Great practices across all schools
There was a wide range of high quality submissions showcasing the NSW Education system.
Submissions across school sectors highlighted the dedication of teachers to ensuring the continuity of learning and wellbeing of all students during COVID-19.
The submissions highlighted some of the particular challenges that schools had to overcome including:
- the loss of opportunities for conversations between students and staff between classes or in lunch breaks as students learned from home
- disruption to the standard structure of a school day impacting on student learning
- prohibitions on large gatherings impacting on student subject selection and careers information evenings
- monitoring student welfare and wellbeing outside of school grounds.
Some of the new or changed practices that schools developed to help face these challenges were:
- organising new online systems which created a schedule but informal platform for teachers to provide feedback and mentoring to students outside of specific classes
- providing clear routines and redesigning lesson and assessment plans for the remote learning environment
- virtual events such as careers and subject selection evenings, including virtual meetings with parents
- cross-disciplinary engagement to support students including linking with social workers and the use of schools as community hubs to support the whole school community through the high-stress periods of COVID-19.
Some of the great work done by NSW schools during the remote learning period has the potential to transform current teaching practices to better leverage technology and digital initiatives.
New methods, new roles
For example, new and innovative teaching practices were developed and new roles created in response to remote learning.
Responses ranged from initiatives such as school librarians conducting drive-through borrowing sessions at Sydney’s Carlton South Public School, to the creation of an instructional leader for digital learning (ILDL) at Chatswood Public School to ensure consistency of approach and upskilling of all teachers.
In this last case, the ILDL officer also identified which of the remote learning practices could be used once schools returned to face-to-face teaching. Chatswood’s ILDL officer created videos for teachers and parents about how to use Google Classroom and other digital platforms, and provided translations in three languages to ensure everyone understood what was required.
Floraville Public School in Lake Macquarie created a home learning liaison officer (HeLLO) to help parents through the learning from home period, showing them how to access services and resources online, helping them solve problems that arose because of home learning, and checking that parents and carers had what they needed during this difficult time.
The school’s HeLLO officers were able to focus on the families who needed the most support, while still looking after the needs of the entire school community.
Another theme to emerge from remote learning was the power of video to engage students and spark their imagination and enthusiasm. Schools have been using video as a teaching or homework tool for some time, but it was leveraged more heavily – and to greater affect – during the remote learning period.
For example, at Carlton South teachers developed a central website where all of the school’s instructional videos could be accessed. The video conferencing tool Zoom was also incorporated across all years so teachers could connect with their students in a live, virtual environment.
At The Ponds School in Sydney’s Hills District, staff created a weekly TV show – Bunji TV – that broadcast a range of information for students, including weather reports, a word of the day, and a story read in English and another language. The program is now hosted by students.
Telepresence robots were also used to keep students connected and engaged with school, and virtual assemblies and music engagement lessons were filmed and available to watch on a private YouTube channel.
Access for all
Equity of education was a key consideration for many schools during remote learning.
At Chatswood Public, EAL/D, Mandarin and Korean lessons were included in daily online lesson sequences.
At Carlton South, learning support staff, student learning support officers and English as an additional language or dialect staff created home learning packs to cater for individualised learning needs.
In light of the vital role played by the Hunter Signing Choir in keeping students with hearing losses connected, the choir organisers arranged a zoom performance.
The choir is made up of public school students from the Hunter region who are deaf or hard of hearing, ranging from Year 1 to Year 12, and provides opportunities for students with a hearing loss to access the performing arts. It promotes positive self-esteem and develops communication skills.
These students – often the only hard-of-hearing student at their school – rely on coming together once or twice a term for a rehearsal or performance. So, choir members were ecstatic to see each other and to be able to perform.