Open for learning

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30 April 2020

Classrooms from St Mary Magdalen’s School, Chadstone.St Mary Magdalen’s School, Chadstone, principal Helen Healy and her staff have a goal to maintain the continuity of learning for students, even in this time of isolation due to COVID-19 when ensuring the safety of students, staff and families is paramount.

‘When we got the news that we were to be in remote learning mode for Term 2 the staff went into overdrive, setting up online and pen and paper learning activities’, said Helen. ‘We are a small school with a strong reputation for personalising the learning of all students and we have a relatively high percentage of students funded through the NCCD. While preparing learning for all students, those students have been our focus. We know our families well and this has been a great advantage.’

Communicating with parents regularly has been a key to success in establishing remote learning activities. Regular emails from the principal to keep parents up to date with CECV directions have been appreciated .The school communicated clearly that it would be open for students who required assistance because of special learning needs or whose parents could not supervise learning at home.

To cater for learning needs, the school negotiated with some parents to offer short programs for two hours per day with the students onsite. The face-to-face learning opportunities are intensive as there are only a few students present. For part of the session, onsite students join their friends at home for an online lesson with their teacher.

The targeted learning programs in Literacy and Numeracy, facilitated by the learning support officers (LSOs) have continued with students working online with their designated LSO at a particular time each day.

The school has had an average of 10 students onsite full or part-time every day. The numbers change according to parents’ work shifts or in response to parent requests for assistance. Students are all on the same class schedule whether they are onsite or at home, so the learning opportunities are consistent regardless of the location. The pandemic has given schools the opportunity to try new practices and to see what works. Teachers contact their students at least once a day either by Google Meet or Google Classroom. Zoom staff meetings and professional meetings are becoming commonplace.

Students both at home or onsite agree that there are challenges with learning at this time. They miss seeing their teacher and their friends. It is also a challenge trying to work things out by themselves or with their parents. However, they know that parents appreciate the support being offered.

Staff at St Mary Magdalen’s are going out of their way to individualise their response to the COVID-19 world we live in. In this challenging time, families that are usually fragile because of financial, health or social factors can easily fracture and children’s learning suffer. Everybody’s situation is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to ensuring children are learning.

‘We have even coined a new term, ‘teacher-oo’, for the teacher who is delivering work for a student where one parent is working night shift and they have a new baby in the house. We have a click and collect type of system for parents to pick up new readers or work for students. One of our parents is organising a virtual Mother’s Day stall where gifts can be purchased online’, said Helen, ‘Our families know that we are here to help, that we are onsite with a skeleton staff rostered each week, and that if parents need support it is here.’

St Mary Magdalen’s School has gone above and beyond to support our daughter with online learning. This has been absolutely critical for our family as she also has learning difficulties. Dr Healy and the school relieved the pressure and were gracious enough to accommodate her learning in school more recently. This has made a huge difference in her mental wellbeing as well.
Lawrence (parent)

Not only has St Mary Magdalen’s provided clear instructions and lesson plans, they have made their instructions as simple as possible to enable our primary schoolers to manage their learning without calling on their working parents too often. Today is my son’s birthday. This morning, his classroom teacher visited our front door and delivered cards from the principal and his class, gifts and treats from Bakers Delight. If that isn’t going above and beyond, I don’t know what is.
Nicole (parent)

I cannot thank the staff at SMM enough for their support with remote learning. I am made to feel completely comfortable to contact them at any time and they are constantly informing us of the situation. The children are busy and happy to work together online. It hasn’t been as bad as I had expected.
Martha (parent)