Further update on Newcastle Grammar School's planning, particularly given the wide media coverage this afternoon, which appears to be leading towards school closures. Our staff have been working across the weekend on our Continuity of Learning Plan, which would be implemented if this lockdown was declared.
We are aware that the Federal and State Governments continue to meet frequently, and advice could change at any moment. Many parents are asking what this might mean for our school? We are sorry that we do not have a clear answer. The NSW Premier has indicated more information will be given out on Tuesday about the situation for schools. With the news that Victoria will shut all schools on Tuesday, and with further uncertainty being reported in the media as we write to you today, please be assured we are doing our best to communicate with you and manage the path forward – whatever that may be.
Some parents have made the decision to withdraw their children from school, a choice we understand and respect, and we are currently offering a blended model of learning, with teachers delivering lessons in the classroom and online through Schoolbox or learning packs to support students who are unable to come to school. Our staff are truly doing an excellent job to support the ongoing learning of all students, and we will continue to do this until, and if, it is appropriate to close the School and move to an alternate model of learning.
As we move into a new week, we want to update you on the strategies we have implemented and the status of activities and events.
You will be aware that one of our teachers was advised to stay at home last week after coming into contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19. As this contact was now over two weeks ago, and he is feeling fit and healthy, he has been cleared to return to School. The home isolation period provided the School with a good opportunity to test an online approach with this cohort. Year 6 enjoyed interactions with their teacher as he appeared live on the smartboard on a number of occasions to check in with the students and lead reading activities.
If your child is sick or won’t be attending class, we ask that you submit an absentee notification via our Schoolbox app. This is the quickest way to register your child’s absence and ensure their absence is noted in the system.
Our teachers are very busy supporting students and planning for a possible movement to home learning. We ask that you respect the need for them to focus on this and please do not email teachers directly.
Key contacts continue to be:
Wellbeing, Co-Curricular, Travel Notifications and general inquiries: Mr Daniel Wearne – Daniel.Wearne@ngs.nsw.edu.au
Teaching and Learning: Amy Falconer – Amy.Falconer@ngs.nsw.edu.au
Learning Support: Melinda Tucker – Melinda.Tucker@ngs.nsw.edu.au
Wellbeing, Co-Curricular, Travel Notifications and general inquiries: Alan Parsons – Alan.Parsons@ngs.nsw.edu.au
Teaching and Learning: Lisa Peterson – Lisa.Peterson@ngs.nsw.edu.au
HSC Assessment: Philip Fielden – Philip.Fielden@ngs.nsw.edu.au
Over the last week the School has postponed large-scale events.
Details of any further postponements or cancellations will be communicated to families.
Hill Campus Music lessons have been moved to the top floor of the Hill Building to facilitate social distancing practices. We are sure that many of our students and staff will enjoy this change.
Music lessons on Park Campus continue as timetabled in the Music Room.
As you will have heard in the media, the Education Ministers met on Friday and decided NAPLAN will not proceed in 2020. This includes the online practice tests scheduled for this week and the online tests in May. This is a sensible decision which will assist all schools, who are managing a multitude of issues at present.
Park Campus Drop Off and Pick Up
As of Monday, 23 March, all Park Campus students will be required to enter via the Corlette St or Parkway Ave gates. Students will be met by a teacher who will ensure that hand sanitiser is applied on entry. Parents are asked not to come onto the School grounds. All K-4 students who are being collected in the afternoon will be taken to Parkway Ave, including Kindergarten students who finish at 2.45pm. Students catching the bus from Park will gather in the Hall and be met by the teacher on duty. All students leaving Park Campus will apply hand sanitiser before departing. Parents are asked to assist us and be vigilant in dropping off and picking up children at the Corlette St and Parkway Ave gates.
Tyrrell Library and Stage 3 Homework Centre
While we encourage any student who can to go home directly after school, we do understand that this is not possible for some families. Therefore, the following services will continue to operate with hygiene and social distancing measures in place:
OOSH remains open on Park Campus.
As of Monday, the canteens on Hill and Park will only take orders for recess and lunch made through Flexi Schools. This will help our staff manage supplies and eliminate students standing in queues at the canteen.
We have also closed water bubblers, so we ask that all students bring a drink bottle to school. Water filling stations will continue to be available.
Essential Health workers
Many of our parents are at the ‘front line’ in the battle to combat COVID-19. We are very grateful to you for the work you are doing and understand your current pressures and the impact on your families. Please be assured we are also working on a plan that may assist you with care in the event of a school shut down.
Looking to the Future: A Move to Online Education
It is anticipated that at some point the School may need to close its physical doors to students, requiring our operations to shift to a home learning model. We want to be ready to move to this as quickly and effectively as possible if required. Over the last few weeks our staff have received training in the use of SchoolBox and Microsoft Teams, our chosen online learning platforms. Students in Years 11 & 12 began a trial of this platform on Friday, and students in Years 5-10 will be trained this week. We are also preparing guides for parents to facilitate a successful transition.
If we are forced to move to home learning, our Learning Continuity Plan includes the following strategies:
Further details will be provided to parents and students if required.
Last week, parents of students in K-4 received a home learning pack. Please keep this somewhere safe at home ready for use if your child is absent for a prolonged period or we move to home learning. The Class Pages on SchoolBox will also be used to provide updates, deliver learning activities, and facilitate interaction and communication. We are exploring technologies that will be appropriate for this age group and connect the child with their class each day should a longer closure be announced.
For students in Years 5 & 6, all class work will be available on SchoolBox and classes will be facilitated through Microsoft Teams. An overview of learning activities will be posted on the relevant Year Group Homepage for parents/carers to view. Teachers will post all lessons to class pages, where students can view the lesson plan, access resources and submit their work for feedback. In addition, teachers and students will use Microsoft Teams to connect and interact synchronously in the event of a longer closure. This will connect each class with their teacher and classmates and ensure learning continues. These experiences would be facilitated by the classroom teacher each day.
For students in Years 7 – 12, home learning will also be facilitated through SchoolBox and Microsoft Teams, with teachers providing students with both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences. We feel that these platforms provide students with an effective range of learning experiences and tasks in the home learning environment, taking into consideration screen time, child protection, internet connectivity and a balance between teacher-led and independent learning. We are confident that these platforms will support a continuation of high-quality teaching and learning in the event of the School moving to this approach.
As we introduce students to Microsoft Teams, we will run a series of training sessions in which students will be shown how to access the platform and engage in an onsite trial. For students who are absent, instructions for downloading Microsoft Teams and joining a lesson will be provided via email and posted to SchoolBox. IT support will be available for all students throughout the trial process, whether this is at home or at school.
Access to Technology
A key priority in our Learning Continuity Plan is ensuring equity of access to learning experiences. If you know you will have difficulty implementing online learning at home as you do not have available technology or internet access, please email us now so we can work with you to find a way to facilitate continuity of learning.
Primary School: Clare Fogo: Clare.Fogo@ngs.nsw.edu.au
Secondary School – Lisa Peterson: Lisa.Peterson@ngs.nsw.edu.au.
Questions About Learning
Primary School: Amy Falconer – Amy.Falconer@ngs.nsw.edu.au.
Secondary School – Lisa Peterson: Lisa.Peterson@ngs.nsw.edu.au.
It is incredible to think that we are putting in place plans for such a radical shift to the delivery of learning in schools. This is a paradigm shift that would normally take between 3 to 5 years! I’m grateful to our amazing teachers who are working tirelessly and with professionalism to facilitate this transition, assuring the continuity of learning for students is maintained. Our Wellbeing Team and Head of Positive Education are also working on plans to maintain our commitment to Visible Wellbeing and Mentor through the online platform, ensuring our students’ wellbeing continues to be at the heart of all that we do. Similarly, our Director of Sport is looking at how we continue to be active in an online world, and we are exploring opportunities to bring students together to maintain the social dimension of schooling.
Having education as an anchor during this time will be important for our students, and we will continue to work to provide the high-quality educational experience which is central to the NGS experience. I’m sure this will include some creative and innovative lessons, physical activities, interactive and virtual experiences all designed to engage the mind and nourish the wellbeing of our students.
As we write this on Sunday afternoon, I’m conscious of the rapidly changing landscape. We are expecting an announcement from the Premier early this week. As soon as we have more details we will be in contact with our School family.
Again, we thank you for your ongoing support as we navigate these extraordinary times. Learning in the age of COVID-19 is certainly a learning experience, which will inevitably come with challenges and struggles, failures and successes. If we continue to work collaboratively, we are confident that this will stand us in good stead as the situation continues to unfold.
Head of School