Approaching the middle of Term 4, we start to reflect on our progress for the year, and refine our strategies for further growth next year.
The staff, students and community should be incredibly proud of our achievements. At the start of this year we set some ambitious improvement targets, and I am pleased and proud that we have achieved all of these targets – ranging from growth in reading and writing results, to positive feedback from students, staff and parents (via department surveys). We have also improved our attendance across the board, which is pivotal to student learning.
One area which we have recently identified for increased support and resourcing is numeracy (mathematics). We believe numeracy is a complimentary core skill that all students need, along with reading and writing. Together, these skills lay the foundation for all other learning, and are strongly linked to student success in VCE/VCAL, and later in life.
We are trialling a numeracy support program this term with small groups of Year 8 students, and thus far the feedback from our students has been positive thus far. We have also appointed Kirsty Speirs, formerly of Maffra Secondary College, as a Learning Specialist in Numeracy. Kirsty has provided some expertise to the college already, but will formally join us from the start of next year.
Literacy, or more specifically reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling and grammar, continue to be one of our highest priorities. Following a great deal of work this year from key staff and leaders, this Monday we launched our whole-school literacy strategy. This strategy aims to support all teachers in all areas to be teachers of literacy – through integrating reading, writing and vocabulary strategies, specific to their discipline, into their classes. We are confident that this will have a significant positive impact for our students in the years to come.
Year 7 Laptop Program
We have had a great response to and feedback on our new Year 7 Laptop Program, commencing next year. We have doubled the number of students who will enter Year 7 with a device (compared to this year), and are not far away from our goal of all Year 7 students being equipped with a device to support their learning. To further build our students’ digital literacy, we need to ensure our teachers are well trained and equipped. Last week we had the Microsoft Education team from Melbourne in our school, working with our teachers on the latest evidence and research regarding Microsoft Office 356, the ‘cloud’ environment, how Microsoft Teams can strengthen collaboration between teachers, and how devices can enhance student learning.
Booklists from 2020
We received some strong feedback from our students and parents when we reviewed our laptop program earlier this year. One of the strongest queries was “Why do we have to purchase a device, plus purchase and carry several heavy textbooks… can’t they be on the device?” We believe this is a very reasonable query, and we felt we could do more to provide digital options for our students. While the requests for digital textbooks was strong, we did come across a few instances where students indicated they still prefer a hardcopy book, thus, having flexibility in a solution was also important.
After much research and investigation, I am pleased to announce that from next year, we will be moving to a new booklist platform, known as Box of Books. The college is providing a subscription so that all students can access the Box of Books platform on their device. The platform has a simple, user-friendly layout for students, and integrates beautifully with our new laptop program. Not only can students access all of their books at a touch of the screen, but they can highlight or write notes on the textbooks using the active pen available as part of the new laptop program.
In most cases, parents/students will be able to choose between either a print (hard copy) version of a text book (which will generally include a digital copy at no extra charge), or just purchase the digital version at a reduced cost. Parents can continue to purchase second-hand textbooks through informal channels – just keep in mind this option won’t include a digital version via your child’s device.
Parents will receive more detailed communication in the next fortnight, but as an overview – parents will be able to preview and order from our booklists online. Rather than being available for collection in late January, they will be shipped to homes, and in most cases, within a few days of placing your order. Stationery is also available via the booklist, but as always, families are welcome to purchase stationery from anywhere they choose.
Year 12 exams are underway, and our students have worked hard over the preparation and study period at the start of this term. Students were positive after their English exam on Wednesday, and we trust this momentum will continue throughout the period. It is important students continue to study by completing past exam papers. We wish our students the very best, and look forward to celebrating with them later this year.
Our Year 11 and 12 Headstart program commences in a couple of weeks, and it includes two weeks of important learning for our VCE and VCAL students. Attendance is required across the full two week period, as students will be essentially engaging in the first two weeks of their 2020 program, including material that will be assessable and linked to their outcomes.
Our Junior Headstart program will follow, being a great opportunity for our 2020 Year 8 to 10 students to become acquainted with their new teachers and classmates. We also look forward to welcoming our 175 new Year 7s across two transition days… an exiting time of the year ahead.