'Care and Connection' have been the guiding concepts at the very heart of the way Ruyton has sought to support all members of the School community during the COVID-19 pandemic. These concepts have always underpinned the philosophy behind Ruyton’s Wellbeing Framework. According to Trish Hatzis, Director of Wellbeing, this is a philosophy which recognises that an individual’s opportunity to achieve their personal best occurs when the emotional, physical, social and intellectual aspects of their life are in balance.
In 2020, the global health emergency has required Australians to make a sudden transition to a very different way of living, and the adjustments we’ve all been required to make could pose a potential threat to our individual welfare. When physical distancing and other lockdown measures were put in place, school communities like Ruyton had to radically reinvent themselves in order to continue the delivery of their 'core business', that of providing education to young people. As noted by Trish Hatzis, 'we had to keep our rich learning environment going, teaching the same engaging and challenging curriculum that was offered in the pre-pandemic world, we just had to deliver it in new and different ways'. While Ruyton’s technological capacity and well-supported teaching staff enabled it to quickly meet this test, it was our existing focus on a holistic, 'whole-person, whole-of-Ruyton' approach to wellbeing that has particularly shaped the School’s broader response to the pandemic.
'For young people, social connection is so important', Trish explained. 'Without it they can risk becoming disengaged or face rising levels of anxiety'. The Wellbeing Framework has ensured that Ruyton has maintained fully-rounded support for our students, balancing the intellectual realm with actions that will help their physical, social and emotional safety too. There have been many creative and effective ways Ruyton has achieved this, ranging from virtual assemblies and online sports training programmes, to choir practice by video conferencing and a new click & collect library book service. Even a virtual school production is in the pipeline. For Trish, a particular highlight has been that 120 junior girls joined in on a recent light-hearted lunchtime trivia session lead by quizmaster, Julian Mutton, the Deputy Head of Junior School.
The holistic approach to wellbeing is also applied to all other members of our School community. For parents and guardians, Ruyton has been able to do things like transition our ‘Powerful Parenting’ series onto an online format. For staff it’s been vital that the strong technological support they normally receive has been sustained and extended into the delivery of distance learning. It’s also been important that they’ve continued to experience the professional and social benefits of interaction with colleagues. Mechanisms like daily virtual staff rooms help us achieve this. As a measure to protect their physical welfare, Ruyton will also be continuing its programme offering free flu vaccinations to staff this year. Care of, and connection with the alumnae community has been brought to the fore with the reimagining of the Senior School community service programme. In this initiative, students are being brought together with Old Ruytonians through a postcard writing project. Together, each of these wellbeing measures work to maintain and nurture the vital web of connections within the school community that keep it functioning at its best.
'It’s been an extraordinary collective undertaking by all community members', Trish Hatzis noted. 'At Ruyton we have always been guided by the understanding that all teachers are wellbeing teachers, and that all staff have a role to play in supporting our overall wellbeing. The current COVID-19 environment has presented Ruyton with a great many new challenges, but a multi-faceted approach guided by our Wellbeing Framework and a strong sense of community engagement has ensured that students and teachers have risen to the challenge of a quick transition to distance learning'.
Interview by: Cathy Dodson
Community Relations Team
Ruyton Girls' School