Term 4 has resumed, although like most other terms this year – it is significantly different to what has gone before and we are still grappling with the ongoing and anticipated impact of the COVID 19 restrictions and the change that is imposing on our daily operations, short and long term planning, and school budgeting and resourcing.
It has been quite energising to have the Years 11 and 12 and most staff back onsite for classes, with many commenting that it was strange to be surrounded by so much noise and movement after so long confined to their homes. Most appear to be very happy to be back and have enjoyed catching up with friends and resuming their classes and having face to face contact with their teachers, although communication is still somewhat impeded by masks and you begin to realise how much we rely on facial expressions, smiling and the like as a (previously unappreciated) part of our daily interaction.
As anticipated, it has been challenging to keep the students (and staff) effectively social distancing, and it is easy to forget, but on the whole I have been very happy with the way the students are responding and they have been taking their COVID Safe obligations seriously. We are looking forward to the resumption of the Year 9 and 10 cohorts next week, and that will add another layer of challenge for the movement and distancing across the school, albeit for a relatively short time as the Year 12 students will start Swot Vac less than a week later.
The Year 9 cohort have seen very little of the school this year and will have only a couple of days to re-aquaint themselves with their Year 12 mentors before they will be farewelling them. We are still planning to hold some form of final Year 12 assembly on October 29 to mark their last day of classes, but it may have to be an online version rather than the traditional student run assembly with the whole school in the gym. Similarly, we are hoping that we may be able to hold a version of the Year 12 Celebration Day on October 30 but the usual breakfast BBQ, sports events, shirt signing and holi powder fight may have to undergo some modification to be COVID safe.
Year 12 Exam Period
Although the exam period has been moved back slightly – it is already upon us with the oral and language exams starting last week. Our Year 12 Theatre Studies students presented their final assessment pieces (monologues) and I was very impressed by the little pieces I saw of their final rehearsal so think they will perform very well.
Academic Progress…. “Am I falling behind?”
I am quite concerned that there seems to be a reasonably widely accepted belief that students in 2020 will have “fallen behind” and now need to “catch up.” While there is some truth in that impression, particularly around some of the practical components and the activities that need to be completed onsite, and in some school communities where many students and families lack resources and struggle with the academic demands of remote learning, Nossal students in particular are not “behind” and in fact will be comparatively “ahead.” I would like to dispel that concern; our staff and students have maintained the momentum, are where they should be in terms of the curriculum content that they need to cover, and VCAA have made alterations to the content and assessment processes to allow for the changes made as a result of the remote learning impositions this year. We also need to remember that, if we are judging VCE “success” (and I use the term advisedly) by the ATAR, the changes this year will have limited impact as the ATAR is a ranking, not a score and it simply designates where each student ranks compared to all of those who completed VCE studies in that year. The ATAR is primarily a ranking tool for university selection – it does not describe a body of knowledge, course content or the ability of the students – it merely provides a comparative rank. So in spite of the changes to practice this year – I would not expect to see a great deal of change in the comparative rankings, even if the content may be slightly different this year when compared to previous years, and that means that Nossal students will continue to perform very well. As long as they continue to study effectively and complete their final assessments with the diligence, enthusiasm, and motivation that we usually see. All Year 12 students will also have additional consideration of their individual personal circumstances this year factored into their final results to mitigate any negative impact of the lockdown. Unfortunately, some of our students also feel that they might be “behind,” and Ms Mackin has been doing an excellent job responding to such questions in the “Myth Busters” Channel of Teams and I reprint her response to this question here ….
“When we go back to full onsite learning, will I be able to get support from teachers, or will I just have to catch up?
I'm not entirely sure what you mean about "catching up" in this case. Provided you have been keeping up with the work your teachers have been setting while you have been learning remotely, then you are up to date and have nothing to catch up on. Your teachers will of course continue to support you in the normal way when you return to on-site learning, but there shouldn’t be any additional work for you to do.
It's possible that you are concerned about the idea that you are "behind" compared to some absolute scale of where you "should" be by this time. There are three things I'd like you to remember about that:
- Nossal's learning program is designed for a cohort which is consistently above state average. Even if I was willing to admit that you are "behind" (which, frankly, I'm not - more on that later), you would still only be "behind" compared to the Nossal standard. I'm confident that the achievement level of our students would still count as "ahead" if we measured them in relation to the rest of the state.
- Nossal's commitment over the last several years to integrating online learning into its normal program through digital delivery days and the like is a clear signal that we do not believe that online learning is "worse" than face-to-face learning. It's different, with some advantages and some disadvantages, just like every other approach to learning. It is not something we would choose to do full time if we could avoid it, because doing so would narrow your skill development too much, but that doesn't mean you can't learn that way. People have been learning by distance for many years, and you had the advantage (not available to many students) of excellent technology and technological support, staff with a high level of skill, and peers who have at least some experience of how learning online works. All of this put you at a significant advantage compared to your peers in many other schools who had to make the transition to online learning at the time of the first lockdown. They are the students that the people in the department and the media are worrying about when they talk about students being "behind" as a result of this year's circumstances.
- Despite some of the rhetoric being used in relation to student achievement in 2020, this is not a race that you are winning or losing. That's not what adult learning is about. Actually, it's not what any learning is about. Adult learning is a lifetime commitment to understanding the world and your place in it as well as you can, and to developing and refining the skills you need to engage effectively with that world. At any given moment, you know certain things, and you have certain skills. Your teachers' job, regardless of what number your year level might be, is to work out what you already know/can do, and then help you to take the next step so that, later, you end up knowing more or having more/greater mastery over your skills. Each of them do that in a different disciplinary area, but they're all doing the same thing - meeting you where you are and trying to help you to make progress from there. It's true that the VCE places some external demands on this process, but your teachers are well aware of these and have been selective in the way that they have planned your work for this year. They have focused on the essentials, to help ensure that you will have reached the standard of knowledge and skills that you need to when you get to your final Year 12 exams. In doing so, they may have sacrificed some of the depth or the breadth which they usually include in their teaching, but that depth and breadth is about making you a better thinker, not about helping you to jump imaginary hurdles. The main thing that good learners know for sure is that there is always more to learn, so the idea of being behind is fairly meaningless. You have already attained a functional level of literacy and numeracy. You could go off and get a job of some sort right now so as to support yourself and put food on the table. Everything else is a bonus. Stop worrying about being "behind" and worry instead about being someone who cares about learning and keeps trying. If you do that, you will be "ahead" by every measure that matters.”
School Fees and Refunds
Ms. Shute (Business Manager) has been doing a huge amount of work to recalculate the whole school budget so that all families will receive an updated account that will reflect the events and activities that have been paid for but did not occur (camps, excursions and other activities and events) and the changes to the curriculum and resources used this year. I thank her for the excellent work she has done to manage this. The revised budget will be taken to School Council next week and the revised accounts will be issued following council approval.
I hope parents are now aware that the canteen at Nossal is no longer operational and our canteen operator has vacated the premises so at this stage there will be no canteen services available for the remainder of the year. We will not be allowing students to order food deliveries or to leave the premises to go to MacDonald’s or other food venues, so I ask that parents and students prepare to manage without that. We have the snack vending machine available with upgraded variety of supplies and the microwaves and boiling water units for student use and are exploring other possible options for the short and the long term including more vending machines, other models of canteen operation, food trucks, or running it ourselves. We will be seeking feedback from students to ensure that we best cater for their needs, but in a school of our size it is challenging for a canteen operator to run a financially viable business.
State Schools Relief
This is an outstanding 90-year-old not for profit support organization who freely provide resourcing, financial support, uniform, books, computers, IT access etc. etc. to needy government school students and families across the state. At Nossal we have had occasion to seek their assistance for families in need and it is quick and easy and readily available upon request. In the 2019-2020 financial year they responded to 70,500 requests for assistance which equates to 1 in 9 state school students! The demands on them following the impact of the lockdown, job losses and potential recession will no doubt increase this demand exponentially, so they are exploring different ways to raise funds and I like the simplicity of this proposal and urge you to consider supporting them. Our students commit some of their fundraising each year to State Schools Relief as we know that every dollar their raise goes directly to needy Victorian students.
State Schools Relief have issued the following information about their exciting new initiative.
“My Charity Change”
Many of your students and families rely on us for support and it’s our mission to ensure that every young person is able to fully participate in their education without barriers, with the same pride and dignity as their peers. As we slowly move toward a ‘COVID-normal’, we’re predicting that demand for our support will increase exponentially and somehow, we need to be able to fund this... That’s why we’re trying something new.
We’ve found an exciting new way to complement our traditional forms of fundraising. With this in mind, we have partnered with My Charity Change, which can be accessed by following this link. https://mycharitychange.com.au/
My Charity Change is a mobile app that allows you to round up your spare change each week for donation to a chosen charity (i.e. State Schools’ Relief!). It’s very simple. When you make a purchase, My Charity Change will round up the price to the nearest dollar and donate that change directly to State Schools’ Relief. It’s up to you how much you donate. Just set your maximum amount per week (i.e. $2, $5, $10 etc.) and the app does the rest!
How it Works
Step 2: Select a cause: Simply select State Schools’ Relief from the list provided. (You might not notice the small micro donations from your day-to-day transactions, but we certainly will.)
Step 3: Enter your banking details: Enter your banking details and select the account, or card, you’d like to link – then set your round-up amount (e.g. a maximum of $2, $5, 10 per week). My Charity Change works to protect all customer information, prevent unauthorised account activity and ensure payments are transacted safely. Donations of $2 and over should be tax deductible. My Charity Change have incorporated the following within the website and App: Multi-factor authentication; automatic logouts and ID verification; SSL/TLS secure tunnel data transfer between bank 256-bit AES full data encryption security; Restricted private software network; Real-time fraud monitoring and protection
Step 4: Make a real difference: When a payment is made with the selected bank card, My Charity Change will round up to the nearest dollar, donating it directly to State Schools’ Relief. You really will be creating change from your change!
Thunderstorm Asthma Season
DET have issued a reminder and some guidelines about preparing for this as we are nearing the season where these events are likely to occur. If your child is prone to asthma it is important that we have an up to date asthma management plan, but as we saw last year – if the weather conditions that trigger this phenomenon recur, people who have previously not experienced asthma issues may be impacted and the outcomes can be very serious.
“Grass pollen season occurs between October and December. Schools are reminded of an increased risk of seasonal asthma, hay fever and epidemic thunderstorm asthma during this time.
Epidemic thunderstorm asthma events are triggered by an uncommon combination of high grass pollen levels and a certain type of thunderstorm, resulting in large numbers of people developing asthma symptoms over a short period of time.
People with a history of asthma, undiagnosed asthma or hay fever are at an increased risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma during this time. Having both hay fever and asthma that are poorly managed increases the risk further.
More than ever before, this year it’s important for staff and students to manage any hay fever or asthma symptoms, as these conditions can produce symptoms that are similar to coronavirus (COVID-19) such as runny nose, cough or shortness of breath.
The best way to reduce and prevent symptoms of asthma or hay fever and reduce unnecessary absences from school is to follow an up-to-date asthma action plan or hay fever treatment plan.
While it’s important to increase outside air ventilation and move activities outside where possible in order to minimise the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission, schools should monitor the VicEmergency App and on days when there is a heightened risk of thunderstorm asthma, windows and doors should be closed and then reopened when the risk reduces.”
Parent Opinion Surveys
Each year we ask parents to complete a parent opinion survey. All students and staff are also asked to complete one and this provides us with invaluable data to help us address any concerns, affirm the good things we are doing, and to review our progress and plan for the future. This is very useful and very important data for us, and I sincerely thank those of you who take the time to complete the survey. I know that everyone is inundated with requests for feedback at present but I do ask that you assist us by filling in the online survey which will be emailed to you soon. We send a survey to every family to maximise the response rate, but I have to say that I am still disappointed when we generally only receive 10-20% of responses.
This year, the Parent Opinion Survey will be conducted from Monday 12 October to Friday 13 November.
The survey will be conducted online, only takes 20 minutes to complete, and can be accessed at any convenient time within the fieldwork period on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or smartphones. The online survey will be available in a range of languages other than English. These include: Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Chin (Hakha), Hindi, Japanese, Somali, Turkish, Punjabi and Greek. Please contact Tracey Mackin via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like more information.
Please read the following important information about the Student Attitudes to School Survey….
Parent/Guardian Information & Consent Letter - 2020 Student Attitudes to School Survey
Dear Parent / Guardian,
This letter is to inform you about the 2020 Student Attitudes to School Survey (AtoSS), that your child is invited to participate in.
About the survey
We value student voice as a means to improving student engagement, wellbeing and quality instruction and are conducting a survey to find out what your child thinks of your school.
The AtoSS is an annual student survey offered by the Department of Education and Training to assist schools in gaining an understanding of students' perceptions and experience of school.
This year, the survey also includes some questions about student health and wellbeing and student perceptions of COVID-19. Understanding health and wellbeing needs has always been important, but especially so this year, and the Department is providing this survey to allow schools to capture this information to support students. Students will be asked about their thoughts and feelings in relation to their school, family, friends, health (including mental health) and wellbeing, and bullying.
The health and wellbeing questions are taken from another Department survey called the Victorian Student Health and Wellbeing Survey (VSHAWS) that has been conducted with a sample of schools in Victoria since 2014. The questions about COVID-19 have been developed by or recommended by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. This year, the AtoSS will be conducted at your school over the period Monday 19 October to Friday 30 October.
What are the risks?
While we do not anticipate many risks of participation some students may find the survey questions to be more personal and sensitive in nature this year. Should you agree for your child to participate, they are still free to skip questions or to withdraw at any stage if the survey makes them upset or uncomfortable.
What are the benefits?
In our experience, the majority of young people enjoy having the chance to have their say. Your school will use the survey results to plan programs and activities to improve your child's schooling experience.
What will my child be asked to do?
Your child will be invited to complete the survey online during class time using a purpose built secure online survey tool. It is important to note that we are not in any way “testing” your child.
Student participation in the survey is voluntary and students may withdraw at any time. The survey will take around 30-40 minutes to complete.
How is my child’s confidentiality protected?
Your child will be provided with a unique login to complete the survey from their teacher. The student login is an assigned identifier that may be used to link data for statistical and research purposes only. Personally identifiable data will not be recorded in the survey response file. This ensures that the confidentiality of your child’s responses are protected at all times.
How will results be reported?
The survey results will be reported back to the school in an aggregate form in term 4. All survey data that is made available in reports are for groups of students only so that no individual student can be identified. Data suppression rules are used for schools with low student numbers per year level.
Options for participation
Participation in this survey is voluntary. If you do not wish for your child to do the survey, please opt out via email to your school: email@example.com. Please do so before Tuesday 20 October, stating that you wish to opt out of your child’s participation, along with their name and year level. If your school does not receive a Refusal of Consent email from yourself before the survey commencement date mentioned within this letter, it means that you give your consent for your child to participate in the 2020 Attitudes to School Survey.
A copy of the survey that we are asking your child to complete is available from your child’s school. Please contact the administration office if you would like to see the survey before making your decision about whether you would like your child to participate. If you would like more information, please speak to Ms Mackin or Mr Page or contact the Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Department of Education and Training Victoria
Testing for Year 9 Entry 2021
The delayed test will now take place over the weekend of the 14 and 15 of November at the Melbourne Showgrounds. There is a comprehensive COVID safe plan and very complex and carefully thought through management directions in place to ensure that we are able to gain Department of Health approval for the exam to proceed. The offers for placement into Year 9 2021 will be made from mid to late December which will considerably truncate the transition and placement process.
October 23 – Public Holiday
October 26 – Years 9 & 10 return to onsite classes
October 29 – last day of classes for Year 12 – Final (student run) assembly
October 30 - Year 12 Celebration Day
November 2 – Cup Eve – asynchronous Digital Delivery Day – Year 12 Swot Vac begins
November 3 – Public Holiday
November 10 – start of VCAA Exam Period
November 14/15 – 2021 Intake testing at the Showgrounds
Our Year 11 Debating Team of Nadia, Nalini and Joel who have won through to the Debating Association of Victoria (DAV) Semi Finals after claiming some high-profile school scalps in the lead up. This is a hotly contested event and a significant achievement. Their competition in the semi finals (held last weekend) was Melbourne High School so the quality of the debate was exceptional. Congratulations to our team for their achievements. Unfortunately they were just beaten by the narrowest of margins and therefore I am going to be unable to lord it over Mr Ludowyke at our Selective Entry Principal’s meeting next week!