School communities are strengthened when people come together. The sign of an inclusive school community is one where parents, students, teachers and staff spend time together, build relationships and work together to create a culture based on acceptance and belonging. Students in schools with a strong sense of community are more likely to be academically motivated (Solomon, Battistich, Watson, Schaps, & Lewis, 2000); to act ethically and altruistically (Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 1997); and to have improved self-esteem, mental health and social connections (Olsen and Fuller 2008). Simply by being present in the school, parents send the message to students that education is important.
Schools with a strong sense of community actively cultivate respectful, supportive relationships among students, parents, staff, alumni and friends. At Girls Grammar, respectful relationships are at the heart of community and we value the many groups who contribute to our great school. Our students are valued for their diversity, their experiences and their individual gifts and talents. Our parents are integral partners with us in their daughters’ education and therefore play a vital role in engagement in learning as well as involvement in school events. Our Old Girls and Alumni actively support, strengthen and celebrate current Girls Grammar girls. They have custodianship of the history of the school, and we are grateful for their contributions, involvement and ongoing interest in the school. Our staff are highly motivated, passionate, dedicated and giving, wanting the best for every student, something that shows in their everyday interactions.
Our community is strengthened because of our shared value and genuine commitment to the attainment of quality outcomes for our girls. We all want the best for every girl who walks through our gates. We are further strengthened through other shared values such as fairness, concern for others, personal responsibility and growth, integrity, dignity of the individual and leadership. Our students, staff and parents share an understanding of these values and it is these values that see us develop a culture based on commitment to the wellbeing of all members of our community.
Every week our calendar reflects an array of events that shows Girls Grammar values our community and values opportunity for inclusion, welcome and celebration. Over the last week:
We acknowledged Valentine’s Day on 14 February. Our girls sent cookies and flowers to their friends, along with little words of friendship and acknowledgement to show them they are valued. My thanks to our prefects who coordinated and organised the day and to the girls who wrote lovely notes to the staff to thank them for their care and commitment.
Library Lovers Day was also held on Friday 14 February. Such a success was the day we almost had to close the library doors! Our seniors generously gave of their time to read with the primary girls and our littlest members of the community loved spending the time cuddled up with a good book and their ‘big sisters’. Thanks to all girls who volunteered but particularly Humanities Prefect Sophie Fraser for organising the event.
Wednesday 19 February, we enjoyed our 5-12 swimming carnival at the Memorial Pool. House carnivals are always such a fun event – the colour, costumes and comradery contribute to the air of excitement that builds as the races start, rivalries emerge and the competition gathers momentum. It was lovely to see so many of our parents join us on the day, not only to watch their daughters but to share in such a wonderful community day. My thanks to our House prefects and seniors who led our girls, and their cheering, so enthusiastically.
Thursday 20 February, we hosted the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Breakfast. This gave us an opportunity to share our school facilities with members of the business community and make them feel at home in our school environs.
Thursday 20 February, we also hosted a morning tea for our new students and their families. It can be daunting to join a new school but I have watched our new students over the last three weeks and been heartened to see them immediately welcomed and included. Good friendships have already been forged and our new girls have been very much accepted as valued members of our beautiful school. Our morning tea provided an opportunity to ask our newest students and their parents about their experiences so far, ensure they are feeling happy in their new school and look for ways we can further support them as they continue to transition into our community.
On Friday 21 February, we will take a busload of our boarders home to their families in the Central Highlands region. I am very much looking forward to spending time with the girls and seeing their home towns and regions. These trips are also important, not only to build our understandings but also to ensure our rural families are given plenty of opportunities to feel connected and valued.
There is such a beautiful ethos at Girls Grammar. Our continued connections with all members of our community, students, parents, staff, Old Girls and friends, are vital to the positive culture and richness that we have built over 127 years and something we want to ensure continues to be a fundamental part of Rockhampton Girls Grammar School.