From the Principal

Welcome to Term 3! This term does not look the way any of us planned or hoped it would look. In my last newsletter, I spoke with some excitement about the gradual easing of restrictions and the activities we were planning in Term 3. Sadly, Stage 3 restrictions were reintroduced during the school holidays and we are now back to remote learning for Prep-Year 10 students. I know many students and parents are dismayed to be returning to remote learning and the social isolation that comes with stage three restrictions. We are endeavouring to keep our community as connected and as supported as possible through a range of initiatives and activities. Some examples of upcoming events include:

  • SIS Interschool Debating on Tuesday 28 July and Thursday 27 August (via Zoom)
  • Young Filmmakers competition
  • Lunchtime Drama workshops
  • Virtual Assemblies
  • Parent Teacher conferences (via Zoom)

It gives me great pleasure to share some exciting staff news. On 16 July, our French teacher Beatriz Christensen gave birth to her daughter Zoe. Mum and baby are both doing well. Last week we also received the wonderful news that Junior School teacher Laura Dascoli has been accepted into the University of Melbourne PhD research program. Laura will be researching the teaching and learning needs of twice-exceptional students and we look forward to learning more in this area as a result of her studies.

Over the school holidays, we witnessed the old administration building slowly fall to the ground. There have been extensive earthworks carried out over the past month and the ground is now level and ready for the next stage of the build to begin. So far the weather has been kind and the building is on track to be opened in February 2021.

Fine weather over the holidays also gave us the opportunity to install some new paths which link the VCE Centre, Casey Common and the Technology Centre. Students can now walk to the Technology Centre without walking on muddy ground. We look forward to the installation of additional features along these pathways including a BBQ area (outside the Year 7 Centre) and a gorgeous wooden seat around the tree outside the VCE Centre (designed and made by Mr Peter Young, Product Technology and Design teacher)

Earlier this week all parents should have received information about the LEAD survey which is being conducted by the school. The information we receive from parents, students and staff in this survey will help us improve as a school. On Monday 3 August you will receive an email from the school which has a link to the survey. Please click on the link and complete the survey as soon as possible. The survey will be open for three weeks, closing on Friday 28 August. The survey takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. Either or both parents can answer the questions. If you have multiple children in the school, complete the survey thinking about your eldest child at the school. You are free to re-do the survey, answering for each of your other children who attend the school. The survey asks for your opinions on a range of aspects of the school. You will be asked to indicate how much you agree or disagree with various statements. Participation in the survey is completely anonymous and all information is treated confidentially. The data we receive from this survey will help us make decisions about what’s is working well and what might improve the school. The more people who complete the survey, the more reliable the data. I strongly encourage you to complete the survey when you receive it next Monday.

As we return to remote learning, many parents have spoken to me about their worries that their children may be falling behind. I want to reassure all parents that your children will not be disadvantaged as a result of remote learning. Research conducted in the aftermath of both the Christchurch earthquake and cyclone Katrina clearly shows that students who are faced with lengthy periods away from school show no effects, and in some cases actually do better. Laureate Professor John Hattie, who is an educational researcher based at the University of Melbourne and was the adviser for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority that oversaw school examinations after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes of 2011, found that while schools were closed for weeks and most students did not have the opportunity for online learning, results did not suffer. Professor Hattie said the difference was teachers focused on “what has to be learned” instead of getting through a lot of curriculum. He found the majority of students actually did better following the break from traditional learning.

Over the past month, we have watched with horror and disbelief as the number of COVID-19 cases has grown each day. There are currently 186 active cases in the City of Casey and 58 schools across Victoria have been forced to close after being linked to a recent COVID infection. Now, more than ever before, we are relying on each other to behave in a safe and respectful manner towards others to ensure the ongoing safety of all members of our school community. We are required to wear masks, maintain a social distance, hand sanitise regularly, sneeze and cough into elbow rather than hands and to dispose of used tissues in appropriate bins. We are constantly reinforcing these messages with the students who are learning on-campus. I encourage you to keep reminding your children of these safe practices when they are at home.

For those students currently learning on campus, it is vitally important that they stay at home if they are unwell. If your child is ill you must take them, and the rest of your household, to have a COVID test. Students must not return to school until they receive a negative result from their test.

For parents who are working from home while supervising their Junior School children’s remote learning, we understand how difficult this juggling act can be. While it is important that children maintain engagement with school while they are at home and that they continue their skill development by completing the lessons provided by the teachers, it is equally important that home continues to be a happy place. If you are finding the responsibility of supervising your child’s remote learning is becoming overwhelming, give yourself (and your child) a break. It is OK for children to have the occasional break from lessons and screen time (which is why we have included A-Days each week). It is OK for parents to give their children breaks if remote learning is causing tension. Most parents are not teachers and trying to teach your own child can be very stressful. Please don’t feel guilty if you need to abandon the occasional lesson at home. Your child will not be disadvantaged. It is worth noting that some of the most important lessons your child will learn occur during their play so if remote learning is overwhelming you, let your child have some playtime instead.

Below are a list of resources which may assist some parents through these difficult times:

  • Head to Health – provides information for parents and on-line resources on mental health and COVID-19
  • Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) Parent Portal – provides lots of well researched articles and good advice to parents, particularly as we prepare our children for their return to school
  • Department of Health – for the latest health advice, information and resources
  • National Mental Health Commission – the Commission provides mental health information and support for individuals who are feeling concerned, anxious or uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • National Coronavirus Hotline – 1800 020 080. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Other all hours support lines include;
    • Lifeline 13 11 14
    • Beyond Blue 1300224636
    • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
    • MensLine 1300 789 99 78
    • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Mrs Fiona Williams