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Macarthur school adapts quickly to home schooling during COVID-19 pandemic

As early as January, the Headmaster of Macarthur Anglican School began planning for a potential lockdown period when COVID-19 began to surface.

Dr David Nockles said he first became aware of potential disruption due to COVID-19 in January when the school’s international students began returning from oversees. He talks us through the process…

Headmaster Dr David Nockles walks with students before the COVID-19 pandemic

While we didn’t predict the scale of the pandemic, we did immediately implement measures to limit the risk to our students and identified that we should focus on our online learning capability. We knew we had the agility to act quickly given digital resources are already used in the school to support learning and research.”

Our Middle (Years 5 to 9) and Senior (Years 10 to 12) school students were already well equipped with devices to move to online learning fairly quickly.

Our face-to-face teaching has been supported by on-line resources for many years, as teachers regularly upload their lessons to Google Classroom.

More challenging was the Junior School (Transition to Year 4) so we put more work into that area early on.

Having said that, all last year the staff in the Junior School have been slowly implementing the SeeSaw online platform augmenting what the teachers do in the classroom. Switching to this as the dominant teaching and learning model was therefore relatively uncomplicated for the teachers but a challenge for many parents.

Headmaster Dr David Nockles

The planning we undertook included not only online lessons but issues like child protection and mental health issues which also needed to be considered.

Macarthur Anglican School has more than 840 students across Transition (Pre-Kindergarten) to Year 12 and all of those students moved to an online teaching and learning model in March. We took the decision to keep the School campus open for those parents and carers who still needed to bring their children and we will continue with this plan once Term 2 begins next week.

While the transition to online learning occurred quickly, Dr Nockles acknowledges that it’s not an easy crossover for many students and their parents.

To help with the transition, he worked with staff to put together these tips in support of parents and carers:

  • Parents should support and allow the teacher to drive – The teacher is still the primary person who is driving the education of your child, and your role as the parent is to support the process. Guide from the sidelines, and then stand back and let the children shine. Provide feedback but don’t take over.
  • Check-in regularly – It’s important to check in with teachers regularly and to remind your children to check messages and lesson postings. At Macarthur Anglican all lessons are uploaded by 8:30am each school day.
  • D­­on’t be too hard on yourself – We encourage parents to embrace the opportunity and use trial and error to guide them along. Remember that face-to-face learning is not perfect either. You should treat mishaps as learning opportunities. If you have more than one child you could delegate some of the teaching support to older children. Don’t forget to motivate, negotiate, and give praise. It’s also essential to take time out to look after yourself with exercise and some time on your own to reset.
  • Encourage students to take breaks – Encourage your kids to take breaks to clear their mind. You need to decide what will work best for your children. Exercise with a minimum of 20 minutes provides an opportunity to energise and motivate. You should also encourage them to stay connected with friends because social interaction is a big part of most student’s usual school attendance. Work with your children to strike a balance between collaboration and social connection.
  • Set schedules that work for you and your children – For most children structure and routine eases anxiety so set a schedule and get them involved in establishing the guidelines. They are more likely to cooperate if they are involved in setting the schedule and goals. At Macarthur Anglican we recommend the following for our high school levels – Years 7 & 8 (2-3 hours per day); Years 9 & 10 (3-4 hours per day); Years 11 & 12 (more than 4 hours). You might also stagger start times if there is more than one child in your house.
  • Plan a space for online learning – The space you are able to dedicate to online learning will depend on family resources so you need to be flexible. You should also consider that different children will learn in different ways. Ideally the child will sit in a comfortable supportive chair at a desk or table, and keep that consistent every day.

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