From the Head’s Desk

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16 September 2020

Spring is in the air and it is a season associated with hope and new beginnings. No matter how severe the frosts of winter, come spring, the power of new life forces its green buds and blossoms towards the light.
DH Lawrence wrote – ‘I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration of green fires … this blaze of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration.’

Although the COVID season will alas not be as brief and transitory as spring, the movement to Level 2, does provide some sense of hope in us being able to ‘cautiously’ resume some of our lost freedoms. Traditionally, Grandparents’ Day at Cowan House has coincided with the flowering of our beautiful cherry trees on campus. The blossoms seem a little shy in their arrival this year, perhaps in sympathy with us not being able to welcome our grandparents onto campus. Our pupils, however, were able to ‘blossom’ forth colourfully, and illustrate our school’s spirit in finding a way to overcome obstacles. Hopefully, you were all able to watch and
share the Grandparents’ Day YouTube performance with these very special people in our families’ lives.

The Grandparents’ Day performance was not only a tribute to our children’s love for their Grannies, Grandpas, Gogos and Mkhulus, but also a celebration of our integrated curriculum that blends Academics with Drama, Music, Art, Dance and Phys. Ed. into an educational product we can all be proud of. I loved seeing our children’s pleasure in showing off their school to their grandparents, and I value the teamwork of our Staff and Marketing team for this production.

The 3rd Term is also the regular time-frame for our annual Management Strategic Planning for the year to come. Although we are unable to conference off-campus, we have a full agenda to tackle this coming weekend and I look forward to this focused and concentrated time with the Management Team.


The previous Newsletter reported on Cowan House hosting the South African Schools’ Alumni Association (SASAA) Conference this term. This Virtual Conference had a fresh ‘spring’ start yesterday, 01 September, with an opening Keynote Presentation by Paul Galatis. Paul, who currently lives in San Francisco, is a Cowan House alumnus, with an impressive school leadership record – he earned the ‘Head Boy Award’ at Cowan House at the end of 1994 and then went on to be Head of School at Hilton College. In adult life, Paul’s entrepreneurial successes include building, along with his 2 partners, the highly successful e-commerce company,, and he is also the CEO of

Besides pertinent presentations about the management and development of alumni platforms and fundraising, the conference also engages with how alumni associations can create safe spaces for the challenging dialogues taking place among past pupils on diversity and race-relations. Further exciting news from Robyn Gruijters in the Foundation Office is the ‘live’ release of the Foundation’s Website –

Please visit this site for updates on the important work of the Foundation. It is also a valuable platform for alumni to re-connect with the school.


St Charles recently posted commendation for Max Nattrass and Caleb Reynard (Class of 2015) for both achieving 5 distinctions in their A-Level Exams: Max (English, Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Music) and Caleb (English, Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry). We add our congratulations to them for their fine achievements.

Tom Walters finished a creditable overall 4th position in a recent Quarters Run at Michaelhouse in a time of 3:21. The race route, (just over 1km) is an exciting dash around Meadows, Far Meadows and Vlei fields.


Spring Day, 01 September, has for many years been celebrated as a civvies day at Cowan House, and for the past two years we have used the day to generate awareness for the work of Project Rhino. Last year, our pupils enjoyed a presentation by Andrew Venter of Wildlands, and this year, our own Grade 2 teacher, Candice Botha, shared a live-stream presentation on Rhino Conservation in KZN and her own personal experience of a de-horning project to assist in saving rhinos.

Traditionally we celebrate World Book Day, 23 April, as a character Dress-Up Day. Lockdown prevented this and not wanting to lose out on the excitement of the day, we will be using World Literacy Day, Tuesday 08 September, as a character dress-up day. In the past, the Pre Primary have turned up as ‘101 Dalmatians’ with Kerry Taylor as an impressive Cruella de Vil. Last year the Pre Primary created a sea of red and white stripes for ‘Where’s Wally.’ Julie Meiklejohn, as the farmer’s wife with carving knife in hand, had a host of blind staff mice defending their tails.

We look forwarded to this year’s delightful array of ‘masked’ book characters. The funds collected from this
civvies day will be in support of the Joseph Baines Home.


As you know, the communal use and distribution of books from libraries, has been a sad casualty of COVID
compliance. Determined to overcome this and keep the love of reading alive, we have arranged for class teachers to select, fetch, and sanitise batches of books from the Media Centre for use in their classrooms. These will only be available in individual classrooms. Each batch will, in turn, be sanitised before being rotated for a new batch.

Grade 2 Natural Science Lessons in Habitats from Chandré de Jager and Candice Botha

The Grade 2s have been learning about different Habitats and were very fortunate to have Mr Tim Botha share his travel experiences of Polar Regions (in Antarctic) as well as Rainforests (in Cameroon) with our boys and girls. They learnt a great deal from both his presentations and were fortunate enough to each receive a rock from Antarctica.

Inspired by the exotic beauty of the birds and animals of the Rainforests in the world, the Grade 2s created a vibrant display of toucans.

ART NEWS from Fay Keit

The Grade 6s have been learning how to represent the human figure this term. They first explored this 2
dimensionally before moving to their latest project of using clay to sculpt a friend, in sitting position. While there have been a few amputations and a lot of plastic surgery along the way, their figures are looking impressive. It is also such a treat to work outside, in the fresh air and sunshine.

Working Collaboratively to Support Children to Be the Best they can Be

The Learning Support Centre at Cowan House has continued to grow and develop. On 24 July, we welcomed Abigail Marie Hodgkinson into the world. Kate and baby are happy and healthy. Kim Pech has joined the Remedial Department as a locum to take over the students Kate was working with. Our Remedial Department Team consists of Kerryn Bullough, Kim Pech and me. Petro Fowler is our Speech and Language Therapist who also runs our Language and Literacy class groups in Grades 1 to 4. Our Occupational Therapists are Lyndal Nicholson, Emma Wijnberg, Helen Fitschen and Kelly Slater. Kelly has also taken over the class groups in Grade RR. Emma Wijnberg and Helen Fitschen run hippotherapy classes off campus and Emma has a repertoire of talks she does for parents and teachers.

We have excellent relationships with a network of Educational Psychologists and a Play Therapist
who we use on a consultative basis; they are also able to come to Cowan House to meet parents and work with
Cowan House children as, and when, the need arises. Dr Doshen Naidoo kindly donated screens to the Learning Support Department so that one-on-one therapy can take place safely. These screens have been invaluable to all the therapists and we are very grateful.

Should you have any concerns about your child academically, socially or emotionally, or if you would like
information on a particular topic regarding your child’s development, please contact me so I can put you in touch with the correct person, offer guidance and support, or give you information that may assist you. Contact email:


Parent / Teacher meetings will commence next week for all three phases of the school. We value this opportunity to engage with parents and exchange feedback on our boys’ and girls’ progress and wellbeing. Although real-life meetings are still not possible, our staff look forward to virtual face-to-face meetings on Microsoft Teams, Zoom or WhatsApp Video Calls.

If you have not already done so, please make an appointment with your child’s class teacher.


Traditionally, the Chairman of the Board meets with the Parent Body in the 3rd Term for feedback from the Board and its Annual General Meeting. With a physical meeting not being possible, Robyn Gruijters has filmed Andrew Barnes’ report and we will be sharing the link for this shortly.


The old English proverb – ’Softly, softly, catchee monkey,’ advocating patience and not being too hasty, in order to achieve our goal of a safe, COVID compliant re-introduction of extra-curricular activities at school, seems appropriate. The extension of the Grade 3s’ school day to 13h00 to allow for their inclusion in Level 2 of the Sports Departments Outdoor Exercise programme, has run very smoothly.


All staff were fortunate to participate in a Naomi Holdt presentation last week – the 3rd in the series of our Staff Wellness Programme. Naomi’s presentation, entitled ‘Lessons from Bamboo,’ provided practical guidelines for riding the Coronacoaster. This included tips for developing mental flexibility, adaptability, and patience.

Particularly pertinent was Naomi’s explanation of the ‘recipe for stress’ being inherent in the threat of coronavirus being ‘togetherness,’ when as mammals, we are hard-wired to seek the security of communal connectivity. ‘The perfect emotional storm is not when togetherness is threatened, but when togetherness IS the threat.’ Gordon Neufeld.

As a school, we are very privileged to be able to draw on Naomi’s professional expertise and experience.


Pupil attendance levels continue to rise, and I remain delighted with our recent attendance figures which are
regularly over the 90% mark. My thanks again to our parent body for showing faith in the systems we have in place from a COVID perspective.

Whilst we continue to provide online teaching for those unable to return to school, we aim to bring this to an end as soon as possible. Cowan House is as safe an environment as any, and girls and boys should not be staying at home simply because online teaching remains an option. This is only in place for those who have valid reasons for not returning, but as mentioned we are pleased with attendances and completion of the academic programme, in all phases of the school, is perfectly ‘on track.’

Thanks again for the overwhelming support.


Our current C-19 staggered drop-off and pick-up times make the usual closure of term at 10h00 impractical for parents; you would no sooner have dropped your children off, when you would need to return again to collect them. With this in mind, plus HOD reports that staff are up-to-date with the curriculum, it has been decided that school will close at the completion of all school commitments on Thursday 17 September, with Friday 18 September being seen as a travel day.

The Admin Offices will remain open for a shortened day on Friday 18 September.

IN CONCLUSION … education is about the development of people, and subject content is a vehicle to teach
innovative thinking and skills. This year has been rich in problem solving opportunities, challenging us to find
creative paths for connectivity and conflict resolution. As teachers and parents, we role-model and teach our
children so much about positivity, resilience, management of stress and disappointment, determination and
perseverance, tolerance, co-operation, and respect for others, to name a few.

I came across this list of 10 Healthy Mind Habits which seemed a good note to end off on:

1) Smiling
2) Saying sorry
3) Being Kind
4) Talking about feelings
5) Asking for help
6) Showing good manners
7) Trying new things
8) Accepting that ‘no’ means ‘no’
9) Learning to share
10) Doing what you have to do (whether you like it or not)

Best wishes for the last 2 ½ weeks of term.

Thought for the Day
‘What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves.’
Albert Camus, The Plague

Derek Braans