COVID19 Update - Boarding Schools & NAPLAN
20 March 2020
I am immensely grateful to our community for your willingness to support the School as we navigate through these very uncertain times. I have also been greatly encouraged by the powerful endorsement of so many of our Medical Practitioners.
These unprecedented circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic are causing major disruption and anxiety around the world. Even here in the Central West we are witnessing irrational behaviour in our supermarkets.
Our proactive move to shift to remote learning is precautionary and has been undertaken because Kinross Wolaroi School is in a unique position compared to the great majority of schools, housing over 300 boarders from all over NSW on an integrated K-12 site. Current Government advice regarding school operations is quite different for boarding schools particularly ones such as ours. This has a been clearly articulated by the State’s Chief Medical Officer and yesterday by the Prime Minister when he noted the ‘high risk of transmission’ in boarding schools and that boarding schools should assess their own context. This is precisely what we have done in order to protect the health and wellbeing of our students, staff and broader regional community. We will continue to carefully monitor the evolving situation as we carefully consider our next steps.
Please see below an official statement from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee issued on 18 March following the Australian Government’s announcement.
“Boarding schools are at high risk of transmission of COVID-19 due to close and shared living arrangements and higher frequency of face-to-face contact. An outbreak in a boarding school would present a difficult management issue including potentially the isolation of the entire boarding school as all students and staff would be defined as close contacts following a confirmed case. Depending on the structure the boarding school may be unsuitable for isolation procedures.
Should a boarding student from a rural or remote community be diagnosed with COVID-19, they may not be able to return home if there is not sufficient health infrastructure to support them, or support their isolation.”
To continue to deliver teaching and learning it has been necessary for our full school population to transfer to remote learning. With our boarders making up 40 percent of our Senior School students, it would be untenable and unfair to expect our teachers to simultaneously teach half of their students face-to-face and half remotely.
In addition the wellbeing of our students, staff and community must be our first priority. While there is some indication that children experience a milder illness than adults, we must also care for our staff’s wellbeing. Regional areas such as ours have more limited medical resources than larger centres.
Our role at Kinross Wolaroi is to make decisions that are in the best interests of our students, staff and community. As parents, you have elected to educate your children in an independent school, in part based on those principles. We believe our action to transfer to remote learning at this point in time is in the best interests of our community.
We are acutely aware of the disruption experienced by our students this year. There are many experiences and opportunities that have been cancelled or remain under review, such as our student exchanges, tours and trips, sporting and music activities, and local competitions just to name a few.
This disruption will be of great concern to our senior students whose academic programs have been affected. This will be experienced by all students in NSW and NESA, the National Education Standards Authority will advise us how assessments will be modified in the near future.
Understandably, our students will be anxious about school assessments, HSC exams and ATAR rankings. A student’s ATAR ranking is determined by their performance in school assessments and their HSC exams. Their school assessments are moderated to the HSC exams and it is their performance relative to their own KWS cohort that is important. As the entire KWS cohort is in the same position the impact on school assessments will be minimal. In terms of the HSC exams, all students in NSW will be impacted and we will be following NESA guidelines and closely monitoring the developing situation. Rest assured Year 12 students will be provided with a full academic program through our Remote Learning platform that will be comprehensive in terms of content and feedback as well as providing academic support through this challenging time.
In a further testament to the disruption in schooling we are experiencing, Education Ministers met today and decided that NAPLAN will not proceed in 2020.
All our students have many challenges to manage but rest assured our staff will continue to support them as they learn new skills and become agile and independent learners.
We all know about challenge and adversity and recent years have seen many of us face the ravages of drought, bushfire and flood. Fortunately, experience teaches us that in time these obstacles pass and new opportunities appear.
I believe it to be important we give our students a sense of hope about the future. Research has shown hope is critical to so many other positive outcomes, including academic achievement. Our Mentors and Heads of House, together with our staff will continue to provide support and encouragement to our students over the weeks ahead.
We have a tremendous staff here at KWS. I am immensely proud of the way they have pulled together to ensure they are well prepared for remote learning.
I have sat in with a number of our faculties over the past two days and it was fabulous to witness their enthusiasm and positivity as they learnt new skills and explored new opportunities to assist our students with remote learning. It has also been wonderful to see our younger ‘tech savvy’ members of staff sharing their knowledge and skills with
others. This challenge has drawn Faculties together and seen collaboration, support and teamwork thrive. Our staff are genuinely excited by how this challenge may enhance their teaching in the future.
This disruption to our usual teaching and learning presents exciting challenges for us all to grow and learn new skills. A key focus of contemporary education and indeed of our Strategic Plan for Best Practice learning is to develop independent and agile learners. Both of these qualities are highly important skills for employers and are essential for our students as they experience a rapidly changing world and work environment.
The modern world demands that our students have the capacity to keep learning so that we can adapt to change and for some working from home will be a reality. This disruption provides an outstanding opportunity for us all to develop these skills.
As educators we thrive on the energy and personal engagement that schools provide when our students are undertaking their usual classes and co-curricular activities. We are all going to miss our face to face interactions over the coming weeks and it is going to be important we maintain connection with friends and colleagues via our digital platforms. These challenging times will pass and we will emerge stronger and better equipped for the future.
Our Leadership team and School Council are in total alignment that this is the best decision for Kinross Wolaroi at this point in time. We very much look forward to returning to the joy of a vibrant campus as soon as is safe and practical.
Wishing you all the best.
Dr Andrew Parry
Principal – Kinross Wolaroi School