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Home work a learning experience for all

Public schools across NSW are making sure all students can continue their studies during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Brendan Taylor standing in front of a large computer screen with maths work in OneNote.
Image: Grafton Public Year 5/6 enrichment teacher Brendan Taylor using Microsoft Teams last week.

North to Grafton and south to Pambula, the first day of NSW students working from home was a learning experience for everyone.

Support for teachers and advice for parents and carers to keep students learning outside of the classroom is available on the Learning from home hub.

Pambula Public School principal Leah Martin said her school community was rising to the challenge of learning from home.

“Our teachers are quite excited to be able to demonstrate learning can happen any time, anywhere,” she said.

“It has been a challenge in terms of the workload and timing, but all our teachers have rolled up their sleeves – they have been an awesome team.”

Likewise, she said parents had been “really positive and fantastic” in responding to the need to be more hands-on with their children’s learning.

Ms Martin said the school had begun preparing learning from home materials last week by asking teachers to adapt the department’s weekly template on learning from home for their classes.

Each student was given a learning pack and class-appropriate resources such as counting cards, dice, and 100s charts.

Ms Martin said because of its rural location many students in Pambula, around 500 kilometres south of Sydney, did not have internet access.

“That meant we had to come up with a program that could be offered online and offline,” she said.

Kindergarten parents at Pambula Public School were given a week-long log of learning activities that included asking the school’s youngest students to contribute to housework with tasks including making their bed; tidying toys; helping make lunch; and helping a family member.

Stage 2 students were given study options where they could choose between an online learning resource or a workbook activity.

Ms Martin said teachers were using the rest of this week to set up Google classrooms and would do a daily welcome video and outline students’ learning for the day.

The school was also filming teachers doing explicit learning so these videos could be shared with students either online or via USB for those students without internet access.

“Our teachers have worked really hard on this and are aware of trying to create content online and offline that does not need too much adult supervision, because we are aware of parents having to juggle more than one child and also working from home.”

At Grafton Public School, class teachers began an extra three-day professional learning program in resources the school will use to maintain communication with parents and students.

Students who did physically come to school were supervised by support staff in their year groups and, like their classmates at home, were learning from workbooks the school had compiled last week.

Principal Michelle McDonagh said when parents had begun keeping their children at home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school had issued them with workbooks to ensure they kept learning.

Last week the school provided “just-in-case” workbooks to all students in preparation for the possible move to learning from home.

Ms McDonagh said it was a practical response given the teachers had already supplied the work booklets to absent families.

“We decided to send every student home with a work booklet to keep as a precautionary measure in the event of an unexpected school closure, which would mean they wouldn’t be left for a single day without work,” she said.

Ms McDonagh said the school had worked closely with parents and she paid tribute to staff and the school community for working collaboratively under such extreme pressures.

She said a survey of parents had shown around 50 per cent of the school’s students had the resources at home to complete remote learning on the digital platforms the school will use, predominantly Seesaw and Microsoft Teams.

Other students would be provided with the same unit of work in a booklet format on a weekly basis, she said.

Ms McDonagh said the school was also ensuring its students continued their weekly K-6 Bundjalung language lessons. She said the school’s “wonderful” Aboriginal School Learning and Support Officers had begun recording lessons today and making additional resources.

“While we are all missing the face-to-face teaching and more personal contact with our students and families, in these uncertain times every measure implemented by the NSW Department of Education, NSW Health and the NSW Government needs to be followed to minimise risk for everyone in our community, especially our vulnerable,” she said.

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