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The School Newsletter Week 11, Term 1 2020

What Coming Up

Thursday 9 April : Term 1 ends

Monday 27 April : We will officially begin our online home learning programs on the first day of Term 2.

From the Principal

This Sunday is Easter Sunday. Many people think that Christmas is the most important day in the Catholic liturgical calendar, but from the earliest days of the Church, Easter has been considered the central Christian feast. As Saint Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." Without Easter—without the Resurrection of Christ—there would be no Christian faith. Christ's Resurrection is the proof that He is God.

During the current health crisis, we are confined to our homes for most of the day, and this confinement has given us the opportunity to spend more time with our families. This week might be an opportune time to reflect on the feast of Easter . . . Place symbols of Easter such as lighted candles, eggs, and lilies on your dinner table. Talk about how these items might have become symbols for Easter. What do they suggest to us about the Gospel story that we will hear on Easter Sunday? How can we be symbols of the Easter message to each other and those outside our family?

As we approach the end of Term One, I would like to thank everybody for their support and encouragement throughout the term . . .

  • Our dedicated and hard-working staff, who go above and beyond what is required in order to ensure that your children are well educated, as well as safe and happy at school. Our teachers and support staff are currently working harder than ever to engage your children in their learning in the weeks and months ahead, and they will continue to do so during the two weeks of holidays ahead of us.
  • Our parents, grandparents and carers whose role in supporting the teachers and the school community must never be underestimated nor taken for granted.
  • Our parish community whose friendship and encouragement are valued greatly by the community.
  • And, of course, our students, who love to learn and whom we love to teach.

Wishing all of our families a happy and restful Easter break. Looking forward to seeing you all online in Term Two.

Peter Green

LEARNING FROM HOME

1. Communicating with students

Throughout the past week, I have been in regular communication with principals from around our diocese, and it is clear that may parents and carers are feeling incredibly anxious and overwhelmed in regard to their children’s learning in the foreseeable future.

While teachers acknowledge that parents are the first and primary educators of their children, schools have a very important role in fostering the academic, social, emotional and spiritual needs of the children. Face-to-face teaching, which is the optimal way of doing this work, requires a level of personal interaction that cannot be replicated through technology. Online teaching can never replace classroom group learning because students learn from their peers as well as their teachers. The classroom offers students opportunities to assist one another to solve problems, and this is what helps to build children’s skills in collaboration and independence.

We will officially begin our online home learning programs on the first day of Term 2, i.e. Monday 27th April. Until it is safe for students and staff to return to the schools, all lesson content will be delivered to the students online. The content that the teachers are currently developing for Term 2 will be delivered in three formats:

  1. Real-time, which will incorporate online chat and video conferencing.
  2. Private chat between student and teacher. Students have the option of sending a message through MS Teams and/or Seesaw to their teacher, who will then contact the student by online chat (typed) between 9.00am and 3.00pm, Monday to Friday. I have instructed teachers not to conduct one-to-one video conferences with students. Outside of 9.00am to 3.00pm, the teachers will be preparing lessons and attending to administrative tasks.
  3. Independent tasks which will be uploaded to your child’s class team on MS Teams and/or Seesaw. For some students, parental support will be required. Others may require only limited support.

This mode of teaching has the potential to be chaotic and distracting at times, especially when large numbers are using it at the same time. Having said that, last week I attended Year 4/5 and Year 5/6 video conferences facilitated by Daniel Lockwood and Cathy Dent, and every student present in those meetings behaved appropriately and clearly understood the protocols around video conferencing. It may be necessary for parents to be present for the video conferences and chats to ensure that they run smoothly. Hence, this mode of delivery has the potential to place an even greater burden on parents.

Next term I will be attending as many of the video conferences as possible, as a co-teacher, and the class teachers and I will call out any students who do not observe the same courtesies expected of them in the classroom at school.

Although we are unfamiliar with this mode of teaching, our teachers remain committed to their students’ learning, and they are spending many hours developing and uploading content to Microsoft Teams and Seesaw.

2. Rachel Wright’s role in the immediate future

Our learning support teacher, Rachel Wright, is also available to support the students in a variety of ways, e.g. individual daily schedules; individualised social stories; liaise with allied health professionals identify specific needs in collaboration with classroom teachers; etc. See last week’s newsletter for the full range of ways in which Rachel is available to support families.

3. The role of parents in children’s learning from home

For some students, especially the younger ones, this will require a level of parent support. For parents with work commitments beyond the family, this may pose some problems, as they will be juggling the demands of their paid work, their children’s education, and their family responsibilities. Undoubtedly, these demands will place enormous pressure on some families. The advice that most schools are taking is not to add to these burdens. A recent letter writer to The Sydney Morning Herald expressed it well: “Parents battling their work demands in calls and emails trying to supervise two or three different grades of schoolwork, the reluctant student, the non-motivated student and sometimes a toddler, is a recipe for chaos.”

Parents often underestimate the importance of everyday tasks that their children can undertake at home that are valuable learning experiences. There is a plethora of ideas out there, but my favourite site is https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/parenting/article/fun-learning-parents-children-activities-handbook. This site offers many practical learning opportunities which children can undertake without any intervention from adults, and which also teach them practical skills. Many parents will feel overwhelmed in the next few months about the need to support their children’s learning, but these practical ideas should be considered just as important as the formal education that schools deliver.

4. How much time per day?

We are in unchartered territory, and I am unable to locate any research into the optimum amount of time that students should spend each day on their home learning programs. We are recommending 1½ to 2 hours per day for students in Years 5 and 6, but it will be horses for courses. There are some students who will want to put in more time than this. For younger students, the time spent per day will need to be negotiated with their parents, who are in a better position than teachers to make that call.

If there are any further ideas that you have in regard to how we may support you and your children, please do not hesitate to email your children’s teachers. When our MS Teams and Seesaw platforms are operational, you will also be able to message the teachers through these platforms.

5. Let’s stay connected!

The staff will be doing a great deal next term to ensure that all members of our school community stay connected with one another. In next term’s weekly school newsletters, each teacher will report on what has been happening for their class during the previous week. Their class news will include work samples from their students, successes that they have had, and photos of the students learning from home. Please feel free to send your good news stories to your children’s teachers, including photos if your child has consent to have their image published.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate the many unknowns in this world of remote learning. Please contact me if you require clarification on any of these issues or if you have any further questions.

Peter Green.

STUDENTS’ GUIDE TO ACCESSING MICROSOFT TEAMS

Daniel Lockwood has very kindly put together a students’ guide to using some of the functions on Microsoft Teams, specifically conversation, chat and video call. Daniel’s guide is attached on the Compass news item with this newsletter. Please keep it as a reference while our home learning program continues.

Kindergarten 2021

Enrolments are open for 2021 - please let your friends and family know what a great school St Patrick's is.

INTERIM REPORTS

Last Friday you should have received an interim report on your child’s progress during Term 1. These were published on the Compass Parent Portal. Please take advantage of the opportunity to meet with your child’s teacher if they have requested an interview, or to request an interview if the invitation has not come from the teacher. You may email your child’s teacher to arrange an interview. Interviews can take either through Zoom or by telephone.

HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES WITH COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

With children in our schools now on school holidays, parents may be wondering how they can entertain their children over the weeks ahead. Restrictions on travel and activities with others outside the home will present additional challenges this year. The Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Broken Bay, has developed some fun holiday activities for home. Click here for access. You will find inside, outside and online activities. More will be provided over coming weeks. Whilst providing links to activities sponsored by a number of organisations, please exercise your normal good judgement and caution in taking up any subscriptions or offers. Our sincere thanks to the catholic Schools Office in Broken for allowing us to share this resource with you.

A New Baby

SCHOOL FEES

You would have received in your Compass feed last Wednesday a letter from the Director of Schools in relation to the support that we are offering to parents in regard to the payment of school fees. This support will be good news for a number of St Patrick’s families who have been hit hard financially by COVID-19. The support that is offered will be either through deferring the payment of school fees until July 2020, or a school fees concession.

For those of you who are experiencing genuine financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, I strongly urge you to click the "Fee support” link , and to complete and submit the form. I would also ask you to contact me directly so that we may make an arrangement that works for both of us. The position taken by the Catholic Schools Office and St Patrick’s is that no family experiencing genuine financial hardship is to be denied an education in a Catholic school. I would be very saddened to think that parents would seek to move their child to another school solely because they cannot afford the school fees.

Please be assured of my prayerful support for all families during these difficult times.

Peter Green.

READING MATERIAL

https://soraapp.com

Our school has subscribed to SORA, which will provide our students with a wealth of online reading options during the period of home learning.

To access the SORA collection, follow these steps:

  1. Go to https://soraapp.com.
  2. Click “Find my school”.
  3. Click “My school isn’t listed”.
  4. In “Find your school”, type ACEN, then click “ACEN Member Collection”.
  5. Click in “Select your school”, and select “ACEN Member Collection”.
  6. Click “Sign in using ACEN Member Collection”.
  7. On CE Net, enter your username and password for the school network, and select “Maitland-Newcastle” from the Diocese dropdown box.
  8. Click “Preferences”.
  9. Click “Apply”.
  10. Scroll down to the “Popular subjects” heading.
  • Most of our students will find suitable reading material in the “juvenile literature”, “Juvenile fiction” and “juvenile non-fiction” sections, but the children should feel free to explore all subjects.
  • When you are reading a book, you can advance to the next page by pressing the forward arrow key on your keyboard.
  • When you open this app on subsequent occasions, you will not have to go through all of these steps.
  • You will have up to 20 days for each book that you borrow, and you may borrow more than one book at a time. You may renew a book after 20 days if you have not finished reading it.
  • Each user has their own “Shelf”. This shelf shows the book titles that the user currently has on loan. To open, renew or return a book, go to your “Shelf”, click on the book, and you will then be given one of these options.

Enjoy reading!

YEARS 7 TO 12 ENROLMENTS AT ST MARY’S COLLEGE IN 2021

Enrolments are now being taken for Years 7 to 12 in 2021. Enrolment packs are available from the St Mary’s front office, or can be downloaded from the College website. Completed enrolment packs will be accepted into Term 2.

Take Home Meals

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