And we have returned…
How lovely it was this week to see our students’ beaming faces as they entered our gates for their return to school. A big thank you to our families, as you all made this so easy for us by following our set drop off and pick up routines. Our students have been doing a fantastic job in class also, both in returning to their learning and in trying their best to follow our covid-safe practices.
There has been quite a bit of talk in the media trying the sensationalize how ‘far behind’ students will be following the interruptions to learning over the past 18 months.
Whilst the return to school, friendships and routines will take a little while for some, we can assure you that our students will adjust. Children are resilient and this ‘new way’ which is the ‘old way’, will seem second nature in no time. As far as learning growth and the continuation of learning, in general terms we expect few student’s results will have been adversely affected by remote learning. In fact it has been the hard work of parents, in maintaining learning routines, ensuring the completion of set tasks and communicating with school staff, that has greatly assisted in ensuring no student is left behind. We, as a school are very grateful to you, our families, for all your work over the past while. We know how challenging it has been for most, but you did it! Not long to go and we will all be back full time.
I also just wanted to say thank you so much to all of you who have wished me and my family well with our impending bundles of joy. You have all been so kind and positive, it is much appreciated. Lots of funny comments from our students, I might have to start keeping a log so I can share it with you all for giggles.
Shade Sail Grants
You may have heard that Department of Education and Training is very kindly offering grants of $25,000 to schools to build additional outside learning areas. We already have a decent amount of shade sailed areas and the maintenance of these is quite expensive. Consequently we are looking at putting in place a more structured pergola at the end of the netball court area that could be used for outside learning, but also as a presentation/assembly/event space. Fingers and toes crossed we are successful. If so it is likely the pergola could be installed prior to the last week of this term.
Large scale works to soon be announced
In other buildings and grounds news, we are working with DET to have some quite large scale works done over the next three months that will ensure our school is accessible to and inclusive of all students.
As a part of these works two large and some smaller ramps will be added to buildings, our disabled toilet will be extended and refurbished and a large number of fixes will take place to ensure asphalt and concrete tripping hazards are removed.
An announcement is expected soon by the Minister’s office, followed by a tender process in which a construction team will be appointed.
Exciting times as we ensure that Wantirna PS is a wonderful school for all!
Planning for 2022
In other positive news I’m very happy to let you all know that our contracted staff, Miss Lauren Chugg, Miss Aimee Topp and Ms. Mengyue Bao, will continue to teach at our school in 2022. We have been so happy with their hard work and dedication to their classes/learning areas in 2021, it will be wonderful to have them with us for another year. Congratulations Aimee, Lauren and Mengyue.
I’m also able to announce that we will again have three classes in 2022, as well as our Mandarin, Physical Education, STEM and Visual Art specialist classes. Mandarin and Physical Education will run for the entire year, with STEM running for Semester One and Visual Art for Semester Two. Performing Arts will return to us in 2023, with WPS now producing bi-annual productions.
The composition of our classes and associated teaching staff will be announced shortly.
With 2022 being my tenth year as a principal of smaller schools, as we get towards the end of this year and planning begins for the following year, I can foresee the chatter that will begin with parents and families around composite classes. Whilst I generally talk to each family as their questions are shared with me, I thought it might be helpful this year, given we can’t really sit and talk in person, to try and explain this from an educator’s point of view.
The composition of your child’s class whether it is single class, composite class or P-6, has little impact on your child’s academic performance. In fact, new research published in March 2021 (a 12 year study in Scotland) shows that many students who study in composite classes perform better than those in single year cohorts, with no adverse affects being noted from the arrangement.
Researchers found compelling evidence that younger students benefitted strongly in their acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills from being in a class with students one or two years older than them. The benefits to these students did not seem to occur at the expense of the older students’ attainment.
No other positive or negative effects of composite classes were observed beyond attainment, for example in relation to attendance, suspensions rates or attitudes to learning. Even though composite classes tend to be smaller than single-year classes, the research showed that class size was also not a driving factor.
In my own personal experience, having been a teacher within the state system and independent, where single year level classes are very common, I honestly believe that the later can cause a sense of complacency in teachers. Educators are tasked with teaching students, not teaching a curriculum. When given a single class, teachers can often become so fluent in what ‘Year Four’ or ‘Year Six’ students should be taught that they neglect to recognise that not all students have the prior learning in place to be working at that level, or that some students are already working above that standard.
A composite class, and in fact any class, requires teachers to teach students, not year levels. It requires skilled educators that perform assessment to ascertain a child’s current point of learning, prior to designing learning sequences for small groups of students requiring like-interventions, that will accelerate their achievement to the next stage. Even in my role at a prestigious independent school, within a single Year 4 class, I had students who were working at a Year One level in Writing, all the way through to students who were working at a Year Seven standard, yet they had all been at the same school since their Prep year, had been in single year level classes and had the same teachers. Not all students learn at the same rate.
In summary, the most important thing you can do as parents and families to support your child’s learning is to work in partnership with your child’s school – that’s us! Understand that it is the quality of teaching and learning that is crucial to student’s achievement rather than the composition of classes and that the best thing you can do for your children is to set high yet achievable expectations, follow through on home learning routines, value learning and growth – modelling it yourself and be your child’s number one supporter and cheerleader.
As shared in a recent newsletter our current academic results, as demonstrated in NAPLAN are excellent. Excellent in terms of the large percentage of students we have working above standard, excellent in terms of how our results compare to other schools in the Knox network and excellent in terms of the growth we see from Year 3 to Year 5. Our students are achieving, and our teachers are doing an excellent job in teaching them. Let’s see what amazing things our students can achieve in 2022.
You can access the whole article here: https://www.strath.ac.uk/whystrathclyde/news/newresearchshowscompositeclassescanboostpupilattainment/
Fly into Foundation Program
Our ‘Fly into Foundation Program’ started today and what a fun time it was! Miss Chugg and I are just having too much fun making these videos to share with our new Foundation students. This week we read a social story about starting school, had a quick scavenger hunt and then created some snazzy family portraits. We are so excited to see what our future sessions bring.
Our Foundation Parent Information Evening will be held on Thursday 25th November from 6:30pm on Webex: https://eduvic.webex.com/meet/laura.caddy
If we are allowed to have small numbers of parents onsite by then we will of course invite you all into the Foundation/Year One classroom for a looksy and a chat, so stay posted to confirm whether it will be an online or ‘in person’ event.
Year Six Graduation
Our Year Six Graduation event planning is well underway. Given that there is still a bit of uncertainty in the air about what we will and won’t be able to do by December, in terms of the School Operations Guide, we are playing it safe by organising the event to take place on school grounds. Currently we are planning for a 6:00pm start on Thursday 9th December, with photos under the oak tree followed by outside presentation and speeches (hopefully we will be able to invite parents and families along for this). Student will then have a dinner party at school from 7:00pm, followed by a disco which will wrap up around 9:00pm. Notices will be sent out shortly to parents and all the times confirmed. But we thought best to let you know that plans were underway so as you can start organising your graduation outfits!
I know in previous years there has been an organisation committee and such. Given the stressors this year has gifted us, Miss Faichney, Pip and I are happy to organise the event, but if any families would like to offer support or have an idea they would like to suggest just get in touch with us.