Lethbridge Park Public School
This snapshot was originally published 14 July 2020.
Lethbridge Park Public School is in western Sydney and has around 450 students. More than a quarter of the student population identify as Aboriginal and almost a third of students come from a language background other than English. The school has a FOEI1 of 172. It has a supportive parent community, and is committed to providing a nurturing environment with differentiated learning experiences to meet the needs of every student.
Learning from home journey
Getting ready for disruptions to face‑to‑face teaching
- Commenced contingency planning.
- Contacted parents to flag that disruptions to face‑to-face teaching were a possibility.
- Purchased laptop computers, iPads, SIM cards and internet dongles for students.
Learning from home
- 96% of students learnt from home from 24 March 2020.
- All staff (with the exception of high-risk staff) attended school under a roster system, with at least one teacher from each Year on site at all times. The principal was on site every day.
- Two additional casual teachers were employed each day to supervise students who continued to attend school in person.
Transition back to face‑to‑face teaching
- Teachers continued to attend school under a roster system.
- Students began the transition back to school in house groups.
Challenges to overcome
Student equity: Many students have limited access to technology; and low literacy and other language barriers prevent many parents from engaging with written communication from the school.
Maintaining community engagement: Social distancing measures limited the ability of the school to act as a community hub for students and families.
Providing support for teachers: Teachers were required to respond rapidly to a new and unprecedented situation, which placed them under increased pressure.
“I’m not prepared to let the kids fail.”
Luke Hubbert, Principal
What has worked to maintain learning continuity
Prioritising student equity and community engagement
The school’s immediate priority in the face of disruptions to face‑to‑face learning was to overcome the challenges of equity and maintain the school’s role as a community hub. Some of the ways they achieved this included:
- Significant upfront investment in technology, including laptops, iPads, SIM cards and internet dongles so that the school could loan internet‑connected devices to any student who needed one to learn from home. This was financed using equity funding and money allocated to school events that had been cancelled due to social distancing regulations.
- Making sure all students could access the resources they needed to learn from home. For example, teachers drove devices to students’ houses, conducted front yard lessons when necessary, and provided prepaid envelopes with hard copy learning packs so students could send completed work to their teacher for feedback.
- Using verbal methods to deliver consistent and up‑to‑date messaging to families, rather than written communication, to cater to local community needs. For example, daily videos were posted to the school website and the link sent to families via SMS. The school’s contact hours were also extended, with calls outside of business hours diverted to the principal.
- Hosting virtual events, such as award ceremonies, and designing meaningful learning tasks that were shared with the whole school community. For example, all students were set a task that involved creating a Mother’s Day card. The level of detail required and the scaffolding provided to students depended on the Year group. All the tasks were collated by the principal and turned into a publication that went live at 8am on Mother’s Day.
Continually refining practices to find the best learning options for students
Lethbridge Park Public School used both hard copy learning packs and online tools to deliver learning from home. The delivery method for lessons depended on the Year group. Kindergarten to Year 2 students were issued hard copy learning packs and Years 3 to 6 accessed learning online. The school leveraged existing processes and structures to make the transition to learning from home easier for students and teachers and then modified these systems as required. For example:
- Students in Years 5 and 6 used OneNote to learn from home, a platform with which they were already familiar. However, OneNote did not easily allow teachers to provide feedback. To overcome this issue, each OneNote notebook was embedded in Microsoft Teams, which allowed teachers to provide effective feedback.
- Students in Years 3 and 4 also used OneNote in the early stages of the school’s learning‑from‑home journey. However, it became apparent that Year 3 students did not have the literacy skills required to access learning using this platform so these students were transitioned from OneNote to Seesaw.
- Students in the support classes were having difficulty accessing learning via the laptop interface as a result of a lack of digital literacy, so iPads and SIM cards were purchased and distributed to students to provide them with a one‑click access point.
Supporting teachers to adapt to unpredictable, unprecedented and prolonged disruptions
As a result of COVID‑19, teachers experienced major disruptions to teaching and had little time to plan the move to learning from home. Lethbridge Park Public School recognised that adequate support for teachers was critical if the quality of teaching and learning across the school was to be maintained. Some of the support the school put in place for teachers included:
- Allocating regular time for professional collaboration. For example, employing two casual teachers to supervise the 8‑20 students still attending school in person, allowed all other teachers to spend half of every day participating in collaborative planning with their Stage colleagues until students returned to school full time.
- Utilising non‑teaching staff effectively to ensure continuity of teaching and learning. For example, non‑teaching staff created parallel OneNote programs for students requiring significant adjustments and accommodations. They also developed support materials for hard copy learning packs.
- Providing teachers with as much certainty as possible by setting clear expectations about the school‑wide academic focus while students were learning from home, student attendance at school, and communication with students and their families.
- Encouraging staff to prioritise a good work/ life balance with the recognition that teachers were being impacted by the pandemic in unprecedented ways, both professionally and emotionally. To promote greater wellbeing, the school executive actively encouraged staff to log off and finish work by 3:30pm each day.
“At the time we started we thought our approach was brilliant. But then in hindsight, we realise how elementary it was because we’ve come so far … There’s lots of lessons we’ve learned. If we were to have a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic again, we’d know a lot, and we’d do a much better job.”
Luke Hubbert, 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.
CESE would like to thank the Principal, Luke Hubbert, for his valuable input to this snapshot.