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As schools across the country welcome all students back onto campus this week, Matthew Flinders Anglican College is determined to make the transition as smooth as possible for its 1,300 students from Prep to Year 12 and their families.
Principal Stuart Meade and Head of Primary, Trudi Edwards are well aware that parents are looking for strong support, care and leadership from their schools after the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What happened in many schools across Australia towards the end of Term One this year was extraordinary,” Trudi said.
“A greater change in schooling occurred in one day than in the past 50 years for most schools in transitioning to remote learning,” she said.
“On the home front, parents have had to become teachers for a number of weeks and this is not without challenges.
“However, it has been wonderful to see our parent community from Prep to Year 12 rise to the challenge and, along with our staff team, working to support the learning, health and wellbeing of our students at Flinders.
“As a College, we were determined to approach the remote learning environment with the same philosophy that drives us every day: to provide a values-rich, high aspiration environment.
“Our staff team has gone above and beyond to provide the quality and caring education that Flinders is known for, responding with grace and agility as they have upskilled to meet the sudden demands.”
Flinders parent Fiona Freeman has twin boys in Prep and says she has been impressed by the College’s proactive and organised response to remote learning.
“Flinders quickly jumped to provide parents with ample support and resources for our new role as home-schoolers, and the staff team was always accessible,” Fiona said.
“The transition to home learning was smooth, no doubt due to a lot of hard work by the school behind the scenes,” she said.
“Through the MyFlinders App, we were provided with weekly overviews and daily schedules, hyperlinked to live and pre-recorded lessons, complemented by activity books and readers.
“This gave much-needed structure to our day and regular check-ins with teachers kept us honest in terms of keeping on top of the work and getting out of our pyjamas!
“It also reinforced to us that we weren’t going it alone.
“I feel – through the support Flinders has provided – my kids have been able to continue their education effectively and have adapted to the new way of learning well.
“It has not been without its challenges though as I’m pretty sure they behave better for their teacher than their parents!
“Although we have been well supported to learn at home, my kids have enjoyed returning to school to reconnect with their lovely teacher Miss Cahill and their friends.”
Flinders parent Danielle Jackson has two boys, in Year 1 and Year 3, and agrees the support from Flinders has been outstanding.
“The vast range of supplies that the College provided in the first home-schooling pack meant that little-to-no effort was required by parents to facilitate a home-based learning environment,” Danielle said.
“This was very helpful in those early weeks of the pandemic lockdown when it was difficult to buy or make unnecessary trips into the community for resources,” she said.
“We also found the live teaching classes were interactive and provided a good balance between a normal classroom and the pre-recorded tasks.
“The ability to complete tasks either online or in their workbooks, and submit the task online to a teacher was excellent as students could receive feedback on their work and were held to task.
“Our children are eager to return to school, but we do not feel as though they have missed out greatly over this period.
“They are confident in their schooling progress and while they miss their fellow students, they have managed to maintain some level of contact with them through the virtual classroom.
“That said, they are very keen to see their teachers again, and this certainly shows the positive relationship that has been developed with the teacher and student.”
In her role as Head of Primary, Trudi Edwards is mindful of measuring the wins as well as the areas for improvement experienced during the switch to remote learning.
“When the federal government warned that schools would close, one of the best actions we took as a preemptive step towards the end of Term 1 was to temporarily expand our 1:1 device program by providing a device for every student from Prep to Year 3. This took the logistical pressure off parents to support the learning at home, and enabled teachers to connect with all students,” Trudi says.
“Another win for students was that we were able to continue our differentiated learning program, known as Ready For…, through the remote learning environment.”
The Ready For… program provides differentiated instruction for students in literacy and numeracy. It enables students to be provided with opportunities to consolidate their learning, to undertake core learning tasks, or to be extended by working with
Flinders’ Primary Maths or English Specialist teachers to apply their learning to more challenging contexts.
The program supports every student to learn literacy and numeracy in small groups at a depth and pace which suits them individually, and the College was determined that students would not miss out on this personalised learning approach during home learning.
“Our teachers have been conscious of creating learning that is robust, responsive and engaging,” Trudi said.
“The amount of content created by our teachers has been immense; in the first week of Term 2 alone, our Primary School facilitated 1,894 Webex meetings and online lessons for our Prep to Year 6 students.
“We have been careful to provide a mix of content delivery to cater for students, such as one-on-one teaching, small group work, teacher feedback, real-time lessons and pre-recorded videos and independent tasks.
“We are thrilled to note that a recent survey for Primary School parents reported that 98% of parents and students have had a positive experience with our remote learning.
“This is remarkable and is testament to our whole Flinders community who have worked together well to make this a positive experience for our students.
“Another success for Primary during the remote model has been our focus on communication, communication and more communication,” Trudi said.
“We wanted parents to have ample opportunity to ask for help, share a concern, seek advice or celebrate their child’s wins,” she said.
“We designed regular surveys to gain feedback from students, staff and parents and our staff were agile in their response to solving problems and addressing concerns.
“We are very proud of our teaching team and our families – the silver lining is that this tumultuous experience has not broken us but in fact made our Flinders community even stronger.”
“We are excited to welcome all students back onto campus next week, and we are well prepared for making everyone feel safe and supported as we engage with our ‘new normal’ back on campus.
“We will focus on returning to our learning and playtime routines, and guiding students to reconnect as friends and peers.
“School is one of the happiest and most rewarding places for children and I am sure none of us will take this fact for granted again!”