K - 12 online learning to begin tomorrow 23 March 2020

23 March 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians

The decision of the NSW Government to restrict all non-essential activities marks the next, anticipated phase of management of COVID-19.

As you know, we have been following government advice throughout and in accordance with that advice the School will remain open for those who need it but we are otherwise asking parents to keep their children at home. We ask parents who are in this position to complete the Essential Services Worker Registration Form so we can anticipate the number of students requiring supervision on site.

We will now move fully to online learning. We welcome this change which will support the public health efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and permit us to move to a clear and uniform mode of curriculum delivery. Students who need to attend school will engage in online learning under our supervision along with their peers who are isolating at home. This also brings those girls who have had to stay home for other reasons into alignment with their peers.

Our trial of online learning for Years 7-9 last week went well – pleasingly so, given that this was the first time for everyone. Parents overwhelmingly reported (89%) that their daughter had a positive experience overall and that real learning was going on. Even better, 96% of girls and 95% of teachers said they had a positive experience overall. Clearly, teachers and girls need time to adapt to new routines. Common questions from parents were about the loss of social contact and the need for physical movement during the course of the day, and the girls’ comments were most frequently about lesson routines. We will work on these and welcome suggestions.

Amongst the feedback from parents in the last few days have been many tributes to the teachers, who have worked extremely hard to learn new technologies, adapt their classes and completely change their usual mode of teaching. This is taxing work but, as we have seen from our trial, it can pay off in excellent learning outcomes. I also acknowledge that our staff are simultaneously adjusting to the wider social and economic changes which are affecting them and their families as they are affecting us all. I am honoured to lead a team of such professionals.

We are ready to move to online learning beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, 24 March 2020.

Junior School

  • There will be a full structured day, with a focus on using materials in the resource pack distributed today.

  • Parents who have not yet collected the resource pack should do so from Reception as soon as possible.

  • We will begin trialling the conferencing software in a limited way with some upper years tomorrow but the focus of the work will be off-line within a structured timetable.

  • A timetable will be distributed via CANVAS later this afternoon giving full details for tomorrow for each class.

  • If you experience difficulties logging on, please email your daughter’s class teacher in the first instance.

  • Girls should wear either normal school uniform or sports uniform for the school day.

Senior School

  • There will be a full structured day according to the scheduled timetable, and beginning with Roll Call, with a mixture of live conferencing and tasks set for independent learning.

  • Girls should access CANVAS for each lesson and will find clear instructions there.

  • Girls should adhere to the online learning protocols here.

  • Girls should wear normal school uniform and change into sports uniform for PE lessons.

I ask parents to have reasonable expectations about the day tomorrow. The girls should have plenty to do within a clear structure, but no doubt there will be glitches of various kinds and we have told teachers that if in doubt, they should keep things simple. Sometimes that means it will be a very low-tech experience! No doubt the variety and capacity will build up over time, but the best thing for everyone is to get busy and stay within a healthy routine.

We are especially aware of our Years 11 and 12 students. They are worried about their assessments and about their final exams; they don’t know what this will mean to plans for study next year, and they are all too conscious of the events and milestones that have been lost. One of them said to me this morning, “I never thought I’d be crying because I can’t go to school!” They are very much on our minds and we will be writing to them specifically this afternoon. For all girls, we are thinking hard about managing the effects of social isolation in coming weeks and months and we will be offering more suggestions and support in that regard soon. In the meantime, the girls still have access to our Counsellor, Mrs Gallagher, via 0413 077 710 during school hours.


  • The Queenwood Bus Service will run as normal this week. Continuation of the bus service in the coming weeks will be reviewed when we are able to better ascertain the number of girls who are daughters of essential services workers.

  • Reading continues! The library page on CANVAS (‘Rennie Library 2020’) has digital resources, library catalogue, referencing instructions for CiteMaker, eBooks, audiobooks and suggested reading lists.  Our digital and audio books platform is called eBooks (Wheelers) and there is a huge increase in demand so please be patient. Girls can borrow resources any day this week between 08.00am – 4.00pm each day. Loans are unrestricted for Years 7 – 12 so they can borrow as many books and resources as they wish without a current return date.

Guidance for Parents

There will also be many discussions at home about this sudden and unsettling change to the girls’ lives. There is some excellent guidance here from Professor Jennie Hudson, who has worked closely with our students and staff in the recent past.

I ask that parents be conscious to avoid slipping into unhelpful behaviours sparked by the swirl of change around us and uncertainty about the future. It is clear that many parents are having repeated and detailed discussions in front of their girls about everything that is going wrong at the moment. It is hard to talk about anything else in current circumstances, but parents should be aware of just how distressing this repeated rumination can be for their children. Facing the facts is important, as clear from the guidance above, but for our girls’ sakes we must acknowledge hard truths and move on.

Secondly, accurate information is key. The School’s dedicated webpage is the single source of truth for all matters relating to our management of COVID-19. Please refrain from engaging in speculation. We are working hard to keep you informed as promptly as possible.

It is not my usual role to counsel parents personally but I hope you will allow me the liberty of a few words about your welfare, too.

Many parents have come under intense pressure. I know too many of you are juggling sudden loss of income, unexpected costs and radical uncertainty. You are carrying responsibilities towards your immediate and extended families, trying to protect them now and plan for the future. In twenty-first century Australia, we tend to have few networks to draw on (although I think we will have more of them at the end of this crisis). Many of you are feeling enormous strain and may be feeling alone in this, so for what it’s worth I offer to you the same advice I have been giving to my colleagues:

  • Please prioritise your emotional and mental health. Now is the time to do more of whatever it is that works for you, not less. Easy to say, I know, but there’s a reason that the cabin crew ask you to put your oxygen mask on first.

  • Beware of unnecessary consumption of news. Incessant reporting will undo even nerves of steel. Catching up once or twice a day is more than enough.

  • Reach out to others. It’s a scientific fact that we feel better when we help others. Most of us also have difficulty accepting help. Find the strength to say you need it – you’ll feel better, and you’ll be a better parent and partner if you’re doing better.

  • There is good advice here about managing understandable anxiety.

  • Confidential counselling and support is available from:
    Headspace: 1800 650 890
    Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
    Beyondblue: 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
    Mental Health Access Line: 1800 011 511

If the School can be of assistance to you, you can let me know confidentially via elizabeth.stone@queenwood.nsw.edu.au.

I have been so greatly encouraged by the messages of support we have received from you in the last week or two. It has certainly made it is easier for the Executive Team to get on with preparing the School for this change. We will need your patience in coming days, too, but we greatly appreciate your ongoing support and understanding.

Yours sincerely
Elizabeth Stone