Parent Update, 2 April 2020

I hope this update finds you and your family well, and that you are enjoying the School holidays insofar as you are able to do so in these trying times.

Off-campus learning to continue in Term II

I write to advise that yesterday the School Council endorsed a recommendation by School Executive to continue to deliver our educational programs through an off-campus learning model into Term II. This means that students will not physically attend their normal campus but will participate in their learning program at home. The Boarding House will remain closed for the time being.

Arrangements for the first week of Term II

As we are continuing with off-campus learning, there will be some consequential revision to the start of Term II this year, as below.

Tuesday 14 April

Staff professional development day, as previously scheduled, where teachers will be reviewing the off-campus learning program so far and making appropriate refinements for Term II.

Wednesday 15 April

Additional staff professional development day. There will be no classes for students.

Thursday 16 April

Students will be involved in online House or classroom pastoral sessions.

VCE Unit 3/4 classes will also have an online session on this day; a timetable for these VCE classes will be distributed separately.

Friday 17 April

Off-campus classes commence for all students.

Based on the feedback we have received from students, staff and parents, some changes to the daily structure will be made to improve the quality of the experience for our students, staff and parents.

Campus Heads will be in contact with you to confirm further details in relation to the schedule for the first week of Term II, and the weeks thereafter.

Implications for students

While this is a temporary situation, we acknowledge that there are several advantages for the learner working at home. With no commuting needed, more time is available at the start and end of the day. If a blend of modes is used, there can still be a high level of engagement and good learning occurring. Comfort, food and sleep can be more readily accessible at home.

Some disadvantages may also exist during this temporary situation. Social and physical isolation pose problems and the learning that comes from peer interactions is much harder to replicate. Students and teachers spending significant parts of each day seated in front of a screen report increased fatigue and lower levels of concentration. It is considerably harder to use direct instruction and discussion as teaching pedagogies as the normal body language and physical cues are missing.

Teachers will need time to create and curate rich online experiences for their classes. We have learnt a great deal from our experience at the end of last term and staff will be using that experience to adapt the structure of instruction and online content. We will be seeking regular student, staff and parent feedback as we continue to adapt the program to produce optimal learning outcomes.

Next steps

The health and wellbeing of members of the Melbourne Grammar School community, and those beyond, is our highest concern. We believe this decision is in the best interests of our students, staff and families, as well as the broader community. Social distancing appears to be our best weapon against COVID-19 and it seems to be working.

Of course, we will continue to review the status of various parameters, including relevant advice from the government and health authorities. Should the situation change sufficiently, we will resume on site attendance at that time.

Support for parents and students

We recognise the importance of providing adequate and appropriate learning support for our students and parents. Our classroom teachers are working hard to adapt their program to this new approach. You will also find helpful resources in our School’s COVID-19 Resource Hub which is being expanded on a regular basis. We have made the decision to make this a public website as we want to share our resources with other schools and the wider community.

We are also very mindful of the mental health issues that social isolation may bring for all family members. We miss seeing each other! Classroom teachers and House Tutors remain an important point of support for students. Our School’s COVID-19 Resource Hub houses a collection of helpful materials for parents, with additional resources to come. It includes contact details for our Counselling Service, and for services which can provide support if you need extra help.

I want you to stay connected with the School and with each other through this period of physical distancing. Accordingly, I will be introducing a range of initiatives in early Term II for this purpose. These will include a weekly update for parents and staff and pre-recorded video segments aimed at engaging students and others.

There is no doubt that we all have challenges ahead of us. However, with patience, care for ourselves and each other, and an optimistic attitude, I believe we can stand strong, make the most of the circumstances in which we find ourselves and, eventually, emerge from this crisis proud of the way we dealt with it.

And, if you had any doubt about the capacity of our students to cope with the changes before them, I urge you to read the end of Term I reflections written by our Captain of Wadhurst, Hirunaka Ekanayake, and Deputy Captain of Wadhurst, Hunter Holmes. They are truly outstanding.

With my warmest wishes,

Philip Grutzner