Planning for COVID-19 contingencies
Fiona Godfrey – Principal
Regular readers of my Bulletin articles will know that I am great advocate of Outdoor Education programs, particularly those that start early in a child’s education and are delivered in a planned and sequential manner over a number of year levels.
We know, and have seen, that a good Outdoor Education program can support and reinforce the pastoral care curriculum in the most practical of settings. Students working together in small, professionally facilitated groups, deal directly with concepts such as leadership, inclusiveness, the value of working towards a common goal, and the recognition of the unique attributes each individual can bring to the team.
Outdoor Education provides students with a range of activities outside their usual environment, so that they learn to face challenges in an atmosphere which requires self-reliance and independence. As students work in small groups, they also further develop their co-operative group skills and tolerance. The activities undertaken encourage them to use their initiative, and to take responsibility for their own and the group's actions. All these abilities are important life skills which, if acquired correctly, will set students up well to cope with demanding situations post-school.
In addition to the pastoral benefits, Outdoor Education programs allow students to integrate the outdoors with what they learn in the classroom. Students have opportunities to undertake scientific research, they can put map-reading skills into practice, and the natural environment can provide a stimulus for creative writing and artworks. They can learn firsthand about the environment. Familiarity with our natural world often leads young people to a commitment to protect and enhance the wilderness, leading to a lifetime passion for environmental sustainability. And finally, Outdoor Education programs provide young people with the opportunity to perform sustained physical activity, engage in healthy eating, and a have a break from technology.
Given all these great benefits, it pains me greatly to announce that the Outdoor Education program at Radford will not continue in its normal fashion for the remainder of 2020. After much deliberation, and discussions with the Outdoor Education Group (Radford’s Outdoor Education provider), we have decided to modify the program by eliminating the overnight offerings and, in most cases, shortening the programs. This is obviously a response to the risks and restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. This decision will affect the camps planned for Term 4 involving students from Years 3, 5, 9, and 10.
Proposed revisions to Outdoor Education programs
Although we are still having negotiations with OEG, and arrangements are yet to be finalised, the following information details what is proposed (at this stage) for each of the year levels affected:
Year 3: A two-day outdoor education experience at Camp Cottermouth in Week 2 of Term 4. Students would be bussed to and from Radford to Camp Cottermouth on both days.
Year 5: A two-day outdoor education experience at a venue (yet to be confirmed) in the ACT in Week 2 of Term 4. Students would be bussed to and from Radford to the venue on both days.
Year 9: A two-day outdoor education experience to be undertaken within the ACT in Term 4. Activities would include a rotation of events such as bushwalking, canoeing, and mountain bike riding. Ideally, the program will be organised in conjunction with the Worn Soles program and other end-of-year events in Week 8 (30 November – 4 December).
Year 10: A two-day outdoor education experience to be undertaken within the ACT in Term 4. Activities would include a rotation of events such as bushwalking, canoeing, and mountain bike riding. It is our preference to run the activities in Week 8 (20 November – 4 December), as normally at that time of the year, the Year 10s have a special program involving a visit to Jamberoo Water Park and the University of Wollongong, and it is now highly unlikely that those trips will go ahead. It is envisaged that the outdoor education program would be combined with our normal Respectful Relationships presentations.
Clearly, these are devastating decisions to have to make on a number of different levels, but we do not feel we have any other options at this stage. Usually by this time of the year, all arrangements for Term 4 camps have been made and our Year 9s and 10s are starting to ‘wear in’ their hiking boots. Given that COVID-19 has taught us to ‘expect the unexpected’, there is no certainty that these plans will actually come to fruition, but at this stage this is what we are working towards.
There will obviously be changes to the costings of these outdoor education programs/’camps’. As we start to get some certainty about them proceeding, we will let parents know about refunds or credits. Given that the proposed Years 5, 9, and 10 camps/programs are shorter in length, and within the ACT, there should be a reduction in price. However, the Year 3 camp is different again, as it involves buses transferring students to the original venue on both days to and from Canberra. Again, we will let parents know the costings as soon as possible.
Finally, we have been giving a great deal of thought to the major end of year activities in recent weeks. In my view, the major milestones for our students are the Year 6 Graduation, the Year 10 Graduation, the Year 12 Graduation, the Junior School and Secondary School Celebration events, and the Year 12 Formal. All these events would involve large numbers of adults and students coming together, if we were to conduct them in the normal fashion.
Unless restrictions are radically relaxed in the coming months, which unfortunately I cannot see happening, we are going to have to look at alternative options for these major events. The most obvious way of conducting these events will be to pre-record or live stream to parents and friends, with students involved on campus. Once again, as decisions are made about these events, we will communicate with parents as soon as possible.
I thank you all for your patience, perseverance and good-will in these trying (read COVID-19) times!