Extract from the Ministry Bulletin May 1 2020

How schools across NZ are engaging with students to support distance learning

We’ve asked a number of schools from across the country how they are engaging with students to support distance learning as the disruption of COVID-19 continues. Here are some insights which may be of interest to you:

  • A few schools have maintained their timetable but many have adopted a more weekly task-setting approach. The principal of One Tree Hill College emphasised the importance of being ‘realistic’ in setting expectations on both students and staff to promote their mental well-being and reduce stress.
  • Tikipunga High School reported that “whānau have been very happy with our focus on wellbeing – we organised kai care packages to be delivered for all our whānau.”
  • A general overall benefit noted is that communication between school and home has become more regular and parents feel more involved in their children’s learning.
  • All schools stressed the importance of deans and whānau teachers following up with those students who are unable to connect to the internet, lack a device or are not engaging for various reasons related to their home circumstances.
  • Kavanagh College students have regular contact with their tutors and subject teachers and the school contacts parents if they notice non-engagement in a subject for an extended period of time.  School counsellors and teacher’s aides are also reaching out to students who find the disruption challenging and have established a ‘Happy Hangouts’ group for students with learning support needs.
  • Teachers at Shirley Boys’ High School have been using YouTube to make videos that students can watch and follow, and are using screen capture to show examples of students’ work. This approach worked well for tech-savvy teachers with a stable internet connection at home.
  • One Kavanagh College teacher has been uploading ‘how-to’ guides, tips and tricks for staff to access. Teachers at the school have also created tutor class competitions and quizzes to help maintain a sense of belonging and connectedness, whilst their Year 13 students have created weekly virtual assemblies which are emailed to all students and parents.
  • Most schools reported that NCEA assessments are ongoing, though somewhat slower and limited in some subject areas. One Tree Hill College has reviewed their programmes to determine which standards can be ‘parked’ and consider the possibilities of removal/inclusion of standards. They’ve also consulted with NZQA about assessing using other forms of evidence. South Westland Area School is continuing with NCEA assessment and trying to tailor it for online access. “We have had a few learners who have not engaged as well as others and we have tried to be empathetic and supportive for them once we are sure that they are safe and healthy.” The Ministry and NZQA are acutely aware of these concerns and are working actively on a response.

The lack of internet and digital devices in some regions and schools has been a major challenge to overcome and the Ministry has been working to address these issues. Some schools reported that the quality and quantity of technology and inequity of access is challenging for vulnerable families”.

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