As the 2020 school year (sort of) draws to a close we all contemplate a year that we might well wish to forget – but one that has again reinforced the privileged and fortunate position that we find ourselves in as members of the Nossal High School community. While we all faced varying degrees of challenge during the year, the impact on individuals was unique and the long-term impact of the events of 2020 will also be unique to each individual and may well have ramifications long into the future.
Australia is in a comparatively very good position with regards to the spread and containment of the virus and I was pleased to witness the way our own community faced the challenges. I pay tribute to all members of the Nossal community for their resilience, dedication, commitment, and humanity. That we have come through this year relatively unscathed, with little negative impact on academic outcomes, and largely positively, is testament to those qualities and the hard work and professionalism of our staff, the unstinting support of our parents, and the grit and determination of our students.
I also acknowledge the huge amount of additional support, resourcing and genuine care provided by the DET hierarchy and the State Government to schools and their communities throughout the year; in retrospect it was reassuring and generally effective despite the unknowns and uncertainties at the time. The extended periods of lockdown gave us a much greater appreciation of the many simple things that we had previously taken for granted, and the resultant transformation of the workforce, the education system, and community support and wellbeing programs may have lasting positive impact, alongside the trauma and uncertainty, and in some cases tragic outcomes the virus has triggered.
I pay tribute to three retiring Nossal staff members who have made exceptional contributions to Victorian education over many decades. Ms Nancy Waddington, Mr Keith Butler and Ms Gayl Shute have all finished their long and distinguished careers at Nossal and we owe them a great debt of gratitude for what they have done for us, and for the many thousands of students who have benefitted from their work. We will miss them greatly, but they leave a legacy that will last long into the future.
Ms Nancy Waddington is the Director of Music at Nossal and under her leadership the music program flourished and grew – our academic results improved, and our ensemble program diversified and expanded. Nancy is an exceptionally hard worker, who never complains, and she puts in huge amounts of additional time to ensure that the students enjoy myriad performance opportunities, and to showcase the high levels of music proficiency that our students achieve. Nancy can take much credit for the outstanding musical performances that we see and hear. Her work brings great enjoyment, and much reward and recognition. Sadly, Nancy will be taking ill-health retirement at the end of the year. She will be greatly missed but can be very proud of what she has achieved, and the foundations she has set will enable the program to continue to be a showcase for Nossal for years to come.
Mr Keith Butler has worked for the Department of Education for over 40 years and has made an enduring contribution to the lives of many thousands of students and staff in that time. Keith was appointed to Nossal as Assistant Principal in mid-2015 and even during that comparatively short period of time, the demands of the role have increased exponentially, and we absolutely rely on Keith to keep the school running smoothly and safely. His departure will create a significant gap for us that we will have trouble filling, although he intends to come back and do some voluntary work for the school during his retirement, so the relationship will continue, and we will still benefit from his dedication and input long into the future. On behalf of the Victorian State Education Department, we thank Keith for his long and dedicated service to the students of Victoria and for his contribution to Nossal High School in particular, and wish him a long, happy, and productive retirement.
Ms Gayl Shute has been the Business Manager at Nossal High School since 2009 and was the third staff member, and first administrative staff member appointed to the school to help set up the operational, financial and support services for the then new school. The role of Business Manager is a key senior leadership role that carries significant responsibility and requires a diverse and specialised skillset. Great schools require great Business Managers, and our successes are due in no small part to the enormous impact of her work in creating the conditions, processes, and resources to stimulate and enable that success. As one of the most experienced and proficient Business Managers in the state, Gayl too has made an outstanding contribution to state education over a long period of time, and as one of the very first Foundation staff members was instrumental in the creation and development of Nossal High School. We will greatly miss her professionalism, humour, and friendship, and wish her the best for her well-earned retirement.
As well as our three retirees we farewell, Ms Jessica Mihan and Ms Anna Wen who have completed their contracts with us. I sincerely thank them for their excellent work this year and wish them well in their new schools.
We welcome Ms Lydia Sayer as our new Business Manager; Ms Karry Zhang (Maths and Physics teacher) and Ms Joanne Ensor (Social Worker) who is joining our Wellbeing Team as part of the DET Mental Health Practitioners initiative.
Ms Clare Budd will return fully from Family Leave to take on the Director of Music role. Clare was our first Music Teacher at Nossal and was the instigator of music during our Foundation Years.
Ms Amanda Graystone (Chemistry/Science) also returns from Family Leave into an Acting Leading Teacher role that will cover some of the Assistant Principal responsibilities as we will not be appointing another Assistant Principal to replace Mr Butler at this stage.
Ms Debbie Engler (Humanities) returns from 12 months leave, and we will be interviewing and appointing one more Maths and Science teacher this week.
I will circulate an updated responsibility chart early next year to detail the additional leadership and support roles that will be filled by teachers and ES staff for 2021.
We also inducted six new students into Years 10 &11 who will be joining us in 2021 to replace departing students.
Year 9 Placements for 2021
Due to the COVID restrictions the offers for Year 9 places are being made this week and there will only be two rounds of offers and a streamlined Principal’s Discretionary process. This is a less than ideal situation that was beyond our control and means that the usual induction and orientation process will need to take place early next year, and the administrative work to complete the documentation and enrolments will take place during the holidays thanks to the dedication of our office staff who have volunteered to come in during the first week of their holidays to achieve this. The other big negative impact will be on the schools who will losing some of their highest performing students in the last few days of the year. This is a challenging and generally negative experience for them in a “normal” year when they at least have several months to plan their timetable, classes and staffing around the students they lose to the selective schools. Even though the number we can offer places to from any one school is capped, for some of our neighbouring schools this can mean the loss of up to 20 students, and they are of course the 20 students they would least want to leave. We have apologised and flagged this with them, but I fear it will make us even less popular with our peers than we usually are!
Our Year 12 students returned to the school for a delayed Celebration Day following the completion of their exams, and they undertook the traditional Nossal final rites of passage with shirt signing, sports and competitions, dress ups, a BBQ lunch and the obligatory Holi Powder fight between the Houses and staff and students. It was a joyous celebration of what for them was a disappointing year with most of their activities and events cancelled by COVID-19 restrictions. As has also become a nice tradition at Nossal, the whole cohort finished up with (not particularly melodic, but very enthusiastic) repeated renditions of their Year 9 Choral song - in this instance Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, (which is a very long song!)
I sincerely thank the class of 2020, and the student leaders in particular for the way they have managed the year and for their dedication and hard work. I am confident that they will achieve excellent results in spite of the challenges they faced.
We have organised for the students to hold their Valedictory Dinner/Year 12 formal on February 16 next year. Due to continuing COVID restrictions at this stage the venue will only be allowed to accommodate staff and students and no parents or other family members will be able to attend.
VCE Results (ATARs) are released at 7.00am on December 30, and the school will be open from 9.00am until 4.00 pm (on 30 & 31 December) for students or parents who wish to speak with Ms Warriner (Director of VCE), Ms Jacques (Careers Advisor) Sandy or Renee (Student Counsellors) or myself or Ms Mackin. If students are concerned or distressed about their results, I encourage them to call or come in to speak with someone so we can put some supports or alternative tertiary pathways in place for them in time for the change of preference process on January 4. I commend our staff (especially Clarissa) for making themselves available to provide this additional support at a time when they would normally be celebrating the festive season or holidaying with their own families. International University first round offers will come out on January 7 and Australian University offers will start to be made from January 14.
The Government have committed a huge amount of funding to target and assist students who may have “fallen behind” during 2020, and while I question the concept, timeline and framework, the intention is noble. We are planning to design and implement a program more appropriate to the needs of Nossal students during late Term 1 and across Terms 2 and 3. The funding for such programs is short term (6 months) and will not continue into the future.
Our 2020 Speech Night is like none that have gone before, although we have attempted to capture the essence of the celebration of the many successes and achievements of our staff and students, and while the format is different and it is hard to capture the gravitas and spectacle of the Melbourne Town Hall extravaganza, I single out Mr Butler for sincere thanks for his significant effort to achieve this Speech Night that will be available online on December 16. (A link to the program will be distributed via Teams and Compass.)
I urge you to view the event and join us to acknowledge, celebrate, and give thanks to the people and groups who managed to do great things in an exceptionally challenging year.
Many people still require or would benefit from additional wellbeing support and we know that Christmas and holiday periods can trigger greater stress, and the impact of the events of this year are unlikely to have reduced this for most people. DET and the Victorian Government have provided significant additional resources and services to assist us to manage this, and the school wellbeing and principal team are also available to provide extra support and assistance if required, so please do not hesitate to contact us directly, or to follow up with some of the services detailed in the attachments and links provided with the newsletter.
Additionally, here is a link to a useful website that families can use to search for a range of community services that offer support for issues including welfare, homelessness, health, and wellbeing:
Dec 21, 2020 – Speech Night (online)
Dec 18, 2020 – School closed (last day)
Dec 30 – Dec 31, 2020 – VCE results released – onsite counselling and advice for Year 12 students
Jan 4, 2021 - Change of Preferences due (Yr12)
Jan 7, 2021 – International University offers begin
Jan 14, 2021 – Australian University offers begin
Jan 20, 2021 – School Office re-opens
Jan 22, 2021 – PFA Second Hand Uniform Shop open
Jan 26, 2021 – Australia Day Public Holiday
Jan 27, 2021 – Teachers resume
Jan 28, 2021 – Year 9 Orientation Day/new parent information session and morning tea
Jan 29, 2021 – Foundation Assembly Day (Years 9 &12)
Feb 1, 2021 – Years 10 &11 resume
Best wishes and Warm regards to all members of the Nossal Community. I hope that you all have a peaceful, fulfilling, and healthy, summer break and I look forward to seeing you all in (a more “normal”) 2021.
If you have any urgent questions or concerns during the holiday break, I can be reached directly via email (email@example.com), via TEAMs, or mobile phone (0408121847)