Senior School Report

April 24, 2020

by Hamish McCrum, Director of Senior School

“Welcome back” for Term 2.  I commend the students and the teachers for how well they have responded to the challenges of remote learning.  I have had conversations with about 25 students of varying abilities and I have been impressed with how they all seem to be making it work, and that is typically the feedback I have had when speaking to other teachers.  Some students have even commented on how much more time they now have to get things done, particularly those who usually endure hours on the bus each day.  I for one have been dragged considerably closer to 2020 in regard to technology and can see myself using some of the applications when we are back in the classroom.  Like others, I miss the friendly banter, but also the opportunity to look into students faces while explaining something and being able to read straight away that another example or explanation is required.  This is much harder when explaining something online.  The preparation for all teachers is now much more time consuming as you have to try to predict and eradicate the potential areas of confusion or ambiguity before you post your lessons/examples: the more minor of these are usually very quickly addressed in the classroom setting.  For our students it is also much harder.  They miss the social contact.  And they have also lost many of the opportunities to learn from and teach each other, something that benefits the learning and teaching and happens in every classroom.

Some of you have had your business or employment adversely affected which is extremely difficult.  All of us have been inconvenienced.  And when we look across at Europe and the US; and spare a thought for what might be about to happen in places like India and Africa, those of us “just inconvenienced” should perhaps consider that they have had a lucky escape. We may yet have our turn of large numbers of cases of COVID-19 but at least our health system has had a bit more time to prepare.

Our State Government has declared schools shut for all of Term 2, and that Year 12 exams will finish on December 18  (four weeks after they were initially scheduled to finish).  At this stage we plan to assess Year 10 and Year 11 work as we go, remotely, as best as we can.  Our Year 12 (Unit 3) coursework can be assessed remotely for Satisfactory / Not Satisfactory, but SACs which will contribute to ATARs will be held if/when we return to school- for authentication reasons.  There will be many Year 12 students working on SATs (folios and other projects) in some subjects at home which will be assessed on their return.  The components of some SATs simply cannot be completed remotely, and these will either be modified or completed when students return to school.  VCAL and VET classes have shifted theoretical components into Term 2 and will deliver more of the practical components when students return.

We are waiting on further advice from VCAA, some of which we are hoping will be subject specific as different subjects have different components that are less able to be delivered remotely than others.  Our governments, State and Federal, did heed the lessons coming from Italy and we shut down early.  And the effect on slowing the spread of COVID-19 has been much better than expected; a credit to the over-whelming majority of Australians who responded so well.  So good in fact, that while we are still waiting on announcements from VCAA and the State Government, I would not think it impossible that they would review and perhaps alter their decision to keep all students home for the whole of Term 2. We are ready to adjust quickly if they do so.  Year 12s need to be keeping up to date in case this happens, so as to be ready for assessments to take place.