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Headmaster Mr Grant Lander
Photo by Mark Hamilton

Headmaster's Pen

Grant Lander —

Our lifestyle this holiday season, revolves totally around our homes and our family.

Dear Parents and Caregivers

This is our final communication for term one. A lot has changed since Auckland Anniversary Weekend, when we hosted the New Parents’ Dinner for 2020. Our lifestyles now revolve totally around our homes and our family. Who would have imagined in late January that we would now have to queue outside our supermarkets to be allowed to come in one by one; that fruit and vegetable and butchery shops would be closed and that we could only travel in close proximity to our residences; that we couldn’t visit elderly parents and relations at either their home or their age-care facility; that to get a book to read, we couldn’t go to the library or the shop but would have to return to our own bookshelves or our Kindle account.

Easter in the past, has been something that we have really looked forward to; the opportunity to gather with friends and family; the chance to escape to baches or different locations; the opportunity to have that last summer blowout before we hunker down for the cold winter months. Instead, this Easter, we are “back to the basics” - a chance to reflect on who we are, how we got here, and what is really important going forward. The Good Friday and Easter Sunday Chapel Services that Reverend Peter Rickman is facilitating for us online, are good opportunities for us to reflect on what we are fortunate to have and to give thanks. There are many in New York, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, etc who would trade places with us in a second. It is early days, but we have, as a country and community, been fortunate with the manner in which the Coronavirus has affected our lives.

We need to give thanks also for the way in which the St Paul’s community have been able to positively embrace a new type of teaching delivery - distance learning at it’s best! Over the last week, we have undertaken detailed surveys with teaching staff, as well as senior and junior students. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. 72% of our teachers rated the distance learning experience either a 4 or 5 out of 5; 82% felt that student engagement could also be rated as a 4 or 5; our teachers have increased their confidence with the new technology and feel many of the lessons learnt over the past ten days will be able to be successfully applied once we return to face-to-face delivery. 70% of our senior students rated the DLD experience as a 7-10 (on a 10 point scale); only 15% rated it a 1-4; 46% felt that the workload expectations were comfortably manageable (i.e. 7-10 rating); while 48% felt that the workload was manageable (i.e. a 5 or 6 rating), but that they were under pressure; only 4% felt over-pressured (i.e. 1-4). Interestingly 67% of seniors felt it was harder to ask the teacher questions in this digital environment. This is something which is concerning, and we need to address in term two. We want our seniors to have the confidence to ask questions online. Our juniors were even more buoyant. 78% felt their experience of distance learning was a 7-10; while only 9.5% felt that it was poor (i.e. 1-4). Interestingly, 87.1% of juniors were happy to ask for help online; 52% rated the workload as a 7-10, but only 7.3% felt that it was hard to manage with a rating of 1-4. All of this has only been able to be achieved through the commitment and hard work of our support and teaching staff over the past few months and for this we are hugely thankful.

There are some things that probably need to change in term two:

  • Students need to complete their DLD experience in a chair, probably at the kitchen table, or certainly outside of their bedroom or their bed. A number have said they have experienced fatigue or back problems when lying on their bed using the computer for such a length of time.
  • All students need to be using the Student Wellbeing app, Komodo, twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is important students are able to maintain confidentiality in raising how they feel, but I would encourage all parents to view their son/daughter’s Komodo screen, before they make their first entry, showing the various categories we are seeking feedback on, in the first week back in term two.

We will be reviewing the way in which we deliver DLD in term two. The structured six period experience will remain, but we may provide an opportunity for a bit more student-centred learning time in the schedule. We fully believe the period of lockdown will be extended and if this is the case, NZQA and Cambridge will amend the requirements for NCEA and IGCSE/AS in term four. If they do this though, they will require evidence, from work done during the year, to formulate your son/daughter’s grades for 2020.

This second issue of the digital Informer provides further information on DLD activities, but also it gives an insight into some of the activities and successes enjoyed when things were “relatively normal”. Please enjoy.

We hope April sees you and your family enjoying good health and quality time together.

Have a blessed Easter.

Grant Lander