February Newsletter 2021
President’s Message (February)
I trust that you had a wonderful break over the Christmas / New Year season. I also hope you have all had a smooth start to the 2021 academic year after all the challenges of 2020.
As the new President of CaSPA I am looking forward, along with the Board, to continue the advocacy and support of our Catholic Secondary Principals. A key focus for CaSPA this year will be to enhance the newly formed Coalition of Australian Principals (CAP) and to achieve the next set of targets of the CaSPA Strategic Plan.
On behalf of the CaSPA Board, I warmly welcome our two new Directors commencing in 2021: Michael Lee (ACT) and Andrew Baker (SA). My sincere thanks and best wishes to Paddy McEvoy (2020) and Loretta Wholley (2016 – 20 / President – 2019 / 20) for their great service as Directors.
So far, I have been privileged to have had communications from a range of government entities representatives, and other organisations such as the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards. In particular, the Reviews (AITSL)“Building a High Quality, Sustainable VET in Schools Workplace” (2020) and “One Teacher Profession : Teacher Registration in Australia Report”(2019) contain very pertinent recommendations and I have been asked for input on our behalf.
For example, a recommendation as follows would connect both of the above reviews - “Greater support for dual qualified teachers/ trainers and assessors would improve the quality and consistency of VET delivered in schools and therefore actions to support those who wish to gain and maintain dual qualifications would support greater consistency in quality.
Furthermore, VET in schools provided by dual qualified teachers/ trainers and assessors could also support improved information and/or encouragement about the VET post-school pathway which would improve perception about VET and integration with senior secondary studies.” (p.5 VET Review)
The fact that our Catholic Secondary Schools Principals Board and Association is highly valued and consulted means so much – our voice is strong. In addition, I would thank Executive Officer, Phil Lewis, for his initiative and deep understanding, having previously been a CaSPA Past President, in facilitating our imprint.
My very best wishes to you and your communities for 2021.
With blessings to you all
ACARA Meeting 28 January 2021
NAPLAN Improvement Review
Consultation with Peak Principal Associations to consider NAPLAN improvement options to be presented to the ACARA Board on 19 February and to the Education Ministers meeting in April 2021.
ACARA will prepare 4 packages of options for the Ministers. Options will be based on a continuum of minimal change to significant change. The options will also include possible Domains (eg: Science / IT / History / Civics & Citizenship) that may be included and which year levels will be included for the future. For example, it may be better to have the testing in Years 4, 6, 8, 10. These year levels are at the conclusion of the 2 year curriculum cycle.
There was some discussion about how to include elements of the Australian Curriculum in the writing tasks and how NAPLAN may look different at each year level. Writing tasks will be reviewed in terms of the genre, task and style required.
There was also a desire to avoid the “league tables” focus of the media. ACARA is considering a Unique Student Identifier (USI) where parents can login to see individual results and progress over the years.
Learn from 2020 as kids go back to school
Children across Australia are preparing to return to school in 2021.
"We are living with that undertone of 'if lockdown occurs again'," says remote and online education specialist Tania Leach.
"Be mindful it's not business as usual."
The University of Southern Queensland lecturer says online learning during lockdown caused stress and anxiety, especially for vulnerable students and staff - and those feelings are likely to be lingering at the start of the new school year.
Leach knows some teachers left the profession in 2020 after months of uncertainty and needing to adapt quickly to change.
"We underestimate how the COVID situation impacted people," she says.
"For some it was a trigger that led to high levels of stress and anxiety. Some just felt the need to put themselves and their family first."
The pandemic also took an emotional toll on children and young people.
Child behaviour problems were up 23 per cent and emotional distress up 70 per cent last year compared to the pre-COVID-19 period, says Triple P parenting program director Carol Markie-Dadds.
She urges parents whose children are experiencing challenges to "seek help rather than going it alone".
"Whether you have a child starting school, going off to high school, or anywhere in between, helping children manage their emotions and build resilience will set them up for a successful school year," Markie-Dadds said.
If schools face lockdowns in 2021 many would find it easier to revert to the virtual classroom because processes and resources are still in place.
But education experts say the online learning experiences during lockdown in 2020 should also be a catalyst for change, providing opportunities for schools, governments and parents.
People in the education field are talking about how much learning needs to be face-to-face and what flexibility is possible, especially for senior students, according to Leach.
"It's going to be interesting to see within schools how their pedagogy changes," she said.
There could be opportunities for schools to integrate more technology into classrooms.
During lockdowns remote learning became more accessible and less extraordinary, says University of South Australia Associate Professor Elspeth McInnes.
"Let's keep it in the repertoire of things we have available to all learners," she suggests.
As people working from home instead of an office became normalised, so educators experienced other ways children could learn and still have good outcomes.
But experts are concerned about students without access to technology and those from low-socioeconomic status households who struggled when having to learn at home.
Early childhood expert Michele Wright says the federal government previously funded a high school laptop program, but that's been stopped, and now children in even earlier years also need devices.
Schools also prioritise technology differently, with some choosing to invest elsewhere, but we need to start "moving forward faster".
Wright likens it to some people valuing a horse-and-cart when the car has been invented.
"COVID has shown us when you change the landscape you've got to actually say 'I need the car'."
She recognises teachers and parents did their very best in 2020, but says the experience provides learning opportunities for the future.
"When we see what's happening around the world we need to think about whether our schools and parents could sustain some of the methods we used here for a longer period of time," she said.
Huge academic boost for Indigenous students who play sports
Sports participation has been linked to a big improvement in numeracy skills among Indigenous students.
According to researchers from the University of South Australia, University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who played organised sports every year over four years had numeracy skills seven months more advanced than those who played less sport.
Previous studies have linked sports participation to improved cognitive function and memory, but this is the first study to confirm this association among Indigenous students.
Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Dot Dumuid, said the study shows how important sport is to closing the gap in education.
“Playing sport has always had strong cultural importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, so understanding how sports can boost numeracy among Indigenous children is a valuable step towards improving health and reducing disadvantage,” Dumuid said.
“When children play sport, they’re learning the social structures of a team, how to work within rules, how to focus their attention, and key strategies for success.
“Interestingly, when children play sport, they’re not only activating parts of the brain that are involved in learning, but they’re also inadvertently practising mathematical computations such as ‘how much time is left in the game?’ and ‘how many points do we need to win?’, and it’s this that may well be contributing to improved numeracy.”
Encouraging sports in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities could have many other benefits for health and wellbeing, co-researcher and Professor of Indigenous Health Education at UTS, John Evans, said.
“Playing sport creates a sense of belonging, and builds self-esteem, coherence and purpose,” Professor Evans says.
“This is especially important for people living in rural and remote areas where opportunities for social interaction and structured activities can be limited.
“If we can find ways to encourage greater participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strain Islander communities, while removing key barriers – such as financial costs and lack of transport – we could promote healthier living, more cohesive societies while also and boosting academic performance among Indigenous children.”
In the CaSPA Newsletter there is section called Principal Profiles and in the profile Principals have nominated: "A Book I Would Recommend". For future Newsletters I would like to broaden the opportunity for all Catholic Secondary Principals to send in their recommendations with a short summary and a photo of the book's cover. Please contribute!
CaSPA Executive Officer