COVID, Community and Compromise

Bill Weigall, Assistant Principal Curriculum

Bill Weigall, Assistant Principal Curriculum

I want to start this article by echoing the sentiments expressed by Mrs Godfrey today and over the past week. It is in challenging times that we see the very best of genuine communities and the far-reaching benefits of their awe-inspiring responses. When we made the necessary decision to cancel assemblies to protect student and staff welfare, we were faced with a significant challenge: how can we build community through shared experience if we are unable to congregate. As we saw last week across both campuses, the answer is to draw on the impressive infrastructure that has been embedded, albeit with different intent, and the stunning talents within our college.

Our Senior Media Studies' class happens to be undertaking a unit on Television Non-Fiction, and they put their learning into action with considerable skill and evident enthusiasm to broadcast the Secondary School Assembly. The resources that have been invested in equipment specifically for the department, and more broadly, in the provision of a robust data network with state-of-the-art interactive screens in most classrooms also proved their value.  As I moved around the rooms, I witnessed genuine engagement with the people and the material. Of course, there is a different connection, which is a compromise, but I heard many comments about the sense of engagement the medium afforded, not least because they could see everything more clearly than they could when physically all together in a large space.

Senior Media Studies students prepare to broadcast the Secondary School AssemblyThe students, Mrs Godfrey and Dr Johnson prepare to go “on air” from the Media Studies studio

Reverend Katherine will be delivering the College's 2020 Easter Service via video In a similar vein, Years 3–6 attended a 'virtual' Chapel last week. Years 3–4 Chapel was broadcast live with similar success to the Secondary School Assembly. While there were some technical challenges experienced in the Years 5–6 version, it was still able to be delivered and valuable lessons learned. Reverend Katherine has already put in place arrangements to continue the Chapel program for the rest of the term. Indeed, she has just left my office after pitching part of her concept for delivery of the Easter Service. I will not offer a “spoiler” beyond saying that it promises to be very engaging!

Our Dean of Senior Studies, Mrs Braithwaite, instigated a meeting of Secondary School Heads of Department to consider the challenges and opportunities of assessing student progress, now that we know the College will have to move to online delivery. It was an upbeat and constructive gathering which we all left feeling very optimistic. I want to assure all students of our confident determination to deliver an effective education and to assess it accurately, despite the changes to the way we will be operating. Details may take a little longer to work out for some tasks than others but your teachers will make sure that you are kept informed in a timely manner. Information will be released through SEQTA as per usual. If students have any essential questions, please ask for clarification during your online lessons first and then ask Heads of Department, Assistant Heads of the Junior School or Assistant Principals in the Secondary School as necessary. Our positivity is underpinned by regular and detailed communication with the Board of Senior Secondary Studies and the International Baccalaureate and a strong sense that they, like the rest of us, are committed to finding ways to make this work for everyone. It is comforting to note that key assessment boards are taking unprecedented moves to allow for the situation, with the student’s well being of paramount concern. For example, the IB Diploma May exams have now been cancelled. The BSSS has announced changes to assessment that are responsive to student needs. Information from the BSSS is now with all teachers and will inform the conversations begun in the meeting mentioned above.

In that spirit I have been testing the capacity of Microsoft Teams as a vehicle for the delivery of lessons. While they prefer to be face-to-face in a classroom, my students have agreed that Teams provides a perfectly functional alternative and profess themselves to be quite confident about being able to learn effectively now that the College has moved to predominantly online lessons. Radford’s staff, infrastructure and systems are well placed to cope admirably.

Although all students will be a little unsettled by the volatility of the situation, senior students are, quite understandably, wondering about the implications for their ATAR and admission to university. Radford’s redoubtable team of teachers will ensure that our students receive the best possible education and preparation. Furthermore, because of the scale of the disruption to education, there can be no question of any jurisdiction being less severely impacted. Our Education Ministers, like everyone else in the education system, are committed to ensuring parity of opportunity. While it would be optimistic to think that these assurances will allay all concerns, I do hope that they go some way towards that. Again, I encourage students and parents to address any necessary questions to the relevant staff at Radford. As you do that please remember that our teachers are working incredibly diligently to optimise the learning experience for our students in circumstances beyond all our experiences and be tolerant of any perceived shortcomings. It is imperative, too, that emails are only used where entirely necessary. Teachers must be able to prioritise spending time on preparing lessons and delivering feedback to students. We really do want your feedback on how to work as effectively as possible but, as Mrs Godfrey wrote last week, now, even more than usual, it is important that we be kind to each other.

I wish you all good health and patience in these trying times.

To Home