At the last School Advisory Council Meeting, the Annual Report to the School Community 2018 was presented. Below is the Principal’s report. The remainder of the document can be accessed under the ‘News and Events’ tab.
It is with pleasure that I present this report on the progress and growth of St Pius X Parish School for 2018.
One of the school’s main goals during 2018 was to ensure full compliance with Child Safe Standard 7: Strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children. Two major curricular changes were undertaken. Firstly, the school took on Respectful Relationships, Rights and Responsibilities to complement the content and scope of Bounce Back as our core wellbeing curriculum. Secondly the Catching On Early curriculum resource was embedded as part of our learning cycles across the school.
Catching On Early is a sexuality education resource and its inclusion is aimed at creating a vocabulary and common understanding for students about their bodies as well as age appropriate developmental information. Respectful Relationships, Rights and Responsibilities includes learning for students that promotes protective behaviours, aimed at curbing the danger of abuse.
The changes to our curriculum were mandated and important, but required collaboration by our staff team and clear communication with the parents of our community. Our staff devoted a pupil-free day to working with Ros Pretlove from the Department of Education to depth understanding of the philosophy and content from Respectful Relationships. Staff also explored the resources from Catching On Early before auditing and mapping the curriculum to ensure clear sequencing of learning across seven years.
The families of our school were also invited to be part of this discussion and development, with a parent evening held in Term One. The requirements for the change were appreciated by families and there was strong feedback from attendees that as well as attending to the needs of child safety, the changes moved the school towards better promotion of gender equity and inclusion of diversity.
The school’s development in this area was led by Ms Lisa Gardner and was supported by the previous work of Mrs Rachel Brown.
Dialogue for Religious Education
One of the needs clearly indicated in the data received from surveys on our school’s Catholic identity, is that our students are seeking, and deserve, learning experiences in Religious Education that invite interaction. This interaction includes interplay between the Catholic tradition, society, other traditions and most importantly the lived experience of our students. One key classroom strategy that was explored across the school was Bibliologist, a pedagogy developed by teachers in conjunction with research from KU Leuven, the world’s leading authority on the development of Religious Education that holds post-critical belief as its normative stance and promotes dialogue as part of the RE class. This strategy was trialled across the school, with feedback positive from teachers and students alike.
Identifying Essential Learning
Since taking on the Professional Learning Communities philosophies, the school has gradually worked to make explicit the ‘essential’ elements of each curriculum area. Buffum, Mattos and Weber have identified three criteria that have assisted us in this identification:
Endurance – Will the standard equip the student over the course of their life?
Leverage – Will the standard give knowledge or skills that are transferable?
Necessity – Will the standard assist the student to satisfy state requirements and also
access the next level of learning?
During 2018, the school worked to identify the essential learning from the Writing strand of English within the Victorian Curriculum. This required the devotion of a pupil free day and ongoing work by our Literacy Leader, Mrs Kate Sewell, as well as the support of the Catholic Education Office.
Clear Staff Learning Goals
The school is required to assist all staff to develop and maintain a professional learning plan that documents a clear learning goal, that develops professional practice and aims to impact the growth and learning of students. The inclusion of this requirement in our school organisation has been scaffolded over the past two years and included modelling the action research approach with shared goal setting and data collection.
One of the associated actions leading from this process was the inclusion of regular and ongoing professional development in English and Mathematics based on needs identified in our school data. This was part of our weekly staff meeting and was led and coordinated by curriculum leaders Mrs. Kate Sewell and Mr. Michael Sully.
The school moved to a one-to-one laptop programme in the senior classes at the beginning of the year. Each Yr 5&6 student now has access to a Google Chromebook paid for by a two-year contribution from parents in combination with a subsidy from the school’s technology budget.
This change involved high levels of planning and preparation to enable that the model would be financially viable for both families and the school itself. Development of shared understanding and recognition of learning opportunities by staff in the senior school was crucial. The school was supported by the Catholic Education Office, with ongoing development and coordination by the school’s Digital Technology coordinator, Mrs Rebecca Parkinson.
The school has long voiced an intention to provide high levels of learning for all students. In the past years we have co-opted the concept of a three-tiered system for learning, where tier one includes all students as part of universal approach to learning. Tier two involves a more concentrated approach to assist students who require extra assistance to reach standards. Tier three is offered to students who face substantial learning challenges, and places a teacher with an individual student or small group offering a research based program.
In 2018 a commitment was made to provide specialist intervention teachers in literacy and numeracy and for their support to be timetabled across the school, supporting teams to be able to offer tier-two and tier-three supports for students. I especially thank Ms Stacey Atkins, Deputy Principal, for her leadership in creating opportunities for learning intervention and supporting learning intervention across the school.
Among our annual farewells is a staff departure that merits recognition in this document. 2018 was the final year of service of Mrs Joan Guinan. Joan started teaching as Joan Lenehan in 1980. While she has had time away working in other schools and having her children, her presence in the school has been a defining feature for generations of students and colleagues. We wish Joan the very best for the next phase of life.