24 February 2016

Letter from the Head – 24 February 2016

Dear Parents

The Term continues to be very busy and I am pleased to see how involved many of our students are in a variety of activities. In addition, a number of students are taking their academic studies very seriously.

At our Open Day for prospective Grade 8 parents for 2017, it was interesting to note how the questions have changed compared to previous years.  Academics are top of mind for many parents. I am very grateful to the parents who were here to answer some of the questions prospective parents had. Our PR students, student leaders and our sound and lighting crew once again worked hard and certainly showcased the talent at the College. Matthew Whall played the keyboard amidst noise and throng but was nevertheless impressive. These students give and give to the College and present so much of that which is right about our space.

Plagiarism in academia is considered the cardinal sin of research. The IEB and Cambridge have very strict rules around plagiarism. For example if a Matric student enters a portfolio or research project that shows significant examples of plagiarism, the school’s entire Matric group will have their portfolio work disregarded. When I fill in Common Application Forms for students who apply to American universities, I have to state whether a student has ever cheated or plagiarised work. (Often these applications require me to attest to the students’ character and how they interact with and respect their peers and teachers.)

Because we are compelled to take plagiarism seriously, the school has acquired a plagiarism checking system that is being used by teachers in subjects where plagiarism can be problematic. The system, Turnitin, requires students to submit their work to the respective teachers via the program. It allows students to preview the percentage of plagiarised information in their work and to amend it if necessary. It also serves to check their spelling, grammar and style and also allows editing to take place prior to final submission. Obviously submitting their work timeously to the program so that they can effect the necessary changes becomes vital. Teachers can then see at a glance which sections of the work submitted are plagiarised or in fact copied from another student in the class. Parents who do not know the program, may be interested in looking at it when their children next submit a piece of work. At present, the program is used by students in Grades 10, 11 and 12.

All the major South African universities, for example Wits, UCT and Stellenbosch, are using the Turnitin program. Our students are therefore getting appropriate preparation for the academic demands ahead of them at tertiary level.

On less academic matters but still in a head space, I have been asked to raise the itchy issue of lice with parents. Please can you check your children’s hair for lice. Children may not come to school with lice. It is much easier if children are checked at home for lice. Even though lice prefer clean hair, there appears to be some embarrassment around lice infestations being identified at school. It is unusual to have these outbreaks in a high school but the very hot weather seems to have encouraged the critters to multiply. Although time-consuming, treatment is fairly simple. Please consult your pharmacist for the best product. All bed linen should be washed in hot water and dried carefully to ensure that there are no traces of lice and their larvae.

Please remember to complete the online IQAA survey.  Your opinion is valuable to the school and we are assessed according to what you say about the various aspects of the College.

Yours sincerely
Meg Fargher