From the Principal's Desk......
“If you find yourself believing that you must always be the way you’ve always been, you are arguing against growth”
It’s been another busy week, analysing processes, protocols, policies and working with staff in a number of areas. Last week I included in my newsletter my vision and the different domains associated with this vision. During my conversations with staff, we have acknowledged we all need to get better at what we do as educators and members of the community, hence the reason why OLA will be focusing on the school values of ‘Excellence and Respect’.
At Tuesday’s Board meeting, the Board members spent a considerable amount of time analysing and reviewing the 2017 Parent Survey. Having read and analysed the data and comments with Vel Erskine during the Christmas school holidays, having now completed my individual meetings with most staff members and having worked with the Board and external consultant last Tuesday evening, we have commenced to move forward with changes that need to be implemented. Over the next few weeks, all community members will receive a summary of the survey and this summary will be uploaded to the Board section of the newsletter.
As I continue to look at my vision, and with the information we have analysed, like the surveys, there are clear themes coming through. We’re obviously striving to be better at what we do, but transforming OLA will take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we lucky because at OLA we have the foundations in place already and the staff ‘on the bus’ to move forward.
We, as the staff at OLA, have made a commitment to welcome and respect all the students and families at OLA and we hope we will receive the same respect in return. Respect is not just between staff, children and parents, it’s also between parents and between children as well. The staff at OLA are wonderful teachers, privileged to be working at a great school and will be working hard to help me establish a great school culture.
“Excellence” is imperative in any school. If we don’t raise the bar and strive for excellence, we will never know if can have reached the standards set, hence we’re raising the bar, we’re raising the educational standards and we’re raising our commitment to the children.
To work towards excellence requires a lot of time and effort, but that’s our aim. Down time is a concern of mine and with the overcrowded curriculum, we need to be wise with what we do and don’t do in schools. To increase the quality teaching time in the classrooms, a decision has been made to halve the number of assemblies at the school. Effective immediately, assemblies will be once a fortnight and year levels will present an item that is linked to what the children are learning in class. Commencing in 2019, each class will be presenting an item.
As educators, research shows children learn and retain more in the mornings then they do in the afternoons and I am certain the same applies to adults. Assemblies in the morning take up too much quality teaching time hence the decision has been made to change the assembly from a Friday morning to a Friday afternoon, once a fortnight. Assemblies will commence at 2.20pm and conclude at 3.05, at the latest. We will monitor the assemblies and change the start times if they’re going over time.
In reference to the Merit Certificates, parents will be notified, by the Thursday, the children who will be receiving merit certificates. These names will be uploaded to the Merit Certificates section of the newsletter and parents can check each fortnight the children receiving these certificates
All certificates, excluding Merit certificates, and birthday stickers/pencils etc. will be presented to the children in the classrooms, Fridays mornings, by the Leadership Team. Changing the assembly times, frequencies, etc have been made in the best interest of the children’s education and learning and I thank you all for supporting the staff with the above changes. The new parent term calendars are currently being updated and will be uploaded by the end of next week. We may have a few teething problems at first, but we will get it right eventually.
Continuing on with the school value of 'Excellence', the Leadership Team is currently reviewing the support programs as well as the extension programs. Programs, structures and timetabling of support staff is currently under review and changes will be communicated to parents soon. Support isn’t just about withdrawing children form the classroom and working on a program, it is also about differentiating the curriculum, by the classroom teachers, to cater for the needs of each individual child. It’s imperative as educators we get to know the needs of all the children, and not just place them in a number of groups. Support can and should also be in the classrooms. As changes occur, parents will be notified.
Having spent a considerable amount of time with staff in setting expectations for ourselves, we have come to the conclusion that we need to change the way we think and the way we teach to ensure ever student is catered for. With the above in mind, we are:
- Establishing set routines and a common language throughout the school
- Focusing on research based routines and pedagogy - explicit teaching, higher order thinking skills, project based learning, which includes collaborative learning, digital transformation & innovation and differentiating the curriculum to cater for the needs of every student
- Working towards a whole school approach to the way we educate our students. As we walk into classrooms , we will expect to see certain things
- Support every child to become life-long learners.
How are we going to achieve the above and much more?
Agile School & Learning Sprints
In the coming weeks/months, we as a staff will be working towards becoming an Agile school. With future PD, all staff members will learn more about fast tracking of students as well as the upskilling of themselves to become more efficient at what they do.
- If we’re going to lift the learning outcomes of diverse students at OLA then we need to invest in developing the individual and collective expertise of our teachers
- Learning Sprints will provide a simple, effective and field-tested approach to supporting the staff to continually enhance their practice and skills
- Learning Sprints is an organisational routine that can support the adoption of evidence-informed practices and develop the collective efficacy of our teacher teams
- The approach is aligned with the existing research evidence into the features of effective teacher professional learning and the science of behaviour change. It has been designed to be simple, relevant, manageable and very effective for already overloaded teachers.
Benefits Learning Sprints include:
- Support every educator to continually enhance their professional practices
- Develop high-trust teacher teams that take collective action and help each other improve
- Embed the use of research-informed practice and evaluate impact through formative assessment
- Accelerate momentum through engaging in short, focused cycles of impactful work
- Gain more impact from the collaboration time we already have available
- Support teachers to collectively plan, act and evaluate their impact
As we progress forward and implement change, in all areas, we will hopefully commence to see our children achieving higher grades, and if they’re not, we need to investigate further as to why.
We are all moving very quickly and being human, we sometimes make mistakes. Please be patient, with us all, as we endeavor to transition through the different vision modules. There is a lot happening at the moment, and there’s a lot more to come.
Ash Wednesday Celebration: Yesterday the students and staff celebrated Ash Wednesday in the Church. The mass also marked the beginning of the Lenten period. During the Lenten period, promises are made to bring us all closer to Jesus. The following explains the importance of prayer, fasting and abstaining during the Lenten period.
Why Pray, Fast and Abstain?
Prayer draws us closer to God. The more we pray and spend time in God’s presence, the more we can be transformed into the people we are created to be.
Fasting is one of the most ancient practices linked to Lent. The hunger pang it creates reminds us of the suffering that others experience because of lack of food. Fasting calls us to live up to our Baptismal responsibility to show Christ’s love to the world and to work to alleviate suffering.
Abstaining from meat traditionally links us to the poor, who could rarely afford meat. Its aim is to traditionally link us with those who lack the food we take for granted.
Supporting Your Children:
It is always important to evaluate how your children are coping with their routines. Establishing workable routines helps everyone cope with their own responsibilities while easing things for others in the family. At the start of the school year, put into place a family plan for bedtimes, morning routines and after school chores, commitments and homework. A plan will help the family function smoothly, ensure important priorities are met and keep everyone happy and healthy for a successful year. I have found the following useful in the past.
1. Consider how many activities children can realistically manage. Homework, music lessons, clubs, scouts sports, dance and speech lessons are all important in building a rounded personality, but children of all ages become stressed if they take on too much. School demands, like tests, major productions, sports tournaments, can vary from year to year and should be taken into account when decisions are made about which activities children will sign up for.
2. Ensure school age children receive ample sleep. Both the brain and the body need to sleep to refresh, recharge and function effectively. Establish bed time routines and stick to them throughout the year. When children know you are serious they will organise themselves around the times you have set. Well rested children are healthier. Parents also need some quiet time to themselves in the evening.
3. Maintain a master calendar. Buy a large calendar and keep track of everyone’s programs and events. Checking, maintaining and updating the calendar can become routine and help everyone see and respect the busy lives every member of the family leads, including mum and dad.
4. Use the night before to prepare for the next day. Cut down on stress and reduce tension by making sure clothes are chosen and laid out. Find items like hair ties and sports shoes to save last minute panic. Check the day’s requirements and pack school bags with the right equipment and books. Listen to the weather forecast and gather, for instance, raincoats or sun block. A stress free strategy is to have one area where school bags are deposited and packed. Prepare healthy school lunches.
5. Set up a homework area, either centrally or in their bedrooms. Equip them with pens, paper etc and makes sure every child has an age suitable dictionary. Allocate computer time, making homework the priority over games and social media chat. Establish a quiet time in the evenings when everyone does their paperwork or reads silently.
6. Eat dinner together. Set aside at least three meal times during the week when the family can sit down together at the table and enjoy one another’s company. Turn off the television and mobile phones. Expect the children to set the table, wash their hands and gather on time. Teach good table manners. Foster the art of good conversation, discuss local and world events, share experiences and celebrate achievements. Your children will remember dinner times all their lives and pass on the tradition to their own families.
ICT Firewalls & Filters:
The school is currently looking at a number of different suites to install on the take home laptops/chrome books. We will inform you once a decision has been made.