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Yesterday saw the remainder of the school return to our Burwood Highway site. The Years 4-9 students resumed classes yesterday and it was wonderful to see their bright and smiling faces. While not quite everyone was happy to be back onsite, the vast majority were pleased to see their friends and teachers ‘in the flesh’ and looking at redeveloping their school routines.

Over recent weeks, my communications have included several iterations of a new normal. This descriptor has become a hackneyed phrase already and it is less than three months old. Yet it has some truth in it and perhaps that is why it is used so much. We look forward to moving past the difficulties of Stage 3 restrictions and yet we have learned much from them and need to retain the best of those experiences.

Your children, our students have developed a range of enhanced digital and affective (independence, responsibility, organisational and time management) skills and they cannot be allowed to lapse for very practical as well as educational reasons. These practical reasons have been included in previous communications and relate to possibly having to revert to home campus again in the future.

The survey responses from parents of students through the school and of students from upper primary to Year 12 gave some positive and reinforcing results that outline why the educational reasons for maintaining the digital and affective skills are important. The top positives from the parent survey were:

  • Child’s independence, organisation, time management & responsibility
    • Teacher support & engagement
    • Child’s adjustment & enjoyment of continuous learning

The top positive from the student survey that aligns with the parents’ collective number one positive was:

  • Flexible learning/Being able to work at own pace

This week, I along with other senior staff have received a number of emails from parents and students praising the staff of the school for a job well done and requesting that the best aspects of the home campus be maintained. The following email from a student is an example worth mentioning.

“I thought I would send you an email to express to you how beneficial I, and a large majority of my peers in Year 10, have found the new asynchronous timetable we have implemented into our program. I have personally experienced multiple positive effects of our new learning format including minimised levels of stress and anxieties and high levels of productivity. Asynchronous learning benefits the student’s mental health and learning abilities and if it was implemented into everyday school I believe the positive effects would be abundant. Asynchronous learning is the future of modern education and I believe that the sooner we can upgrade our schooling system the better.”

We remain cognisant of the concerns expressed by parents and with all back onsite now, we are focused on academic standards being maintained and developed, and that direct supervision is maintained, albeit is slightly different ways.

As a direct result of feedback, we have built some limited blocks of teacher supervised asynchronous lesson time into the timetable for the remainder of Term 2. This will begin late this week and will be reviewed over the June/July break. In age-appropriate ways, students will have choice in what they work on in these blocks of time, must meet their deadlines, and cannot decide to not work.

In summary, from a professional viewpoint, being back at school for most students affords greater opportunity to connect with learning as well as enhance their social and emotional development.

The model we are providing allows some flexibility over the coming weeks and at the same time, builds students’ skills, positioning them for success in their continuing education (tertiary education for those in senior school), in an age-appropriate and teacher-supported environment.

I appreciate the support and positive messages we have received and look forward to our ongoing partnership in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Allan Shaw

Allan Shaw is Principal and Chief Executive of The Knox School

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