How Melbourne’s private schools are adapting to remote learning

The coronavirus crisis has thrown a real spanner in the works for schools, with students forced to dramatically change the way they learn. But some of Melbourne’s top private schools say they’ve found unique ways to help students stay on track.

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1. Are your students still wearing compulsory uniforms?

They are being asked to wear their uniform when participating in off-campus learning activities. We believe this helps them make a psychological connection to school and distinguishes ‘learning time’ from ‘home time’.

2. How are you helping students stay in touch with you?

In addition to normal timetabled classes where students have direct contact with their classroom teachers, pastoral care and co-curricular activities such as debating, orchestra rehearsals, theatre sports and a running and cycling competition form part of our interaction with students each day. There are additional initiatives for students across the school designed to encourage engagement with the School and with each other. Primary level students continue to interact with their buddies and play age appropriate games outside teaching periods.

The headmaster, Mr Philip Grutzner, is delivering book readings for our youngest students via video, as well as messages from various locations around the school for all school community members.

Students and staff are surveyed each week so that our program can be reviewed and refined.

3. Are there special measures in place for VCE students?

The school is complying with external directives in relation to VCE education. School Assessed Coursework (SACs) will continue in Term II but will only be assessed as Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. Students will complete graded SACs when they return to the campus. Our teachers are expert in what they do. They are very adept at adapting their programs to meet individual needs of each student.

4. Are you dropping/suspending fees?

Rebates will apply during Term 2. The rebate is 25 per cent for students in Prep – Year 6 and 15 per cent for students in Years 7 – 12. The existing level of support for students who presently receive a level of financial support through Scholarships and Bursaries will be

maintained. Boarding fees will not be charged until students return to on-campus learning. The

school has a means tested process to support those families experiencing financial distress.

5. Are your big sporting events/formal events/stage productions for the year called off?

All Term 2 competitive sport, productions and concerts, and trips and camps have been cancelled or postponed. Decisions about future activities will be made when our broader educational plans for Term 3 have been determined.

Gippsland Grammar Year 9 student Lucy Best, 14, using Zoom to connect with her peers as part of the School’s Learn@Home program.
Gippsland Grammar Year 9 student Lucy Best, 14, using Zoom to connect with her peers as part of the School’s Learn@Home program.

GIPPSLAND GRAMMAR

1. Are your students still wearing compulsory uniforms?

No, they are wearing neat casuals.

2. How are you helping kids stay in touch with you?

All teachers and students are using Zoom as well as our internal communication program called VOS. In addition to the academic learning, we have set up an online co-curricular program which helps connection and engagement between students with activities such as backyard bootcamp, philosophy club, ‘Horses for Courses’, choir and backyard camping.

3. Are there special measures in place for VCE students?

VCE is always a challenge but now more than ever. We are conducting assessments in a different way but students are adapting. We have run an online forum for parents and one-on-one support has been the most effective way to support the motivation of VCE students.

4. Are you dropping/suspending fees?

Yes, the school has offered a 15 per cent fee consideration for Term 2.

5. Are your big sporting events/formal events/stage productions for the year called off?

None have been cancelled yet but some have been postponed and others are going ahead, just a little differently. This year we will conduct a virtual House cross country and music students are rehearsing for the Cultural Festival that will take place later in the year.

Kilvington Grammar's Academic Dean of Technology, Kirsty Watts adapts to working from home.
Kilvington Grammar’s Academic Dean of Technology, Kirsty Watts adapts to working from home.

KILVINGTON GRAMMAR

1. Are your students still wearing compulsory uniforms?

Our students have the option of wearing the school uniform or sport uniform.

2. How are you helping kids stay in touch with you?

We’re running a remote learning timetable for students using Microsoft Teams where teachers and students can interact with each other in real time. Our extensive pastoral care model provides students with a daily mentor check-in. We are also providing online assemblies and co-curricular opportunities for students to connect outside the academic program as we continue to support their overall health and wellbeing.

3. Are there special measures in place for VCE students?

A VCE tutorial timetable has been established to complement the remote learning timetable. This provides VCE students with further opportunities to connect and learn with their teacher and peers. Small groups of VCE students have the opportunity to attend onsite (with social distancing and hygiene protocols in place) for short periods for learning or assessment requirements that cannot be conducted at home, i.e. practical or performance work.

4. Are you dropping/suspending fees?

The school has offered fee relief to all families at Kilvington, as well as other measures on a case-by-case basis.

5. Are your big sporting events/formal events/stage productions for the year called off?

All major events at Kilvington have been suspended until further notice.

Remote learning has no doubt changed the way students and teacher interact.
Remote learning has no doubt changed the way students and teacher interact.

BRIGHTON GRAMMAR

1. Are your students still wearing compulsory uniforms?

We expect the boys (Prep – Year 12) to wear their sports uniform during the school day.

2. How are you helping kids stay in touch with you?

We are offering a distance learning program where students learn in synchronous during online teaching sessions as well as collaboratively in small groups or independently. A key focus for our students is their wellbeing and maintaining connections during the new mode of learning. Students from Prep – Year 12 have two online pastoral sessions via Zoom each day. Teachers check-in with students via email, telephone and video conferencing. Headmaster Ross Featherston is making impromptu calls to families to connect with boys and parents; he also prepares videos which are shared with the students across the school to remain seen and actively involved in their learning.

3. Are there special measures in place for VCE students?

All Year 12 students have a scheduled one-on-one meeting via Zoom with their tutors to ensure their specific academic and pastoral needs are met. Students and parents were advised last week that Brighton Grammar will recommence assessment of some VCE SACs. The school has developed assessment protocols that can be applied in distance learning for authentication purposes. Where SACs are practically based and require students onsite for assessment, they will run according to social distancing and health measures. There are also regular webinars scheduled, conducted by senior members of staff with the Year 12s where they are updated on any developments, as well as take any questions they have.

4. Are you dropping/suspending fees?

A special financial consideration process has been established for those directly impacted by the current economic downturn.

5. Are your big sporting events/formal events/stage productions for the year called off?

Any event that was due to occur for term 2 has been suspended until school resumes to normal operations when it will be determined which events can be realistically rescheduled.

 

Strathcona teacher Claire Johns has created a perfect back drop to her lessons.
Strathcona teacher Claire Johns has created a perfect back drop to her lessons.

STRATHCONA GIRLS’ GRAMMAR

1. Are your students still wearing compulsory uniforms?

Given the special circumstances, students are not required to wear uniform while remote learning but are asked to dress appropriately – that means no pyjamas in class.

2. How are you helping kids stay in touch with you?

Teachers are in contact with students more than ever. Students have either daily or weekly one-on-one online meetings with their pastoral mentor to discuss their individual wellbeing, and every student in years 7 to 12 now has a two hour wellbeing session per week where they engage in a physically active or reflective exercise.

In addition, most remote lessons for our junior school and senior school are through live Microsoft Teams meetings, meaning that just like a normal lesson, students are able to ask questions and speak directly to teachers during a class.

3. Are there special measures in place for VCE students?

Our VCE students have all been individually contacted by their teachers to ensure they’re up-to-date with the current situation surrounding VCE, and are receiving regular check-ins for their mental wellbeing.

We’re continuing to conduct lessons and assessments to ensure students are prepared accordingly for final examinations. Remotely delivered SACs are the new norm for Unit 3 & 4 VCE students in Term 2.

The General Assessment Test (GAT) has been postponed until October or November, with the possibility that final exams will also be postponed until at least December as universities have been asked to delay the start to the 2021 academic year.

Strathcona says teachers are in contact with students more than ever.
Strathcona says teachers are in contact with students more than ever.

4. Are you dropping/suspending fees?

We are committed to retaining all of our students, so we’re working with families who may be experiencing financial hardship on a case-by-case basis.

5. Are your big sporting events/formal events/stage productions for the year called off?

Some events have obviously been cancelled during this period, with others we are rescheduling and possibly changing venues as best we can. Rites of passage travelling through the schooling years are especially important at this time, especially for our VCE students and Year 6 graduates. We will try to keep to normal as much as we can and certainly work to make each event as memorable and beautiful as possible.

We are continuing on with assemblies – we are simply having to do them differently.

BIALIK COLLEGE

1. Are your students still wearing compulsory uniforms?

All students from Prep all the way through to Year 9 are wearing their normal school uniform – it helps them mentally prepare them for a productive day of learning.

2. How are you helping kids stay in touch with you?

Students participate daily in Digital Bialik, the online real-time delivery of the Prep-to-Year 12 curriculum via Microsoft Teams. Teachers actively teach every lesson – not just set work for parents to do with their children. Students are able to chat with their teachers face-to-face via this provision. Every class for Prep through to Year 2 is running in a digital capacity.

Post our trial in Term 1, Prep and Year 1 students are participating in a modified curriculum, allowing younger students to take more breaks and have less screen time in their day. During these extended breaks, students and parents have access to various offline activities they can do at home. Rather than eight lessons a day, Prep and Year 1 students have four. They stay in touch with teachers by email throughout the school day and access files and work via the College’s intranet.

Bialik College’s young student are adapting to home learning.
Bialik College’s young student are adapting to home learning.

=Bialik College Prep and Year 1 students are participating in a modified curriculum
Bialik College Prep and Year 1 students are participating in a modified curriculum

3. Are there special measures in place for VCE students?

VCE students are well supported by teachers who are running all scheduled classes in live time via MS teams, allowing students to participate in a manner as close as possible to the on-campus provision. Our VCE teachers, are working tirelessly and creatively to provide a rich learning experience for students and, as always, are available to students outside of scheduled classes and frequently work with students on a one-on-one basis. In addition to timetabled lessons, students are able to schedule a video call with their class teachers or communicate via email.

The College has also provided VCE students and parents with a reconfigured SAC timetable, is running assessment tasks online at home under examination conditions and where SACs are run on campus from next week, ensuring health procedures are strictly followed to reduce the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission.

4. Are you dropping/suspending fees?

We are determined to support any family who needs support during this time. Additionally, Bialik College has offered families a reduction on their Term 2 fees.

These fee reductions are outlined below.

Creche & Kinder – No fees as per government directive

Prep & Year 1 – 30 per cent off school fees.

Years 2-12 – 20 per cent off school tuition fees.

5. Are your big sporting events/formal events/stage productions for the year called off?

At this stage, major school events have been postponed. Where possible, events are being run online and students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of performing arts events, to be performed to a live audience, via an online platform. Many of our parent events usually held on-campus have also been moved to an online platform.

Many teacher like Brighton Grammar’s Luke Fensling also have to juggle with helping their own children.
Many teacher like Brighton Grammar’s Luke Fensling also have to juggle with helping their own children.

WESLEY COLLEGE

1. Are your students still wearing compulsory uniforms?

Our students are required to wear appropriate, comfortable casual clothes to  enhance their learning and movement throughout the day in a remote setting. We also ask our students to be respectful, be prepared for each online lesson and to be focused, which means turning off other software or devices so they’re not  distracted.

2. How are you helping kids stay in touch with you?

Our online learning is a blend of synchronous (live discussions) and asynchronous (prerecorded content and self-paced) learning.

Our teachers and students are using a range of software programs for learning, collaboration, feedback and assessment. This includes our learning management platform, SchoolBox, Seesaw for our Junior School students and Microsoft Teams and MS OneNote for our middle and senior school students to collaborate. We have ensured all students have the appropriate hardware devices so they can effectively learn from home and keep in touch with their teachers and their peers.

3. Are there special measures in place for VCE students?

They undertake either the VCE pathway or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. We have mirrored their learning environment at home as much as possible to reflect the typical daily learning program on campus, to ensure our Year 12s have every support and are not disadvantaged in any way. Teaching and learning is taking place in many formats, for instance, from prerecorded video explainers for Year 12 Economics students to live interactive lessons in mathematics. As well as timetabled synchronous and asynchronous online learning, our Year 12s are studying two or three hours each weeknight and up to six hours on a weekend to consolidate learning and complete work for assessments.

In a remote learning setting, supporting good mental health of our Year 12 students is important to generate our best academic outcomes and reduce stress levels. We have extended our pastoral care programs to ensure every student is supported academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. This involves regular tutorial groups and one-to-one meetings, weekly pastoral catch-up as well as small ‘Keep-in-Touch’ groups to ensure our Year 12 students stay connected.

Empty classrooms have become the norm in Victoria.
Empty classrooms have become the norm in Victoria.

4. Are you dropping/suspending fees?

Our commitment is to ensure that no child needs to leave Wesley this year due to financial circumstance. We have also applied a rebate of 25 per cent to Term 2 fees for each Wesley student from Prep to Year 12. The Wesley College Council took this decision in recognition of the changed financial circumstances for many Wesley families.

5. Are your big sporting events/formal events/stage productions for the year called off?

Wesley’s co-curricular and enrichment programs are vital to fostering connectedness and wellbeing in a remote learning setting. That’s why we have done everything we can to ensure continuity of theatre and musical rehearsals via Zoom, debating and chess competitions, music ensembles and online exhibitions. Sports coaches have designed sport-specific training programs to aid our students who are training for the winter sports program athome, and produced strength and conditioning and yoga programs for all students to access.

We are postponing and rescheduling our large community events and stage productions for Semester 2.