Important information from Newington College


An update from the Headmaster

Events surrounding the coronavirus outbreak are moving quickly and there have been several announcements and developments since last week. The College is fortunate that we do not have any cases of COVID-19 at Newington at this stage. Below is the situation at Newington as it currently stands.

The College is remaining open

On the very strong advice of the NSW Department of Education and NSW Health, Newington will stay open. The NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant and her counterparts in every other state are unanimous on this point, and we believe we should follow their advice.

On Sunday Headmaster Michael Parker was on a call with The NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Chant, a number of Heads, the Minister for Health Brad Hazzard, the Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell, the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education Mark Scott and the Secretary of NSW Health Elizabeth Koff. The call provided a very clear explanation of the rationale underpinning their recommendations.

The basis of their advice is:

  • Children are much less affected by coronavirus. They are less likely to catch it, less likely to transmit it and their symptoms are much less severe. The rate of infection in children is between 0.9 per cent and 1.2 per cent.
  • Most cases of child transmission internationally have occurred in the home, not at school.
  • If children are not at school, many will inevitably move freely around the wider community – where they are at greater risk of exposure.
  • The country’s focus is on ‘flattening the curve’ so the coronavirus spreads across some of the community over 18-24 weeks, not 4. This will give the health services a chance to cope with the number of cases. Dr Chant also pointed out that if we close schools with the current infection numbers in NSW, it would be difficult to reopen schools until the infection numbers had fallen back to the same level. This may not be until late in the year.
  • We are different to countries like Italy that have closed schools. We have taken containment measures considerably earlier than they did – and before the virus spread widely. Indeed, this was Dr Chant’s first point of argument as to why we don’t need to close schools now even though they did. It is also instructive to look at Singapore, which kept schools open and still had a low contagion rate.

We know there are a variety of views among health professionals about the best way of handling the pandemic. However, it would not be wise this week to move in a direction contrary to the recommendations of the nation’s chief medical officers.

Of course, we will keep taking soundings as events unfold and we are all aware that advice and situations can change day by day (even hour by hour).  However, any school is a small cog in a large national machine in a time of crisis, so we also feel duty bound now to work within the Government’s containment strategy.

Decisions made by parents

There are some parents and students who have health concerns that put them in high-risk groups. These families need to make decisions based on their own circumstances.

Other parents might not wish to send their children to school regardless. In these unique times, you can make this decision and we will record it as ‘absent with leave’.  The College remains open and we will not make individual arrangements to deliver work, live stream classes etc at this time. There will, however, be work on Canvas (Stanmore), Spaces (Wyvern) and Seesaw (Lindfield) to enable your child to keep up with their learning.

If your child will not be at school, please notify us via the usual channels.

Reduction in external visitors

The College will restrict most external visitors to all campuses.

2021 Kindergarten enrolment interviews are under review for both Wyvern House and Lindfield Prep. We will be in contact with those families directly.

Learning programs

We continue to refine and test our online learning programs. These will enable boys at all campuses to continue their studies should the College close.

Last week, we trialled remote learning with multiple classes at our Stanmore campus. The feedback from teachers was that boys took a few minutes to adapt to their first remote class, but by their second or third had adjusted well and settled into their learning quickly and effectively.

Instructional packages have been created for staff to embed best practices in this new learning environment, and we have developed online learning protocols for both students and teachers.

Lindfield Prep is able to implement online programs via Seesaw and is testing Zoom with boys this week. Boys in Years 2-6 are taking iPads home so they are prepared for any eventuality at short notice.

Wyvern House is able to implement online programs via Spaces. Instructions for parents and guardians about how to manage independent and online learning have also been developed.


The Department of Education and NSW Health are working on guidelines for sport. These are expected to be available on Wednesday 18 March. At this stage, their advice is that boys are at no greater risk playing sport within their school community than they would be in classrooms, but we are not optimistic about inter-school competitions in the short- or mid-term.

At the same time, our Sport department is working on plans to increase internal activities to ensure boys still engage in physical activity.

Please check this list for the status of individual events. Note: it is current at 6pm today, but is being regularly updated.

Arrangements for some high-profile events have changed significantly:

– Head for the River, scheduled for 21 March, will instead be on March 17. Our 1st and 2nd VIIIs and IVs will compete, but no spectators will be present and only essential staff will attend. I would like to express my gratitude to our rowers, who have trained so hard for this event and taken this change with such good grace – particularly our Year 10 VIIIs and the 3rd Open VIII who now will not be competing at all.

– The Newington Prep Inter-House Cross Country scheduled for 18 March has been postponed.

Social distancing measures

We have instituted measures to increase social distancing across all campuses.

Stanmore 7-12

  • Assemblies, chapels, year group meetings and other large gatherings have been cancelled.
  • Boys will be asked to go straight into classrooms rather than wait in the corridor, and classroom doors will be kept open.
  • The timetable has been changed to increase social distancing measures and will mean Years 7, 8 and 9 are at recess and lunch at a different time to Year 10, 11 and 12. Year 7-9 boys have been sent updated timetables; please check details with your son.
  • The cafeteria seating area will be open only to boarders to reduce crowds and to enable boarders to sit at a distance from each other.
  • We are rearranging classes where possible to increase distance between students.
  • We are also meeting with boys to get their perspectives on how to implement social distancing in a way that will still allow them to feel socially connected to their mates and ensure school is still a fun place to be.
  • Our Year 12 retreat is a highlight for our boys. We are meeting with Year 12 representatives and Heads of House to determine if there is a way of going ahead with it while still observing important health advice.
  • One-on-one music lessons will be paused for two days as we determine the best way of delivering these lessons online.

Wyvern K-6

  • Assemblies, chapels, choir and other large gatherings have been cancelled.
  • Classrooms will be organised to maximise distance between students.
  • Music ensembles are under review and we will provide more information as we are able.
  • Car pick-up time has been extended and staggered as follows:
    K-2 from 2.30pm -2.50pm
    Years 3-4 from 2.55pm – 3:15pm
    Years 5-6 from 3.20pm -3:40pm
  • Play time will be staggered where possible to reduce the number of boys in the playground.
  • Music ensembles will be postponed until the end of the term.
  • Year level band and strings classes provided during class time in year groups will be postponed this week and other options investigated.
  • After-school activities run by Non-Newington Staff suspended until end of term.
  • After-school activities run by Newington Staff will continue as per usual.
  • The Prep School Cross Country, scheduled for 18 March, has been postponed.

Lindfield K-6

  • Trials to hold assemblies and chapels in classrooms using Zoom software are underway.
  • Learning experiences will be organised to maximise distance between students.
  • Play time will be staggered where possible to reduce the number of boys in the playground.
  • Music ensembles will be postponed until the end of the term.
  • Year level band and strings classes provided during class time in year groups will be postponed this week and other options investigated.
  • From today, sport for Years 3 and 4 will be on Wednesday and sport for Years 5 and 6 will be on Friday.
  • After-school activities run by non-Newington staff are suspended until end of term.
  • After-school activities run by Newington staff will continue as usual.
  • Dismissal times will change:
    K-2 will be dismissed at 3.00pm
    Non bus travellers will be dismissed at 3.10pm
    Bus travellers will be dismissed at 3.15pm

Early Learning Centre

It is difficult to explain social distancing to our youngest students. We will, however, introduce activities that separate children from close contact with each other as far as possible.

We have implemented a strict cleaning regime and children are engaging in regular, supervised hand washing and hygiene activities.

Changes to events, gatherings, tours, competitions and excursions

Newington’s calendar has changed significantly in light of COVID-19. The situation is moving quickly as more information becomes available, and we urge you to check the current status of events impacting your campus here.


We expect to receive information from the Government in the next few days about how to best manage our boarding house. In the meantime, we strongly recommend boarders stay with their families and guardians in the short-term until we receive this advice. Boarders are still expected to come to school.

Wellbeing and talking to your son

It is important our boys understand that all these steps are their contribution to making their families, community and country safer. It is their responsibility to follow guidelines around hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation. We encourage you to have these conversations with your son, stressing that what they do in this unusual time is an opportunity for them to be their best selves.

Of course, we also understand that as activity around coronavirus gathers pace, many boys might be unsettled. The usual support systems are in place for any boys who need assistance. These resources are also available to families.

Some final notes

Those endless coffee mugs and posters with ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ should have sold out last week instead of toilet paper. Although these will be testing and trying times for many – particularly those with family members at risk – our boys’ lives should continue unchanged in as many ways as they can. They have their friends, their families, their education and physical activity. No-one is coming to invade them or drop a nuclear bomb on them – both threats that we and our grandparents faced. With a lot of calm, strategic modifications we will all get through this period together.

It is likely updates from the College will be frequent. Please remember you can access them at any time via Spaces and our website.

Also, in a time of physical social distancing, we all need more emotional social ‘closening’. We need to make more phone calls, ask more people how they are going, make more (tasteful) jokes and be more kind to people we barely know. Times like this can scatter communities or bring them together. Let’s do the latter.