, This was published 7 months ago
OpinionThe Premier’s announcement that students will start returning to school from May 11 is one certainty in a sea of uncertainty. In many ways, the announcement and limited detail that has accompanied it has raised more questions than it answered, and will cause additional concern and confusion for educators, students and parents alike. It will be both welcomed and criticised.
What can we expect? What will school look like on May 11?
This is almost impossible to answer just yet. School will look very different across the 3000 schools across NSW. It will look different in schools in adjacent suburbs. It will certainly look different between primary and secondary settings.
Principals are already consulting with their leadership teams to determine what will work best in their specific context. This will be affected by a range of factors: the age of the students and the age of the staff; the incidence (or not) of COVID-19 in their local community; the level of access to technology; the size of the school; the numbers of families with children in different years; the nature of the school site, including the design and size of the classrooms … the list goes on.
Neither the Premier nor the Minister for Education have prescribed exactly what the return should look like, and nor should they. This is a prime example of where decisions need to be made at a local level, informed by advice from the Department of Health, and from the Department of Education, certainly, but driven by the needs of the students, staff and families in each community. The principal and teachers know their school and students best and we can have confidence that they will make the best decisions for their situation. After all, we should not forget their phenomenal achievements in adapting to delivering schooling to home literally overnight only a month ago.
Some colleagues I have spoken to will most likely run their usual timetable for those students in attendance. Given that some parents will choose to continue to keep their children at home and that some at-risk staff will continue to work from home, others may decide to reduce the number of periods during the day and adopt a broader approach to what the school day looks like.
For some it will be a chance to collect work that was completed over the last week or so, check that key concepts have been understood (and clarify those that weren’t) before giving the next week’s “package”. This will be particularly important for those students who may not have access to technology at home or whose parents are unable to effectively support their learning.
It will also be important to re-think the structure of the day because teachers cannot simultaneously teach some of their class in this room, some in the room next door (where classes are divided to conform to social distancing restrictions) and some who are still at home.
Will this be easy? No. Just like flipping our pedagogy from face-to-face to online and providing quality education in the midst of a pandemic was not easy, this will continue to be a huge challenge.
Are we up to it? Most definitely. Because students are at the centre of what we do every day. Because we know the capabilities of our teachers. Because we are passionate about the young people whose lives we are privileged to influence. Because we are professionals. But most of all, because every principal and every teacher deals with the incredibly complex every day. That is what we do.
The difference is that now the complexity of the work we do is being witnessed, experienced and appreciated not only by parents but the broader community, and teachers are getting the respect and recognition that they deserve.
Craig Petersen is the acting president of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council.
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, http://www.smh.com.au/national/return-to-class-is-going-to-look-very-different-from-school-to-school-20200422-p54lqt.html, The Sydney Morning Herald