19th March 2021

With a cheerful and vibrant return to full school attendance this week, the sense of energy, relief and palpable returning of confidence has flowed through the corridors like a vaccine in the veins.  We have had the pleasure of hard-working, appreciative and happy sons and daughters of front line workers coming and going from the Hamilton Building throughout the term.  Providing this support is the least we could do for our courageous and brilliant parents doing all they can to keep everyone else safe, well, fed, learning and on track.

Three weeks ago, we had the joy of Kindergarten, Reception, Form 1, 2 and 3 returning to campus, and they have all kept us working away in helping them to adapt, adjust and return to the semi-normal routine of school.  For those of you who have sons and daughters in the lower and upper part of the school, this posed further challenge on top of all you have had to cope with, and we applaud and thank you for making the necessary arrangements to have your children both here at school, and with you at home.  What a palaver!

Thankfully, the long-awaited Monday March 15th arrived and what a splendid week this has turned out to be.  The smiles of the pupils and the spring in their steps has been ample reward, but the sun shining has allowed an even quicker return to what pupils now describe as a routine they have missed hugely and have been craving for months.  Who would have thought?  They have relished being in each other’s company and it has been heart-warming to witness them all sighing with relief that some normality has been restored.  There has been some excellent work completed at home, and by-and-large all pupils have stayed in touch with their respective learning opportunities provided by staff through MS Teams.

In the evenings, the atmosphere in the boarding houses and around the campus among those who have needed to use this facility has been first-class.  Mrs Rawson and her team have enjoyed evening and early morning duties described as being a pleasure. Credit and thanks to the mature and upbeat approach from the senior pupils who have boarded.

The week has certainly passed in a flash, but not without plenty to celebrate.  It has been a delight having Mrs Hutchison back on campus and the months of hard work she has been carrying out remotely has latterly included her adapted Squad Day programme.  This ran for seniors on Wednesday afternoon, and the pre-prep middle school on Thursday.  Quizzes, mini Easter egg hunts and goals/relay activities took place with Percy finishing second and Douglas the overall winners of this year’s Squad Quaich.

Those of you who buy the Telegraph or The Times may have seen Mr Rawson and his bird box project featuring in two different photographs.  Mr Rawson has now produced 450 bird boxes (and counting), and works tirelessly to produce these to donate to local schools.  Mr Rawson’s bird boxes are now being produced for schools and people much further afield. This he is able to do with a grant from the Highlands and Islands Environmental Foundation and the on-going support of St. Mary’s (not to mention work behind the scenes from Mrs Rawson and the three boys!).

Eagle-eyed spotters may also have witnessed Mrs Currie returning to campus yesterday.  Mrs Currie popped in to say hello to Reception and to tell them how much she is looking forward to returning after the holidays.  Her brilliant ‘stand-in’ Mrs Lee had primed the ten Reception ‘Lilliputians’ to shout Mrs Currie’s trade-mark expression of delight - ‘alleluia’ - as Mrs Currie walked through the door.  It was quite a moving moment, I can tell you. 

Mrs Lee has been a most exceptional back-up and we are extremely grateful to her for the super work she has done for Reception both online (with key workers’ children in class at the same time), and with a full class present in the last three weeks.  Stefan, her in-class support has also been a wonderful asset.
We say a fond farewell to Megan and Lottie who head for pastures new, but join the St. Mary’s Former Pupil Club.  Our good wishes and sincere thanks go to Garry Brown who is stepping down as co-chair of the Friends of St. Mary’s. His fellow chair, Mrs Frances Little pays a more detailed tribute to Garry’s work later in this newsletter.

Whilst all staff, pupils and parents deserve a much-needed rest, we are providing some teaching and learning in to next week with Form 8, to give them all an extra ‘shot in the arm’ after their celebrated return to school on Monday.  I am grateful to all staff who have volunteered to give up three days of their Easter break to provide a week’s academic timetable compressed into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Those volunteers include Cheffy and Sarah from the kitchen whose willingness to support this extended term for Form 8 is very typical of their dedication and loyalty to the cause.

For those who are breaking up today, I wish you a very restful, safe, sun-filled, screen free holiday, and I look forward to welcoming you and a couple of new starters back on the 14th April.


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