Caves Beach Public School
This snapshot was originally published 14 July 2020.
Caves Beach Public School is a medium-sized primary school located east of Lake Macquarie in NSW. It has a FOEI1 of 74 and a current enrolment of 406 students distributed over 16 classes from Kindergarten to Year 6. Six per cent of students identify as Aboriginal and 6% come from a language background other than English (LBOTE). Caves Beach has a mostly experienced, full-time equivalent teaching staff of 22 and a supportive parent body.
Learning from home journey
Getting ready for disruptions to face‑to‑face teaching
- Created a set of procedures for staff.
- Conducted a technology audit.
- Chose a single online platform for delivery of lesson content to all students.
Learning from home
- Around 96% of students learnt from home.
- Created a roster for teachers to attend school in Stage groups: half supervised students while the other half planned and collaborated.
Transition back to face‑to‑face teaching
- Four classes attended school each day: one from each Stage.
- Classes were taught by their own teacher plus a ‘buddy teacher’ from the same Stage.
- An average of two students were absent per class, per day.
- Additional teachers supervised children of essential workers.
- Remaining teachers worked from home.
Challenges to overcome
Inconsistent access to technology: Access to computers and mobile devices is inconsistent across the student population.
Varying levels of technological expertise: Parents and carers have varying levels of expertise in relation to the technology used by students.
Disproportionate amount of online learning: Early feedback from parents and carers during the learning-from-home period indicated that they would like hands-on learning content in addition to online learning content.
What has worked to maintain learning continuity
Communication, collaboration and a whole‑school approach
Good communication was a key factor in maintaining learning continuity at Caves Beach during the learning-from-home period. With a rapidly changing environment and parents and carers often needing to juggle home schooling with work responsibilities, the school recognised the need for clear information and frequent updates. The school community was kept informed via the newsletter and Skoolbag several times per week, and all students received a phone call once a week, with students at risk receiving calls more often. Class Dojo and emails were also used daily.
Strong collaboration between teachers, and with partner schools, was also a high priority. Teachers were used to collaborating in Stage groups, but now extended that collaboration to staff in other Stages, sharing ideas, expertise and resources. Collaboration with other schools was also important and Principal, Sue Gibson connected online with colleagues in the school’s network and community of schools to share ideas and resources on Google Drive.
Adopting a whole-school approach to teaching and learning was another important feature of the school’s approach. A single set of procedures for staff and students meant that all staff were clear about their roles and that supervising adults at home, some of whom were grandparents, had only one set of instructions to follow. All teachers used Seesaw to deliver lesson content, and all teachers uploaded lessons by the same time each day. To ensure that students were given quality feedback on key tasks, teachers highlighted between one and three tasks on the timetable each day that would receive lengthier, explicit feedback, while other tasks received more prompt, but less comprehensive feedback. This freed up teachers’ time to monitor student activity and provide support at the point of need.
Ensuring access to technology and supporting parents and carers
An early audit of students’ access to technology at home revealed that the school would need to supply some families with iPads and other devices, such as C-Pens2. To assist with connection issues, a list of student passwords was compiled and distributed to all staff (406 students x 4 passwords each) and a Year 6 student technology committee was established to ensure that school-based devices were charged each day, for students attending in person.
The school was conscious of the varying levels of technological expertise among adults at home, as well as the fact that some families had students in different Year groups, so put in place a range of procedures to support parents and carers. A trouble-shooting hotline was established for families needing technical support, and one-to-one technology training sessions were offered at school for those who were interested. In addition to all students using the one platform, Stage groups shared the same timetable, and where possible, teachers set the same work for both Year groups in a Stage, differentiating the work according to ability.
Keeping things ‘normal’, monitoring progress and giving and receiving feedback
Caves Beach made an early decision to keep learning from home as close to ‘normal’ as possible. Teachers followed the same scope and sequence, classes followed the same daily routines and the school continued to distribute merit awards to students each Friday. Pre-recorded daily videos allowed staff to introduce the day’s program and explicitly teach some of the content. The videos also allowed students to continue to see and hear their teacher, and parents and carers could pause the video if needed.
Students continued to learn from familiar programs such as MathsOnline and Reading Eggs and release-from-face-to-face (RFF) teachers continued to teach their library and music classes via pre-recorded videos. The only students who received lessons in real time were those with additional needs, who participated in Zoom lessons with the learning and support teacher – an approach that was well received by families.
In response to feedback about the amount of online learning being delivered, the school created ‘learning packs’ for each student that contained hands-on materials appropriate to each Year level. Families collected the packs from school and teachers adjusted their programs to include both online and hands-on learning.
Teachers have been impressed with the level of knowledge and skills students have demonstrated on return to school. Careful planning, collaboration and attention to feedback have all contributed to maintaining learning continuity at Caves Beach Public School during this period.
“I think initially the consistency was a thing that worked … We tried to get everyone on the same page and make sure everyone had a clear understanding of what the expectations were.”
Sue Gibson, Principal
“The thing that I think’s worked in our favour is sticking to our scope and sequences, sticking to what they would be doing in class, sticking to our school routines and our structures, trying to keep things as normal as possible, for … staff and for students and parents.”
Lisa Dallaway, Assistant Principal
1 Family Occupation and Education Index – a school-level index of educational disadvantage with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 50. Higher values indicate greater levels of need.
2 Portable, pocket-sized devices that read text out aloud
CESE would like to thank the Principal, Sue Gibson and Assistant Principals, Michelle Pascoe, Lisa Dallaway and Kylie Nebauer for their valuable input to this snapshot.