As we finish our first week of remote learning, I want to acknowledge your great work over the past weeks in coping with this transition to remote and flexible learning. I know that change is often challenging, let alone a change that is unforeseen and impacts so many elements of the way we live and everyone involved (students, families and staff) should be commended on their efforts to make this a successful transition. What we have achieved as a society over the past four weeks would never normally be considered with a timeline under 12 months - with this is mind, although there are ways we will be improving, we have had great successes. Therefore, I hope you have also all managed to be kind to yourselves and those around you; anything that wasn’t quite right today can get better tomorrow. Everyone has been thrown deep into the Learning Pit this year, but we are here to work with you to climb out the other side with skills, understandings and capacities that we didn’t have before.
I am confident that we are ready to tackle this new approach to learning, to deliver the best possible educational experience for students who are learning from home and, in some instances, those who still need to attend school. It is important to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) that on-site education is for a small minority of students only – for those who can’t learn from home.
This will be a term unlike any we’ve seen before. We will work with you to ensure that every student gets the support they need and that you have information and resources to support your children.
we are all learning
We are a community that prides itself on inclusion and the desire to support every individual to be #freetobeme. As a school, we have developed a philosophy over decades and are proud of where we currently stand (as well as where we are heading to). Our philosophy of inclusion involves a great deal of skill and attention directed towards differentiating tasks for the individual needs in our classes, which is a challenge, but one we take on with gusto - afterall, this is what the Art and Science of Teaching is all about. Only most of you aren’t teachers…which makes this approach of individualised learning suddenly much harder!
We have heard many accounts from families about their experiences so far this term (remember, it’s only been three days) and as we expected, these accounts vary significantly. Our teachers who are participating in the on-site supervision and care program are also implementing the home learning plans, which has been a good experience for them in building empathy for all of you at home.
As a school, we have learned a lot over the past three days and are using these new learnings in our planning for next week and beyond. We are working towards providing our families with a balance of support and flexibility, with enough work without drowning you, with enough guidance without making you feel like you need to become a teacher overnight (or ever!). Every family is so very different, so we know we will never find a solution that is perfect for everyone, but just like we ask of your children, we are learning everyday and striving to improve in everything we do. You will note a few changes to the home learning plans next week, that are in response to our learnings.
attendance for remote learning
This has been a question on many people’s minds - how are schools marking attendance? The Department of Education and Training is currently working on updating all their systems, processes and policies, to provide schools and families with the support required to maintain learning as far as possible.
For students attending school, parents and carers are asked to complete and return this attendance declaration by Friday each week, to allow the school to make plans and provisions for the following week. The attendance form (linked below) requires parents and carers to state which days their children will need to attend the school site for the following week and sign off that they are unable to provide supervision for their children at home on these days. The form also indicates that students must be picked up after the school day as soon as is practicable. OSHC service is available free of charge during Term 2, for families who are unable to provide supervision before or after school. Parents and carers can either email a copy of this form to the office, or printed copies are available from school.
For students learning from home, teachers will be marking attendance when they see evidence of your children engaging in work. This evidence can be quite varied and some examples include: students working on SeeSaw or Google Classrooms, emails from students, parents or carers about the work and work samples. We will continue to communicate with families about learning-from-home-attendance, to ensure the data collected is accurate.
communication is key
Effective communication is always our goal, however we know that good communication is now more important than ever. The school is communicating with families regularly, as information is updated at such a pace, however we have already come across some trouble-shooting concerns that I would like to share with everyone.
Emails are coming from the school and team leaders on a regular basis. Some families have let us know that these bulk emails are being blocked by their inbox spam filters. We ask all parents and carers (especially those that feel like they might be missing out on information that others seem to have) to please check their junk mail filter settings and ensure our emails are coming through.
I want to also ask all families to only contact teachers through email and Sentral; all families were provided with teachers’ email addresses in the Remote Learning Survival Guide and Sentral also has a messaging function. Google Classroom and SeeSaw are intended for student and teacher use, as a virtual classroom, and are not appropriate for adults to be commenting to teachers or other students through these platforms. We thank you for your cooperation in this.
We also know that there are heaps of different pieces of information coming to families at the moment. We know it is a bit overwhelming, whilst you are in the early days of getting into a new routine and learning some new skills! The school office is working to develop a great resource space on Sentral that will include recent communications and helpful documents, such as the remote learning guide. This should be finalised by Monday of next week and I will let you know where you can find these helpful documents in our morning announcements throughout the week.
year in review - public meeting
Each year, School Councils are asked to conduct a public meeting to review the previous year. Typically at these meetings, the School Council presents the Annual Report and each of our subcommittees will briefly present a report on what they attempted and achieved in the year prior.
Our 2019 public meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday and we are keen to go ahead, with social-distancing of course! We are arranging a WebEx event that will allow families to ‘tune in’ to the presentations and there will be a chat function for any Q&A from our audience. WebEx is the DET certified teleconference platform and will be used by school staff throughout the term. WebEx does not require an account or downloading an app if you are using a desktop computer, however when using a mobile device, you will be asked to download the app.
In addition to hearing from me, our School Council President as well as the Chairs of each Sub Committee, we are excited to announce that this year, we will also have a presentation from Mat and Alan of Content Studio, who will be sharing the most up-to-date designs for our Capital Works project and will be available for a brief Q&A session.
We will be sending out a link to the WebEx event next week, along with an agenda and approximate times for each presentation, but in the meantime, we recommend families to block out 7.30-9.00pm next Wednesday 22/04 in their calendars and consider any questions you might have about our 2019 school year.
year 6-7 transition
This year as a result of COVID-19, schools are conducting the Year 6-7 Transition process differently. Families would normally receive a hardcopy pack from DET, with information on enrolling to high school and important deadlines for families. Families of students in grade 6 this year will instead receive information digitally from the senior school team and our front office over the next few days. If you have any questions about Year 6-7 Transition, please do not hesitate to contact the school office.
our community is the greatest
You know I’m a big fan of our community - possibly the biggest fan! But this adoration does not come without good reason. During these challenging times, it is so easy for us to get caught up in the negative; caught up in what we don’t have, in what we are missing out on, in what we now need to do or in what we don’t know. But for every challenge, I have seen and heard wonderful stories of creativity and compassion.
Over the holidays, one of our Senior School students (Alice Atkinson) worked with her family and the school band, to create a video of our school song to share with the community. You can find Alice’s video on our school website. This video is an outstanding demonstration of how our community cares for one another in unique and creative ways. It is a demonstration of how our community works together to create something special. It is an exceptional demonstration of an inquiry approach to learning. I thank Alice, her family and the school band for your engagement in this project - it is something our school will value for a long time to come.
Another wonderful demonstration of our school community comes from the Arts Department, this week. I had a teleconference with Andrew and Jack, who are busy planning a celebration for when our school can come together again. I have been sworn to secrecy for the moment, so keep an eye out for information on what this event will look like, but what I am allowed to tell you is that it will be an open-ended, multimedia, multiplatform, multifaceted celebration… and anyone who knows Andrew & Jack will know that it will also be super creative, student-driven and loads of fun. I can’t wait!
appreciation of above-and-beyond
I love extending thank yous to people, I am one lucky principal and being grateful for all that we have helps keep my bucket filled during challenging times - so prepare yourself for a term of gratitude!
Today I want to extend a massive thank you to all the people in our immediate and wider community who are working to help others stay safe and maintain as much normalcy as we can at this time. This includes a huge array of people, so I do not mean to miss anyone out; I know my list will not include everyone.
Thank you to the healthcare professionals who continue to work either directly with COVID-19 or not, thank you to those working with the elderly and at risk, thank you to all the people working in schools (not just the teachers), thank you to the cleaners of schools and other spaces, thank you to all the people who work in the food industry and sales - it must be quite striking to see some of your colleagues lose their jobs, whilst you continue to work and face potential exposure. Thank you to those who operate public transport, so we can still make our way to work. Thank you to the paramedics, police and firefighters who face unspeakable confrontations on a daily basis. Thank you to the postal workers who, if my online shopping is anything to go by, must be flat out right now. Thank you to Paul Broadhurst and the B&G crew, who are conducting after-hours, socially-distant working bees that keep our school grounds safe for those who still need to attend. Thank you to those of you who have thanked us - your emails, phone calls, videos and messages have been so warmly received and are incredibly valued.