Principal’s Message

August 6, 2021

by Principal, Mr Steven O’Connor

Lockdown and Remote Learning – again!

It is astonishing how quickly things change in a COVID world. I initially completed my contribution to The Crest on Thursday morning (August 5) and was happy and keen to write about the BAS sporting fixtures recommencing next week and the importance of the GAT for senior students. All of this was made redundant in the decisions taken late Thursday afternoon about the latest lockdown period and the need to revert to remote learning for the next week!

The relevant correspondence has been sent to everyone in the College community. And we are committed to ensuring that students enjoy the best possible continuity of learning via our remote learning platform.

I am particularly conscious that being thrown back into lockdown and remote learning again is not what any of us want. We all know the drill and I am confident that students and staff will put their best foot forward and make the most of these circumstances. I have emailed all students and encouraged them to seek assistance and support from staff if they need it over this remote learning period. The wellbeing of all involved in the St Patrick’s College community is the most important thing at this time!

Term 3

Term 3 is always the busiest term of any school year, particularly for senior students, our Year 12 students and those in Year 11 who are working towards completing a 3-4 VCE program or course.

Students were scheduled to undertake the General Achievement Test (GAT) next Thursday, 12 August after it was postponed twice as a result of the impact of COVID lockdowns and periods of remote learning thus far this year.

As I write this, there is no advice on the GAT in the context of this latest lockdown. Of course, we will write to students and parents as soon as we know what the plan for the GAT is.

The General Achievement Test is a test of general knowledge and skills in a few key, broad areas:

  • written communication
  • Mathematics, Science and Technology
  • Humanities, the Arts and Social Sciences.

All students enrolled in one or more VCE or scored VCE VET Unit 3 and 4 sequences must sit the GAT.

The GAT is an important component in the VCE and I wish all students the very best as they compete the tests in the near future. There is really no way for students to study or prepare for the GAT but I do encourage our boys to read very carefully the questions they will be attempting and answer them as fully and as completely as possible.

In addition to completing the GAT and various SACs at this time, students in Year 12 and Year 11 completing 3-4 subjects should have by now commenced a course of revision and study in all relevant subjects. The external VCE exams will cover material and skills from both Units 3 and 4 and therefore, it is important that students begin a revision program of this material at this stage of the year.

It is a very busy time for senior students at this time of the year. I encourage all of our boys to focus on what needs to be done, to be disciplined in their approach and to know that the entire process will be over sooner than they realise and therefore, to enjoy it as much as they can!

BAS Sport

It was planned that the weekly sporting fixtures in BAS would re-commence next week. The impact of COVID continues to be significant and the Principals of all BAS schools continue to communicate and liaise regularly about the BAS sporting program. Sadly, in the context of this latest lockdown, no sporting fixtures will occur at this time.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to conduct the BAS Athletics carnival this year. With the evidence of the spread of the Delta strain in other jurisdictions at the moment and the prevalence of this in younger, school age children, it has been determined that a larger event such as the BAS Athletics is not a safe or wise option at this time.

I am keen, like all Principals of BAS Schools, to be able to offer our usual range of sporting fixtures and opportunities for all students. An important consideration in this of course, is to ensure that we do not put any individual student or any school community at risk. Whilst many uncertainties from the COVID pandemic continue to exist, we will continue to take decisions which contribute to the safety and wellbeing of all of our students.

Student Voice

At the centre of any school are its students. Therefore, it is really important for students to have opportunities to express their views on a range of issues. Some of these might be reasonably pragmatic, reflecting their experience as students at the school and how this might be improved and enhanced. Other issues might come from beyond the school gates and might be more significant and worldly.

I am keen to encourage and provide opportunities for agency or student voice at the College. Seeking the views and feedback of the boys on various issues is really important and identifies and highlights what they are experiencing, what their views are on various issues and what they aspire to.

The Director of Students, Mr Mike Silcock and I have been engaging with groups of students in recent months around the development of a Student Code of Conduct. A Code of Conduct is not a document which supersedes other important guidelines or sets of rules which exist at the College. The reality is that we need to have rules and guidelines in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all members of the College community, as well as ensuring that we meet the requirements of VCAA, the VRQA and other agencies which oversee schools and how they operate. A Code of Conduct for students is more of a straight-forward guide for students and a go to document for them. I have been impressed with how each group of boys (from Years 7-12) have taken up the invitation to contribute to the conversation and to have their say as we develop this Code of Conduct. I anticipate that the Code of Conduct for Students will be in place by the end of this year.

Students are also able to contribute to the College community and voice their ideas and views via a range of Leadership roles. The boys in Year 11 have been asked to consider nominating themselves or a few House peers as we commence the important process of selecting and appointing students into the senior leadership roles for Term 4 2021 and into 2022. The boys are asked to prepare and submit a letter of application and if short-listed, will attend an interview with me or other senior staff at the College. This is an important process and I am looking forward to engaging with the boys as we work towards appointing the senior leadership roles which will then form the Student Council for 2021-22.

The College is also making very good progress in reviewing and developing its new Reconciliation Action Plan (our RAP). This is a really important process and I am encouraged by the progress and commitment I have seen from the many involved in this. An important part of this involves engaging with our students – indigenous and non-indigenous – about our commitment to the RAP and providing the best possible educational programs and experiences for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and genuinely embracing them as important members of the SPC community. A number of conversations have occurred around this already with our students and these are providing them with opportunities for agency and student voice.

As a school, if we are to truly attend to the issues which are significant and relevant to our students and if we are to genuinely be student centred in our approaches, it is really important that we provide appropriate opportunities for agency or student voice as we go about our business.

Mr Steven O’Connor