Online learning during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown has worked well for Sacred Heart College with students showing diligence and applying themselves to their studies.
Term two got off to a digital start on Wednesday with most students adapting to a new normal.
For principal Maria Neville-Foster it is not simply a case of getting students learning again, but rather about the school monitoring and maintaining the wellbeing of students and staff during this difficult and uncertain time.
“It’s not enough to just put a load of content knowledge online and expect our girls to pick it up. There’s more to teaching than just content, it’s about that wrap around support and that connection and that’s really more important now than ever before.”
Ensuring the lines of communication remain open and keeping their faith “alive and connected at this time is really important” for the school.
Starting period one each day with prayer and posting regular updates from within the Catholic community locally, and globally form a key part of this.
Despite the abrupt end to school as we know it on March 23, planning had been underway for some time to prepare for the possible change to online learning.
The inequity between students posed a real challenge with not everyone having access to devices or internet. Issuing school laptops and hard copy course material are ways the school has tried to mitigate this.
“Where we can’t do direct face to face, all of our teachers are connecting either through email or picking up the telephone and ringing to make sure the kids are okay,” Neville-Foster said.
For the most part, the school day has remained the same with students attending five classes through Microsoft Teams, with time made for two breaks in between.
Deputy Principal Elizabeth Ross, in charge of teaching and learning, said they deliberately chose the same format to ensure they kept as much continuity as possible. Not only does it ensure students are still learning and engaged, but it means they are still receiving that social contact and teachers can check-in on them.
“I think we’re probably very lucky because we are a small boat to turn and we have small classes so the girls, without being too cliché about it, are a name and not a number.”
While no firm decision has yet been made by NZQA on what the expectations for NCEA will be this year, where assessments can be completed online, they are.
“Our teachers are working on altering their programmes, so they are removing some standards and replacing them with others to ensure the girls aren’t disadvantaged because they can’t do a particular assessment,” Neville-Foster said.
“I am so proud of our students and how quickly they have adapted to a new platform of learning. It just shows how well able they are to adapt to different environments. And also to our staff who have put a tremendous amount of hours into converting what is normally a face to face teaching platform to an online platform.”
Head Girl Lucy Dinneen says attending school virtually has been a positive experience – one made even more enjoyable by the way she says everyone has looked out for each other.
“Personally, I am quite proud of how students and staff have made the best out of a tough situation and how well everyone responded. It is good to know that our school can bond together during tough times.”
While it is unknown when lockdown will be lifted, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that when the country moves to Level 3, students up to and including year 10 will be able to attend school on a voluntary basis, if they have no caregiver at home. The Cabinet is expected to make a decision on this next week.
Sacred Heart College head girl Lucy Dinneen does school work online from home