Head of School Newsletter 2020

From the Head of School

Dear Parents,
I hope this end of term newsletter finds you well and that you have had time to reflect on how important it is to be with family in these uncertain times and that even though it has not been the usual Easter long weekend, there was time to reflect on the message of hope contained within the Easter service.

As I outlined in my most recent communication to you all, we will be moving into a school term unlike any other in the history of The Armidale School and my primary concern is for all the members of the TAS community and the impact that Covid-19 is having on everyone. Discussions and meetings of the TAS Board and Executive have taken into account medical advice, statements from government bodies and local authorities that focus on how best to support our students, staff and parents during this challenging time. This level of disruption brings with it a degree of stress and anxiety that is inherent in the circumstances and our goal is to minimise this as best we can.

To that end, we will be closing our boarding houses for Term 2 for all boarders until further notice. All students will receive online tuition from home or can complete the same online classes from school if they need to physically be here because they are the children of essential workers. The school campus will remain open with a small number of administrative and general staff.

The continuation of teaching and learning is a priority for the school and I would like to acknowledge the exhaustive efforts of our staff and for their willingness “to roll their sleeves up” and dedicate themselves to developing comprehensive online academic and co-curricular programs. The goal was to combine manageable academic structure and routine for all year levels with modified co-curricular sport and creative activities that students can engage in from home.

Our community’s wellbeing is at the heart of our planning, the sense of loss of connection for many is very real and we encourage you to stay in touch with the School and each other. Term One is usually our busiest and longest term and even though it feels like it has been dominated by planning on how best to deal with this pandemic, I remember how well the year began and can look back with a great deal of pride in the successes and achievements of our students. It is worth reflecting on these now.

  • Our annual Coast Weekend for our boarding and day students from years 8 and above ran in conjunction with our first ever year 7 weekend camp with all groups returning with glowing reports.
  • It was a pleasure to see so many parents attend War Cries night and the Swimming Carnival to revel in the spirit of mass participation. These events seem to get better every year.
  • Our rowers were able to compete in a number of regattas and even though confronted with disappointment in not being able to compete in their respective Heads of the River, they were able to celebrate the rowing season at Malpas dam with a demonstration of real integrity of character.
  • Junior School Excursion Week to Lake Keepit for Yrs 2 – 5, taking in all that the outdoor experience has to offer. For many, this was their first time away from home on a school excursion, or paddling a canoe, or sleeping under canvas or just pushing themselves well beyond their comfort zone.
  • There were two marvellous performances of the school musical “The Wizard of Oz” which demonstrated the hard work and dedication of our creative arts staff and students, our school musicians assisted so much by our local professionals, and not to forget the contributions parents also made to the creation of the set, costumes and makeup.
  • There were 40 Cadets who continued with their leadership courses and managed to demonstrate their skills during our Activities Program for Term One.
  • Our 1st XI cricketers competed in the semi-final of the Douglas Shield.
  • Summer sports training for all continued until it became impractical not to do so.
  • And to top it all off, Manuela and I especially enjoyed hosting the Year 7 students for lunch during the last few weeks of term. They are certainly interesting and entertaining young people and confirm for me that the future of the student body of the school is in good hands.

In the coming days, each family will receive a ‘resource package’ from the school which contains a colourful array of guides, timetables and ideas that you can put somewhere handy to help you all get the next term started. We decided to send it all via the postal service rather than email; we all deserve a break from electronic communication every now and then.

As I have mentioned above, while boarding will be closed next term, the school campus will still be open for those families who need to send their children to school due to work commitments. The online classes will be the same for these children, they will simply be supervised in classrooms where they can complete their work. Recommended social distancing protocols will be adhered to while they are here. Families will all receive an email survey next week on Thursday (23 April) to ascertain their intentions.

I can only wish you all the very best for the remainder of the break and hope that within all of the uncertainty, disruption, and bewildering events that we all continue to support each other as one community.

 

Alan Jones
Head of School

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From the Business Manager

Having written to all our families only recently, I would now like to follow up that letter to inform our parents of a number of new developments that have occurred since then. These amendments reflect decisions made by the TAS Board and take into account additional financial modelling that has just been completed by the Business Office.

We are expecting a reduction in our operating costs in light of not having any boarding in Term 2 and also due to having a reduced number of students and staff on site. The TAS Board has resolved to pass these resulting cost savings back to those parents, particularly those who do not otherwise receive financial assistance by way of a scholarship, bursary or staff rebate. Looking at our projections for Term 2, the adjustment to Term 2 Tuition Fees will represent a saving of some 15% of tuition fees for the majority of parents, which will be reflected in your upcoming fee statement.

You will remember that earlier in the year we announced that we had received some Drought Assistance funding from the Federal Government. This funding is designed to assist our families who reside in certain designated Local Government Areas and the first 50% tranche was used to reduce costs for various excursions and activities which are charged during the course of the year.

The Board has decided that the remaining Drought Funding should be used to reduce Term 2 to 4 learning costs for families by refunding classroom extras costs and also the Laptop Technology Fee for the remainder of the year. For those students from Transition to Year 4, you will see a credit adjustment on your fees statement of between $90 and $135 depending on your annual charge. While students from Year 5 to Year 12, will receive a credit adjustment of approximately $450.

Tuition fees for Term 2, reflecting the various adjustments mentioned above, will shortly be added to your account and you will be emailed a fees statement. When you receive this statement you then have the option of paying the net amount at the beginning of Term, or alternatively to set up a direct debit arrangement spreading the payment out over the duration of the Term. You are free to set up your payment arrangement with your financial institution or alternatively use the School’s payment portal on the school website.

When setting up the payments, please identify them using your School Account Code, which can be found in the top right corner of your Fees Statement. Please also ensure that the net amount of the Tuition Fee has been paid off by the end of Term 2, Friday 26 June.

Please do not hesitate to contact [email protected] if you have any problems or queries about your School account or how it will operate for the remainder of this year.

It is also very important that you contact me if you are suffering significant economic effects due to the pandemic and you are worried about your ability to meet your fee commitments. It is the Board’s intention to work with our families and to minimise, where possible, any enrolment disruption through this difficult time.

 

Pat Bradley

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From the Director of Studies

Thank you to all who provided feedback following our first week of online learning where the majority of our students worked from home. This has been a learning experience for all of us, students and staff alike, and we have appreciated your support as we transitioned to this online learning model.

From your feedback and that of our staff, it is clear that the need for routine and adhering to the timetable is important, but that this needs to be sustainable in terms of screen-time and fitting in with family and home routines. Parents and students will receive a copy of the suggested timetables for Junior School, Middle School and Senior School students in the resources pack which will be sent to all families in the post by the end of this week. This material will also be available electronically on our Covid-19 page on the website.

This revised timetable for Middle and Senior School students will apply to students both at home and those who are supervised here at school and follows the student’s normal timetable with some slight modifications. These include:

  • Lessons will go for typically 35 minutes and this shortened length allows for breaks between periods and also more extended breaks during the school day.
    There will be a common lunch time for all students 6-12 from 12:50 – 1:25pm.
  • Each lesson will involve a teacher check-in with students via Zoom for roll marking and explaining of lesson content. Rolls will be taken for each lesson as normal.
  • Teachers will not necessarily be delivering video-conferencing for the entire period of the class. Rather, teachers will be setting up students to ensure they know what is expected of them during this time. If a teacher is planning to use a period for a video-conferencing style lesson, students will be advised and the lesson will occur within the allocated lesson time as per the timetable.
  • For families with limited Internet access, we encourage you to keep in contact with the school about options that are available to you. TAS can post resources to families in this situation if required.

The Junior School timetable has also been modified to accommodate the online and at-home learning needs of our younger students. Mr Ian Lloyd, the Head of Junior School has outlined these changes in more detail in the Junior School section of this document.

For students in Years 11 and 12, our advice to you is unchanged. You need to be keeping up with your learning and classwork, turning up to online commitments and completing your assessment tasks to the best of your ability- even if these tasks are completed remotely at home. We will continue to advise you of changes if and when they occur, but we encourage you to reach out for support whenever you need it. NESA publishes regularly their updates at: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/about/news/news-stories/news-stories-detail/covid-19-novel-coronavirus

For students in Year 12, we understand your anxiousness to know about the finer details of the HSC this year. We will continue to support you during this changed time and provide you with information as we receive it. Students and their families are encouraged to wait for formal announcements to come either from NESA or the School, rather than listen to speculation within the media. We do know that the HSC will continue in 2020 and that Year 12 will be completed this year. All students have the opportunity to still get their HSC and move on to the next part of their academic journey. There continue to be some changes made in different subjects and these have been communicated to those students impacted. With any of the changed components of the HSC, an advisory committee works to ensure that the HSC is delivered in a fair and equitable way. To date, changes to Drama and Music group performances have been communicated to students. At the end of last week, the NESA Response Committee met and have announced that for Design and Technology, Industrial Technology and Visual Arts that advice is still coming for these subjects in terms of major projects and we are expecting some further information on these subjects by the end of the holidays.

I encourage you to look forward to the term ahead and to be in touch if you have any questions.

 

Luke Polson

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From the Director of Pastoral Care

Change presents us with a different set of circumstances and with this comes a new set of challenges. I am finding students who have been isolating at home are really missing the daily interaction with their friends far more than they anticipated. The morning catch-up, lunchtime games or even sitting next to a friend in class is easily taken for granted. It’s not until it’s taken away from them, that students appreciate the importance of physical presence amongst peers.

I strongly encourage students to invest time into maintaining contact with friends, especially via a platform where they can see and hear each other. Zooming into Advisor periods is also a great way to stay in touch with familiar faces.  Please be aware the school has strict policies around acceptable use of social media and IT.  Please CLICK HERE for our Social Media Policy and HERE for the IT Acceptable Use Policy and Procedures for Students.

Exercise is an important part of maintaining positive wellbeing, and students need to be engaging in some form of daily physical activity. Not only will it stimulate the production of endorphins, but it serves as a screen-free timeout, where students can switch off and clear their head. I encourage you all to sign up for as many co-curricular activities, clubs, creative arts and sport that you think you can manage.

Finally, I would encourage students and parents to reach out to Advisors and Heads of Houses should they need advice, guidance or have any questions about navigating the term ahead. The importance of staying in touch and staying safe online is at the forefront of our minds as we commence the new term and its unfamiliar terrain.

 

 

Adam (AJ) Whalley

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From the Director of Co-curricular

As we all adjust to a life of relative isolation, two of our greatest needs are to stay active – physically and mentally, and to stay connected – socially, emotionally and spiritually. This is going to be a challenging time for us all, however, it will also be a time of significant growth; an opportunity to develop a new skill, get creative, experience a new hobby or build your fitness. It is a time for divergent thinking, intrinsic motivation, looking after yourself and those close to you and appreciating all the good things in life.

All TAS staff have rolled up their sleeves and embraced the chance to connect with students, by sharing their interests and their passions, through a wide variety of co-curricular activities for Term 2.

These activities are divided into four main areas: Clubs, Creative Arts, Life Skills and Sports. We look to maintain intensity in our sporting program, whilst recognising that there are many other activities that lend themselves to functioning remotely and that next term presents an opportunity for students to engage with these.

All families will receive a ‘resources pack’ through the mail in the coming days that outlines the many opportunities on offer and instructions on how to access them. This information will also be available on the coronavirus section of the TAS website accessible from the home page.

Students thrive on the opportunity to work as a team; to be part of something bigger than themselves. The 1000km Team Challenge is an opportunity to create this sense of team and accomplish a goal together. Teams can be between 4 – 8 students (or families in Junior school). So, get your team together now and go onto the Sports Course on Canvas to find out details on how to register.

I am sure, in the coming weeks, we will all gain a greater appreciation for the life we take for granted. We already miss the daily interactions with each other; the sound of laughter and the comfort of friendship. However, we will make the best of this situation, find the positives and look out for one another until we are all together again.

 

Will Caldwell

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From the Director of Boarding

In one of the most challenging recent periods in the history of The Armidale School, the decision to close boarding for the first time in over 125 years was a considered and informed one. The basis of this decision was the health and safety of our boarders and boarding staff.

I appreciate and understand the inconvenience this decision will cause to a number of our boarders and boarding families. Rest assured we will be closely monitoring all Government and Educational Authorities communication and be guided by their directives regarding COVID-19 and Boarding Schools.

While boarders remain at home, their Heads of House will maintain regular contact via Zoom and/or phone with their boarders and families. This will ensure our boarding families remain informed and connected to the TAS community.

Heads of House and myself will remain available for conversations with boarders and parents throughout this time and I urge you all to make contact should you wish to discuss any matter of concern. The strong relationships our boarders and families enjoy with the TAS Community will ensure we all get through this challenging period of isolation together.

 

David Drain

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From the Head of Junior School

It has been a real pleasure to witness the way our teachers and students have taken to the significant changes in teaching and learning in the last stages of Term 1. The online and “at home” modes of delivery have been a huge challenge for many but seeing the fantastic work being returned to school and the feedback our teachers have been receiving bodes very well as we enter Term 2 under very similar circumstances.

The Junior School staff have suggested modified timetables as a guideline for parents who are at home. These will be received in hard copy by all our parents at the end of this week and will be accessible electronically by visiting our coronavirus page on the website CLICK HERE

This timetable will also apply to any students who will be learning at School because their parents are essential workers. In essence, the education offering will run in parallel, with teachers supervising those in combined classes and parents supervising at home.

Recent feedback and research has indicated that younger students need to focus on the core learning areas at the beginning of the day and attend to the more open-ended projects and activities at the end of the day. The afternoon session is designed to be flexible, to encourage those who require greater challenge the opportunity to extend themselves academically, while providing more flexible, inquiry-based learning for others. It is important for every family to arrive at a balanced daily routine that works for them.

As noted by the Director of Co-curricular, Junior School too has a growing number of activities and clubs that will be available to our younger students. More information will be available as School returns, but these modified activities will stimulate students to care for themselves and others by taking up opportunities that keep them immersed in sporting or other creative programs.

As before, please stay in touch with your classroom teachers and if the need arises at anytime, please contact me in the usual manner.

Ian Lloyd

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