they feel that they and the boys are exposed they are to seek shelter and safety immediately;
  • When the siren does go off, they are not to hesitate. They will be expected to get the boys under appropriate cover and into safety as soon as possible; 
  • Staff are then responsible for looking after the boys in that place of safety.
  • Only when the siren sounds an ‘all clear’ can the coaches or teachers return to whatever activities they and their boys might have been involved in.
  • If the ‘all clear’ is not given after an extended period of time and parents are intent on taking their boys home then the coaches and/or teachers may only release the boys if the parent or guardian is there in person to collect their son.
  • Boys waiting in the carpark are expected to wait under shelter at all times when a storm is threatening or is overhead. They will be supervised accordingly.

A Final Word:

As parents would have seen in last week’s Ridge Reporter, we were delighted to welcome back to The Ridge some of the 2015 Grade 7 School Leavers for a special Matric Assembly last Friday morning. Whilst having to adhere to DBE health and safety regulations and against the backdrop of inclement weather in the early morning, we were nonetheless still able to host some 35 matrics, a good number of their parents, our own Grade 7 boys and members of staff in our Nicolson Hall – all obediently complying to the physical distancing protocols and the wearing of masks.

For the matrics and their parents, it proved to be a special two hours of reconnecting with their old school and each other. Many of these strapping young men commented on the fact that this brief trip down memory lane back here at The Ridge was a much anticipated and most welcome return to their prep school alma mater and to a place that they have such fond feelings for and strong allegiances towards. A reminder to us again that the laying of foundations for life in schools like this often represents so much more than the formal academic learning that takes place in the classroom.

A reminder that our half-term weekend has been trimmed from six to four days. We will break-up on Thursday afternoon, 15th October at 12:00 and return to school on the morning of Tuesday, 20th October.

Warm regards and God’s blessings over you all at this time

Richard Stanley
Headmaster                            

The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

The recent announcement by the President that the country will move to Level 1 as from today has been well received across the nation, in most places of work and, as expected, within our educational systems. President Ramaphosa again made it clear, though, that the wearing of masks continues to be mandatory at schools, wherever groups of people gather in private and in public spaces, and that physical distancing remains a priority; once again, in the schooling context, a non-negotiable.

Changes for Schools under Level 1: 

For schools, the relaxing of numbers from the 50 maximum at any one time to the 250 persons or less in case of an indoor gathering and 500 persons or less in case of an outdoor gathering has given us the all clear to plan for end of year functions and assemblies, provided that no more than 50 percent of the capacity of the venue is used, with persons observing a distance of least one and a half metres from each other.

We will make sure to keep parents informed regarding all of the planned for end of year arrangements once we as the Exco team and organising committees have made a final call on the details in each case. 

Teaching and Learning Systems:

We are pleased to report that whilst we remain strictly compliant to our health and safety protocols, we have been able to bring the JP back to an almost normal footing again during the past three weeks. With only a handful of lads still not able to come to school, we have been delighted to accommodate the rest in their own designated classroom, albeit while still observing the necessary physical distancing. The JP will reinstate the full five-day school week as from 2nd October.

In the Senior Primary, we will retain the current, modified home classroom system. This ensures that boys are seated at the required 1,5 metres apart, that teachers move between classrooms during the course of a given morning and that, where necessary, smaller numbers of boys in given home classrooms are being accommodated so as not to compromise safety standards. We have also created flexibility within our own internal structures so that the Grade 5 and 6 boys will engage in permanent onsite learning. As from the first week in October, the blended learning system will be adapted in order to focus more on the onsite, at school, teaching and learning. We will still make sure to look after the needs of those few lads who have not been able to return to school due to co-morbidities or their family members whole are likewise potentially compromised.  

Covid-19 Update and News:

The home classrooms system was put to the test late last week when a Grade 4 boy in Ms Kinnear’s class tested positive. The lad concerned has recovered quickly from having felt poorly on Thursday and Friday. He is isolating at home for the next 14 days. Ms Kinnear and Ms Lord who taught him on Thursday morning before he went home are also isolating at home as they look to being given the all clear.

We have taken the step of keeping the Grade 4K boys and Ms Lord’s Grade 4 Maths and English boys at home for the next two days as we focus on the two facilities in question being decontaminated and deep cleaned. This is taking place today. We hope that these boys will be able to return to school on Wednesday morning. Parents of the Grade 4-year group as a whole have been asked to pay special attention to their son’s health and to any flu-like symptoms that might manifest in the days immediately ahead.

The three Grade 4 classes have, like all SP grades, been given their own, more spacious home classrooms that, by design, are set apart and so they do not come into direct contact with the rest of the SP. When the boys are outside in the fresh air, at break or whilst at PE, they are wearing masks and are expected to physical distance at all times. 

My thanks to the parents of the young fellow in question for having brought the positive test result to our attention as soon as they had been informed. A remind to all parents to please stay in touch with the school along similar lines should it be necessary in the days ahead.

School sport:

Since the start of term, we have been running morning and early afternoon PE activity sessions for all classes on scheduled days. As we move into Level 1, the expectation is that schools will be given license to re-introduce more formal, afternoon extramural programmes. Unfortunately, as much as we would dearly love to offer more extramural type sport, this is not the possible at this stage. 

A memo from the Gauteng Education Department was circulated on Wednesday 16th September, a day after the President’s address, that served to clarify the current status regarding the implementation of school sport programmes at all levels. 

“The Minister of Education has pronounced that the school sport in all forms has been suspended until further notice. The status quo remains that schools cannot engage in any sport activities until the Minister of Basic Education determines otherwise.”

As such, we will continue to provide skill-based, non-contact physical education type activities for our boys as timetabled each day. 

Staff News:

It is most unfortunate that I have to report that Leslie Elderkin, who joined The Ridge as Head of Instruments and Performing Arts at the beginning of the year, is no longer in our employ. Mr Elderkin did a good job in his role as Head of Instruments in the 1st Term but the impact of lockdown, school closure, and, in particular, the unexpected and tragic death of his mother has sadly meant that he needs to be closer to his family in the North West.

We have advertised for a new Head of Woodwind. In the interim, Carol Shutte and Irene Morrick will be able to manage and oversee all areas of choral, instrument and ensemble delivery in the Music Department as a whole. The other music peripatetic teachers are also doing well to help to cover the necessary bases.

I am pleased to advise the parents that Carol Shutte’s title has changed from Director of Choral Music to simply Director of School Music.

Heritage Day programme:

Both the Junior Primary and the Senior Primary will be enjoying special time together on Wednesday morning 23rd September as they celebrate Heritage Day here at The Ridge.

In the JP, boys are asked to come to school dressed in traditional heritage clothing with a special story, poem or song to share with their classmates. This will take place in their respective classrooms.

The SP will start the day with a Heritage Day Assembly on Hersov Field at 07.45.

This will take the form of an address by Moeketsi Motsepe, an Afrikaans Folk Tale shared by Tina Mashobane, a Zulu Folk Story told by Zibula Dladla, and an English Folk Tale read by Hanlie Glanz. Each of these will be punctuated by presentations from respective grades:

  • Grade 4 boys will perform a Gumboot song, ‘isiCatulo’;
  • Grade 5 boys will share a choral verse, ‘We love our South Africa’ and a Basotho Hail Dance ‘Sefako’;
  • Grade 6 boys will start proceedings with the ‘San’bona’ song and will share their rendition of a Cape Minstrels song towards the end;
  • Grade 7 will share their version of an Afrikaans song, ‘Liefde Generasie’;
  • To finish proceedings after Mr Motsepe has offered a formal closure, the SP will sing the National Anthem and then the Grade 7 boys will lead the others in the Jerusalema Dance in response to Cyril Ramaphosa’s Challenge.

Calendar Information:

Break-up days at the end of this term. Please note that in order to host a special safety approved Grade 7 Farewell on Wednesday morning 2nd December, the rest of the school, Grades 0 – 6, will break-up on Tuesday morning, 1st December. There will still be a Final Assembly for these lads as well either on Hersov Field or in the Nicolson Hall, once again, safety factors permitting. 

We are able to confirm that The Ridge has joined most of the other Gauteng independent schools in adopting the new 2021 term dates.

The official 2021 Calendar now reads as follows: 

Term 1 (53 days):

Start … Wednesday 13 January

Close … Wednesday 31 March

Half Term:

Close … Thursday 25 February (12h00)

Return … Tuesday 2 March

Public Holidays:

Sunday 21 March (Human Rights Day)

Monday 22 March (Public Holiday)

Term 2 (68 days):

Start … Wednesday 28 April

Close … Friday 6 August

Half Term:

Close … Friday 11 June (normal time)

Return … Monday 21 June

Term 3 (62 days):

Start …Tuesday 7 September

Close … Friday 3 December

Half Term:

Close … Wednesday 20 October (12h00)

Return … Wednesday 27 October

Public Holidays:

Friday 24 September (Heritage Day)

A Final Thought:

The first official Heritage Day in 1996 was marked with these words by Nelson Mandela:

“When our first democratically elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.

“We did so knowing that the struggles against the injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity; they are part of our culture. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of division and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of non-racial democracy.”

To The Ridge family, I wish you an appropriately festive, happy and reflective Heritage Day celebration on Thursday 23rd September as we embrace and dedicate ourselves afresh to playing a part in continuing to pursue for our children Nelson Mandela’s dream of a non-racial democracy.

Warm regards and God bless you all as you make the most of what I trust will be a quiet, pleasant and relaxing long weekend.

Richard Stanley

Headmaster

The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words rings true in so many instances within a school context and no more so than when recording and celebrating events and happenings that will serve as precious historical moments to be remembered and cherished.

Our Ridge School 2019 Centenary Magazine is one such example of how photographs and graphics can bring to life, all over again, the celebration, joy and happiness associated with our momentous 100 Year celebrations. The magazine is now ready for distribution, both in hardcopy and in the electronic version. We look forward to sending this on to you all. Your boys will receive their hard copy version on their return to school. Grade 7 boys will receive theirs this coming week. Click on the link below to view the 2019 Centenary Magazine electronically:

https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/63342966/ridge-2019-flipbook.

Grade 7 Boys Return:

As you all know, last week saw the welcome return of our senior lads following ten weeks away. The following photographs give a brief snapshot of some of what they had to adjust to but that they were also able to enjoy together during their first three days back.

Grade 0 – 6 returning:

We anticipate that we will receive a favourable acceptance from the Gauteng Education Department within the next few days for us to deviate from their regulated return dates. This being the case, parents will be notified immediately of the scheduled rotational re-entry plans that we look forward to being able to roll out as soon as possible.

Health and Safety Inspection:

On Thursday last week, the local Health and Safety Inspector paid us a visit here at The Ridge. We were delighted to welcome her and to take her through the many facets and features of our Health and Safety Compliance Plan, Prevention Protocols and Implementation Strategies.

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Following a rigorous inspection, she took her leave of us, very satisfied that every area of compliance has been well planned for, carefully thought through, and purposefully implemented. Our Covid-19 Certificate of Health and Safety Compliance is, she said, in the post. We are, of course, acutely conscious that the real examination will take place when the rest of our boys return.

Safety First

Having read the comprehensive Health and Safety Compliance Plan and Preventions Protocol, parents will be aware that we are determined not to take any shortcuts as we arc-safety-first-1-810x540set about bringing your boys back into a prioritized ‘safety first’ environment. As we endeavour to improve and add safeguards that are reachable and reasonable, we will continue to add to or amend, where applicable, the Compliance Plan and Protocol document. In this regard, please note the following amendments:

  • A new section, 5.1.11, has been added to deal with concerns regarding gloves and the dangers that they can pose in so far as the cleaning staff are concerned. Related amendments have been made to section 5.1.10 and section 6 regarding the safe use of gloves;
  • In Annexure “G” a new question has been added to the screening questions;
  • Sections 10.1.4 and 10.2.2 have been amended to delete reference to section 3.2 that is no longer application;
  • Section 7.3.3 has been amended in order introduce the safeguard that boys must not face each other in any form of breaktime activity. The section makes it clear that physical distancing protocols must still be observed.

Isolation facilities:

For parents’ information, we have four isolation rooms that have been set up to look after boys (and members of staff, should it be necessary) when they fall ill. The rooms have been thoroughly sanitized and will be cleaned each day whether they have been used or not.

index

A deep disinfecting will take place following any illness-related usage. These facilities will remain strictly out of bound for any other activity during the course of a given day.

Travel Permits:

Parents would have received the Travel Permit template that you will require in order to transport your son to and from school each day. The permits have been prepared at school with the necessary School stamp and my signature so it is left up to you to complete the forms and then keep them handy in the vehicles used for school transport.

Certificate for Learners Attending School:

This is a recent development. This special stand-alone certificate, which has been sent to you for filling out, must again be kept handy whilst en route to school or when travelling home each afternoon.

Parent Forums:

We have enjoyed a number these online connecting sessions in the last few months. Certainly, for those hosting these from School, an important opportunity to listen, respond and reach out. We will be hosting more of these in the weeks ahead.

Long Weekend … 13th – 16th June:

With Youth Day falling on Tuesday 16th June it has been decided, in conjunction with St Katherine’s and APPS, to stick with the original long weekend as planned.

Term Calendars:

There is still no word from SAHISA regarding the changes that might be made to the school holidays in the months ahead. We will keep parents abreast of any decisions that will be forthcoming. A reminder that, for many obvious reasons, it is expected that regional schools cooperate on these matters and so stay in sync with each other as we work with SAHISA to fine-tune and accommodate any changes that might be necessary.

‘Let’s never again suggest tech could replace teachers’

Society must never forget one key lesson from this crisis – teachers really are indispensable, writes Priya Lakhani.                                                                                                        22 April 2020

As the founder of a company that develops artificial intelligence (AI) learning technologies, for years I have been plagued by accusations of developing secret robots designed to replace teachers.

No serious-minded person, whether politician, educator, technologist, student or parent, actually desires the robotisation of our teaching workforce. But despite this, some commentators are seemingly convinced of the existence of secret underground laboratories in which Miss R2-D2 and Mr WALL-E, with elbow-patched tweed blazers covering their wiring, are being perfected for the upcoming takeover of our classrooms.

priya_lakhani_-_founder_ceo

In fact, from my conversations with those who actually run schools, it seems that the only advanced automated devices that they want are better coffee machines for the staffroom.

If we had wanted to, the closure of schools would have been the perfect time to unleash our secret stash of iTeachers on the unsuspecting nation. Squadrons of AT-AT Walkers would currently be roaming from home to home shooting knowledge beams and skills rockets into learners’ brains. There’s no need to keep socially distant from a robot, so one-to-one teaching could be taking place in every home in the world.

Thankfully, schools and families across the world decided to instead use technology to enhance and extend what little human interaction could take place, not replace it. We are now using technology to improve as much as possible the human relationships between teachers and their students.

It is too soon to tell the results of this great experiment, but we should be thankful that the disruption occurred now and not at a time when the extent of education technology was a dodgy interactive whiteboard. From AI learning platforms to video calling, technology has kept learning – and, vitally, a human-centred model of learning – flowing through unprecedented turmoil. Teachers have been able to learn which tools can aid their teaching, especially with many companies offering their tools for free. But, fundamentally, technology must now be seen as what it was always designed to be: an aid, not a replacement.

While tech has stepped up to the plate, let this be the end of the teacher replacement debate. The world’s home-schooling experiment should mean that the debate about whether AI will replace teachers will stop. Millions of families have now realised first-hand how teaching is more than transferring the contents of a textbook to a child.

Prior to this crisis, far too many parents thought that because they went to school they knew how to teach. We’re all guilty of this. It isn’t confined to education, either; thanks to Google and panic-inducing symptom checkers, GPs frequently deal with patients convinced of having complex ailments without ever having read a medical textbook.

Thanks to a few YouTube videos on how to replace a broken toilet flush valve, I now stand with folded arms carefully observing the work of any skilled tradesmen called on for help, to their assumed annoyance. But with many of us having been forced to become teachers overnight, any doubters surely must agree that teaching is a profession to be revered.

To be entirely fair, many of us parents have performed quite a remarkable transformation from Mummy to Miss. Mums and dads everywhere ripped off their Clark Kent spectacles to become teaching superheroes overnight. Aided by technology, textbooks and the brilliant Joe Wicks, parents have risen to the challenge of keeping their young ones both happy and learning. But with this has come an unprecedented appreciation for the role teachers play.

Let us never again suggest that technology could replace teachers. Instead, let us value the role that good, proven technology can play in augmenting the vital human relationships that learning and human flourishing depend on. Some campaigners are calling for NHS staff to be awarded a collective George Cross for their heroic efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Such formal recognition will likely evade teachers, but once we get through these difficult times, let’s never forget what we all learned about how indispensable our teachers are.

Priya Lakhani OBE is founder and CEO of Century Tech and sits on the government’s AI Council

A Final Word:

We have been reminded in recent days that whilst humanity has been forced into a place of togetherness in order to do battle against Covid-19, there persists much within the make-up of our societies that continues to foster deep divisions and that remains painfully unresolved. The ugly scourges of institutionalised racism, cultural bigotry and religious intolerance continue to haunt so many aspects of our 21st Century lives.

As an independent boys’ primary school that holds dear the people-centred, Christian values that are entrenched within our mission statement, we are more committed than ever of finding meaningful ways to generate and encourage the virtues of love, respect, acceptance and trust. As we do so, to work side-by-side as we seek ways of bringing cultural, racial and religious harmony that will serve to embrace every person’s uniqueness and that are sincerely felt by all. A place of learning for life where every boy, member of staff and parent feels warmly accepted, firmly held and where they know that they belong.

I wish you all health, happiness and many heart-felt moments to cherish as the upcoming long-weekend comes into view.

Warm regards

Stanley

Richard Stanley

Headmaster

The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

With the 2nd Term now up and running, albeit remotely, the boys beginning to settle into a freshly designed and delivered online learning routine, and mums and dads hopefully being able to find time to engage in your own areas of commitment, there is a sense that the new normal is becoming a touch more acceptable.

As expected, things remain all too quiet back here at The Ridge.  We have been pleased, however, to welcome back a few key members of our support and service staff teams who, as resident members of staff, help in making up a permissible workforce complement. Some teachers, working from home, have been issued with special essential services permits that will allow them to travel through to school should they need to in the weeks ahead. Needless-to-say, we look forward to all members of staff returning in a few weeks’ time as we prepare the school to welcome your lads back.’

Our Theme for the 2nd Term is Let’s not waste this Ridge Stretch moment.

In my opening online assembly on Tuesday morning, I brought to light three key areas of stretch that the boys ought to be able to understand and bring to life for themselves. This extraordinary moment in time presents for each lad a chance to demonstrate a Physical Stretch, to embrace all that the remote, online School Work Stretch will offer up, and to make the most of how a Shining Brightly Stretch will give each boy an opportunity to share light, love and life into his immediate home environment.

Picture 1

Parent Forum sessions:

As mentioned in the letter that accompanied the 2nd Term Scenario Plan last week, we look forward to being able to host online Parent Forums in the days immediately ahead. The aim being to give parents a forum through which to connect with members of the senior management team in order to share ideas, ask questions and to voice their concerns.

Please note that the forums as scheduled below are designed to address academic and curriculum related matters only. We will host parent forums to tackle broader issues as time goes on. These will include the reopening of schools conundrum and the school finances.

Bear in mind please, that it is imperative that as parents join a given forum session, they are expected to mute themselves. Too many unmuted mics will cause too much interference. An unmuted mic, as seen on my side, will indicate that a parent would like to speak. As host I will do my best to manage the forum process by looking for the unmuted icons is order to monitor and control the speaker queue. I will then invite parents to talk. The chat comment facility can also be used by parents should they wish to make a point or to ask a question using the chat medium instead.

The forums will take place between 16.00 and 17.00 on the following afternoons, please click on the link below to reserve your place, the meeting code will be emailed to you. 

  • Grade 0 (ECD) parents                            – Monday afternoon, 11th May.

https://forms.gle/fy585KA26pDfTe399

 

  • Grade 1 and 2 parents together           – Wednesday afternoon, 13th May.

https://forms.gle/4jf1mzqBU3tmGPPh6

 

  • Grade 3 parents                                       – Monday afternoon, 18th May.

https://forms.gle/ZsuxECNGT5dNYSRe8

 

  • Grade 4 parents                                       – Thursday afternoon, 14th May.

https://forms.gle/YY6My3qxQMTbH1n27

 

  • Grade 5 and 6 parents together            – Tuesday afternoon, 19th May.

https://forms.gle/P55wBw8kDpDvVyrt9

 

  • Grade 7 parents                                        – Thursday afternoon, 21st May.

https://forms.gle/XsVQR5jNEoZhezCp8

 

In order to facilitate engaging, constructive and meaningful meetings, we will be able to host no more that 50 callers at a time. The sessions will be hosted on Google Meet.

If you have any difficulties please contact Joe Kotwal at jkotwal@ridgeschool.co.za .

 

News from the Music Department:

Parents will be receiving a letter from Carol Shutte, our new Director of Choral Music. The letter is written on behalf of her Music Department, and covers so much that has been planned on the music front for the days and weeks ahead. It is wonderful to officially welcome Carol to our Ridge staff team and I wish her a long and happy association with our beautiful school.

As you read about all that Carol, Irene Morrick and Leslie Elderkin have been planning, it is important to remember that Carol herself, as a new member of the team, is not only leading and managing everything from a distance, but she hasn’t even been able to spend ‘getting to know you’ time with our Ridge lads. Distance barriers notwithstanding, please reach out to her in appropriate ways.

School Shop COVID‐19 operating guidelines:

Parents have already been alerted to the fact that Sue Steyn has taken over as our new School Shop proprietor. Sue has been a mum at The Ridge for a number of years with Rory having completed Grade 7 last year and with Harry currently in Grade 4. She is married to Tim who is an old boy. Sue is eminently qualified to continue the fine practices that have provided for a very well run and managed outfit down the years. We look forward to working with Sue in the months and years ahead.

Sue has picked up the reins from Kerry Davis who has done a superb job of running and managing the School Shop for just over four years. Apart from having been blessed with a very astute, business brain, Kerry has also handled the many stresses and strains of the position with real aplomb; to the extent that she makes it all look far too easy. On behalf of The Ridge family, I would thank her for the amazing job that she has done over this extended period of time and for doing it with such a ‘labour of love’ attitude and approach.

Sue Steyn has sent out a letter to parents to introduce herself and to outline again the modified system that she and Emily Mafunise will be operating under whilst the school remains physically closed. For further details please refer to the School Shop icon on the Ridge App.

IT Helpdesk facility:

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As you and your boys get back into the swing of things on the distance learning front, we are aware that boys and their mums and dads may need some assistance from time to time. With this in mind, Ashik Haripersadh, our IT Administrator, has set up a helpdesk facility. Parents can email a query to it@ridgeschool.co.za or, if in need some urgent assistance, may call the numbers below:

  • Mbulelo Ntshingana – 011 4815855 
  • Musa Zwane – 011 4815814 
  • Ashik Haripersadh – 011 4815859

 

A Final Word:

Picture 1

Good health, warm regards and God bless

Stanley

Richard Stanley

Headmaster

 

The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

This communique comes to you all from an eerily quiet Ridge School where, as I look out of my office window at the empty carpark and the Hersov Field below, the happy sounds of boys arriving for school and young lads at play are sadly missing. In fact, that the lack of noise can be deafening. We take solace from the fact that they are all safe, happy and healthy at respective home bases, and that the novel online learning experiences are offering an interesting ‘flipped classroom’ type adventure for each of them. But ‘boy’ do we do miss them all.  (This paragraph was composed last Friday morning)

An Update from up here on the Westcliff Ridge:

  • The online learning has been running for a few days now and from what we have been able to ascertain, in the main, it would seem to have been well-received by most of the boys and their parents. Most of the initial teething issues have largely been dealt with and we will continue to keep a close eye on ways to improve features of the offsite learning platforms in ways that will enhance and improve what the boys are receiving to work on each day.

  • Our Exco team met on Thursday morning to discuss and plan for the way forward. We are considering and working towards gearing up and preparing for a number of eventualities. All of them are obviously dependent on the magnitude and speed at which the Covid-19 outbreak spreads into our community, how quickly it is brought under control, and at what stage we expect that it will be safe for us all to return to ‘schooling as usual’. Many of you will, of course, be engaged in similar offsite discussions at your own places of work.
  • We will be holding a series of staff and departmental video conference calls in the days immediately ahead. In addition to just wanting to connect to everyone, it will also be important to receive feedback from the teachers and to plan for the next stage of online instruction and interaction with respective classes and their boys into the days ahead. Much of this will be shared with parents at some stage thereafter.
  • I am intending to conduct an online Headmaster’s Assembly from the Nicolson Hall on Friday morning. I have really missed this contact with the boys, teachers and parents and so, whilst understandably, being at a distance and remote, I look forward to sharing a thought or two with the boys. The assembly will start at 08.00. I am inviting all boys and teachers to tune in and I would encourage parents to listen in as well should they choose to.
  • We have had close to 130mm of rain at The Ridge during the past three days. As a result, everything has had a good soaking, the fields have taken on a stunning emerald green hue, and the borehole water levels are full to overflowing. Unfortunately, the school pool didn’t escape unscathed and was on the receiving end of a good deal of the torrent of water and debris overflowing off Hersov Field and the Woolston Road carpark.

Covid-19 … It’s time to fight back

This extraordinary need to recalibrate in so many areas of life, both personal and professional, and the completely unplanned for realignment that Covid-19 is forcing upon us all at this time is having an unprecedented impact on every aspect of our lives and those of our children. It’s certainly not easy to get our heads around nor to find words that adequately express all that needs to be processed.

What we are able to explore, however, are the promises of a good few silver linings that can lift the spirit and bring a smile to our faces each day. History reminds us that the fortitude and resilience of the human spirit has, down the ages, shone more brightly when people have had to stand together. A collective demonstration of ‘digging deep’ through a determined show of collaborative resolve, shared solidarity and inner strength as they face down the threat of a common enemy.

It’s in the context of togetherness and being there for each other that we can relearn and take back some of what, perhaps, we would seem to have lost touch with as a society. Listening to the voices and the thoughts of others can prove to be both enlightening and cathartic in this context.

I felt encouraged whilst listening to a 45 year old coronavirus patient who shared his experience and how he is coping; both with the virus and as he lives through and endures the required period in quarantine on the road to full recovery. Towards the end of the interview he shares a few thoughts that provide for some interesting insight that certainly spoke to me, particularly given the circumstances surrounding the person speaking. This is not verbatim but I have tried to extract some of what his personal battle against the virus is awakening within him.

“I’m not concerned about myself. But I am honestly petrified for my parents and for other weak and vulnerable people in our society …  

There is, I believe, a silver lining to all of this, though; this virus is giving us a chance to relook at the way in which we live and behave in society. It’s teaching those of us young enough not to feel physically threatened by the virus that it’s not so much about us but more about how, by looking after ourselves, we are indirectly looking after and caring for others. Essentially, putting others and their wellbeing first.

 If we truly understand that we are 100% in charge of our ability to keep the virus at bay by not touching our faces, by washing our hands regularly and well, and by keeping our distance from others, then we can remain healthy. The point is, though, to be strong and healthy not only for our own sakes but so as not to spread the virus to others. This requires of us all a level of citizenship and social responsibility that we have never before had to face up to and adopt. If we all play our part we can face down this virus and win.”

Most of you parents would have been receiving, as I have, some gently inspiring and meaningfully composed prose that offer some personal reflections and that can provide solace, comfort and hope during these difficult and threatening times. For those who perhaps haven’t seen or read some of these, I thought that I would take the liberty of sharing them with you all. Enjoy:

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“Despite the uncertainty and the strange times we live in, we need to navigate the changes with grace, calm and generosity of spirit to all beings. My hope is that this will pave the way for better choices, greater social and environmental consciousness and a community-minded spirit.”            Anonymous

 

“It seems a little ridiculous to me that people are so afraid that their children are going to miss a whole month of learning.

How about using this month to teach them how to cook, check the oil in the car, do laundry, treat others with respect, sew on a button, deep clean, balance a budget, etc. not all learning is done in a classroom!”               Anonymous

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Lockdown.

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.

But,

They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in Italy people are singing to each other

across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that in the West of Ireland

a young woman is spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen,

The birds are singing,

The sky is clearing,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,

Sing.

Richard Hendrick.   March 13th 2020

 

A Final Word:   From the book … The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse

Screenshot 2020-03-22 at 14.47.36

 

To you all and your families, best wishes, good health, please embrace responsible citizenship and warm regards

 

Stanley

Richard Stanley

Headmaster

The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents

Our boys all seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the two additional extension to learning opportunities that have come their way in recent days. The first came in the form of the Care-to-Learn Day shared with the girls and boys of Salvazione Christian School and the second was highlighted through the well-received, wonderfully supported and happily convivial Celebrating Strong Women in Literature Reading Breakfast.

The latter served, in an understated but nonetheless very meaningful way, to bring to the boys’ attention so much literature that is available to us all on the subject of powerful and influential women; from history and on the world stage currently.

As one of our mums observed in her email to me, “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to expose our boys to the role that boys and men play in working for a better society.”

The Care-to-Learn Day proved to be another important ‘crossing the divide’ opportunity for our boys who don’t have too many occasions through which to interact with children from disadvantaged and poorer parts of our city. Moeketsi Motsepe did a wonderful job in planning for and then overseeing the coming together of a creative assortment of activities that kept the children busy and involved.

Some of the activities included:

  • Grade 0 – 3 … a number of ‘fun-in-the-sun’ activities that took the children down onto the fields and into the fresh air
  • Grade 4 … African games and Zulu reading
  • Grade 5 … Coding and the Amazing Race and Music
  • Grades 6 and 7 … Creating Dream City Houses out of an assortment of cardboard boxes and throwaways.

Well done to Mr Motsepe and all the teachers from both the schools and to our kitchen staff team for once again providing nourishment and drinks on the day.

An update to The Ridge’s response to COVID-19

Members of The Ridge Executive team sat together on Friday afternoon in order to think through, discuss and decide on the School’s response to a possible Covid-19 outbreak in the country and in Johannesburg, in particular.

Needless to say, this is completely unchartered territory for all of us, as it is for all of you as parents, professionals and, indeed, people intent on doing whatever is needed to look after our loved ones and ourselves. As such, and given the myriad ‘what ifs’ that present us all with the many complex and complicated unknowns, we endeavoured to focus on investigating what authority figures around the world are saying and heeding their advice, learning from what is happening in schools elsewhere in the world, and focusing essentially on what we need to do here at The Ridge to look after and to protect, as best we can, your precious sons.

Our discussions and resultant plans of action are centred around six key areas

  1. Raising the levels of awareness and responsiveness amongst boys and staff:

This will be an ongoing intervention strategy that, as far as the boys are concerned, we, here at The Ridge, will be sharing with you their parents.

Specifically, though, during the course of this week special Covid-19 meetings will have been held with all teaching and admin staff members, with a separate meeting being held with support and service staff personnel, as well.

A special Corvid-19 Assembly has been planned for all our boys – again to take place this week – that will serve to highlight, at appropriate levels, the seriousness of the situation but without wanting to spark unnecessary fear, anxiety and panic.

We trust that parents have taken it upon themselves to provide similar levels of information, comfort and support to their children at a time when their anxiety levels might begin to become somewhat stretched.

  1. Tightening up on the implementation of revised hygiene protocols and practices:

  • We have ordered and will be installing sanitizer dispensers in each classroom and in the other well-used rooms and meeting venues throughout the school. Teams of people will be assigned to make sure that the dispensers are refilled as needed
  • We have ordered and will be placing boxes of tissues in each classroom but would ask that boys bring their own to school as well
  • Boys, staff and parents will be encouraged to make use of bathroom facilities that will have been well-stocked with soap and hand towels
  • New posters have been ordered that will be promoting hand-washing and respiratory hygiene.
  • We will not supply the boys with facemasks but should parents prefer for their lads to wear a facemask during his days here at school, we are happy to accommodate such requests
  • Other hygiene-related messages will be communicated through to the boys and staff members on a regular basis. These will include sneezing or coughing into a clean tissue, discarding the tissue in a waste bin immediately afterwards, sanitizing hands on entering the classroom and before leaving, etc
  1. Working to better understand the School’s role in identifying and then dealing with people who are not feeling well:

  • First off, there will be many of us who, as the winter months close in, will experience days when they are feeling a little off colour. These asymptomatic boys and staff members will be looked after here at school and will be carefully monitored as they go about participating in a normal day’s programme.
  • We will expect parents to carefully monitor their son’s symptoms should he become ill. Please do not send your boy to school if he is not well and certainly not if he is running a fever, has a headache and has developed a cough.
  • As there is no medication or vaccine available in the asymptomatic period of the Covid-19 virus, it is critical that safety precautions be reinforced to protect others within the school.

             These include:

    • Washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • When coughing or sneezing, covering the mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue.
    • Cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched objects and surfaces, and spaces that may have become contaminated.
    • Avoiding close contact with someone who has possibly acquired tha Covid-19 infection.
  1. Working to better understand the School’s role in identifying and then dealing with people presenting with possible Covid-19 symptoms:

  • It is expected that boys or members of staff who present with what might prove to be the Novel Coronavirus will not be well enough to come to school.
  • These people or their parents ought to seek medical care and advice as soon as possible.
  • Anyone who is confirmed to be carrying Covid-19, should follow the medical advice to remain at home for a period of 21 days of self-quarantine and then to get special clearance from their treating healthcare providers before coming back to school. They will require a doctor’s clearance certificate before returning to school.
  • When coughing or sneezing, the sick person must cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue, throw tissues away immediately and wash their hands straight away or as soon as possible.
  • The School will ensure regular cleaning and disinfecting of any frequently touched objects or surfaces that the sick boy or staff member may have come into contact with.
  • It will be important, as much as we are able to, to maintain a record of other boys and staff members who might have come into contact with the sick boy or staff member.
  1. Exploring of a viable strategy and related contingency plan that will allow for remote learning to take place should the school be forced to close for a period of time:

It goes without saying that should a remote teaching and learning system be forced upon us here at The Ridge, not only would it be something completely new for boys, teachers and parents, but it would require a good deal of bedding down.

In addition, the understandably more tactile, hands-on, learn-through-play as experienced in the ECD and JP Phases would, by-in-large, be lost to the boys for a period of time.

We are considering a number of digital options for teachers to make use of:

  • To begin with, we would set time aside to train staff in the use of certain screen-based teaching and learning platforms.
  • We would make use of emails and our Adam admin system as normal.
  • Certain modifications might need to be made to staff computers to give them access to their home-based boys, Video Conferencing systems, etc.
  • The boys and their parents would be given important guidelines, instructions and information that would enable them to link up with their teachers.
  1. Prevent the spread of social stigma around Covid-19 in the workplace:

For most people Covid-19 is a disease that can be overcome. What is important is that we talk positively and emphasize the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures. We must encourage the sharing of facts and prevent the spread of misinformation that stigmatizes people who acquire Covid-19, as this might …

  • Cause people to hide their illness to avoid discrimination
  • Prevent people from seeking healthcare immediately if symptoms arise
  • Discourage people from adopting healthy behaviours that prevent the spread of Covid-19

We are mindful, above all else, that we must seek to remain calm so as not to elicit panic and unhelpful overreaction through miscommunication. As we go about implementing this plan of action, we will endeavour to do so in measured ways so as not to cause an increase in the anxiety levels for the boys. Our aim being to retain, as much as possible, a semblance of normality and business-as-usual for them and, indeed, for us all.

On a Lighter Note:

On a much lighter note please enjoy a little wisdom from Winnie the Pooh …

“Where are we going Piglet?” asked Pooh.

“We need to get supplies,” said Piglet. “For Coronavirus”

“Ahh,” said Pooh, nodding in understanding. ‘Things like bread, milk, cough mixture, tissues and cat litter even though we don’t have a cat?”

Piglet did a little laugh, and a sort of leap and a bit of a cough. “No,” said Piglet. “No, those aren’t the sort of supplies we need at all! What we need are family sized bags of chocolate buttons, massive Toblerone, jelly babies and crunchies and a freezer full of stuffed crust pizzas, and all of the Prosecco that we can possibly carry, so that when we get quarantined we won’t mind it even slightly. THOSE are supplies.”

All of a sudden, Pooh thought that the idea of coronavirus didn’t seem quite so bad, and actually, getting quarantined with Piglet and their supplies really didn’t sound such a terrible thing after all. “Oh Piglet.” Said Pooh. “I really do think you are a very wise animal.”

Poo

Pam Tudin’s not to be missed talk here at The Ridge on Thursday, 12th March evening:

Fortnite, FOMO and Other F words 

In this talk she will gives us the real inside scoop on what is going down in the heads, hearts and other body parts of our tween and teen boys. Whether your budding teen is a passionate Gamer, a potential YouTuber, a WhatsApp junkie, a TikTok addict or a secret sender of sexts, Pam provides the real hands on skills for helping US to help our boys manage their online lives. She offers her insights, pragmatic approach, large doses of humour and most importantly ways to have the hard conversations.

Buckle up for the ride. It is a wild one but, with this talk, you’ve got this!

Pam Tudin is a Clinical Psychologist and author of “Get off Your Screen, Granny Died!”

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A Final Word

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

There is much, on both a global scale as well as back home in beautiful South Africa, that is causing, for many of us, a few sleepless nights and certainly some moments when we have to wonder as to surreal nature of much of what we are living through.   

In my experience, having been around the block a few times, it is at these moments when, as we seek some deeper understanding, a broader perspective, and to find a few fathomable answers, that the spiritual part of who we are can come to the fore in ways that are sometimes unexpected but nonetheless welcome.

In my Ash Wednesday message to the assembly two weeks ago, I touched on the opportunities that this Lenten time of the year can offer each of us. Opportunities, if we choose to engage them, to reflect, to repent and to be restored. It is in and through the process of restoration that the spiritual side of our nature is able to experience a degree of solace, to feel refreshed through hearts more alive to our blessings, and to find, through this honest time of renewal, a deeper semblance of peace.

Irene Morrick has been teaching our senior primary boys a few new hymns and choruses. The lyrics of this one, entitled,  Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), are worth taking to heart. No matter what, if any, our faith may be, these words can prove to be cathartic.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

 And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

 Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made strong      
           
                              Hillsong UNITED

I wish you all peaceful hearts and best wishes

Stanley

Richard Stanley

Headmaster