1. Introduction

We wanted to reach out to you in these challenging times. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, we know that many students and parents are experiencing confusion and uncertainty about what their future holds. We recognise that COVID-19 has prompted significant changes in the way that we deliver your education, and that more changes may be required. We understand that this may be a challenging time for students, your peers and your families, and appreciate your patience as we identify solutions to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Please rest assured that we are equipped to continue to support you and your education.

Your health, safety and wellbeing, and that of our staff and community are of paramount importance to us. We must all recognise the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledge that our lives will change. It is clear that we need to adapt to the changing environment around us and embrace the opportunity that comes with change. A critical part of this adaptation is accepting that we need to work differently in order to protect the health and wellbeing of ourselves, our families, our colleagues and the community.

Your child’s continuing education is also a key priority for us. As much as we seek to continue with your education, we also rely on your cooperation to get the most out of the experience.

This document aims to answer some of your key questions in relation to the school’s response to COVID-19 and the steps that we will take to facilitate your continuing education. It may not answer all your questions and we encourage you to speak to your teachers and other staff members if you have questions via the school’s email network or through MyPenola.

  • Frequently asked questions
  • Studies

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has prompted government directed restrictions, which will continue to impact your studies. However, we are committed to minimising this impact on students and families.

Whilst you can expect to receive the same high quality of education to which you are accustomed, the way in which you receive education might change further in the coming months, particularly as we move to remote learning.

The school will continue to comply with guidance and directions from government and relevant health authorities, and will also take steps to ensure your physical safety and wellbeing. As a result, virtually all schools in the state of Victoria will move to remote learning for Term 2. The school is putting in place systems and platforms to ensure that education remains as accessible as possible. We are also exploring other methods of delivering education such as online assessments and platforms to interact with your child’s teachers and other students. Again, the success of this program will also depend on your child’s level of cooperation and your child’s attention to the learning demands as set by your teachers.

Remote learning means delivering education through technology and online platforms instead of physically in a classroom. You may remember that in the last week of Term 1 we had trialled the online learning program to test the viability of such a mechanism. As with that trial, in Term 2, you will be able to log onto platforms from home and access education online. We will provide you with further guidance throughout the term.

To ensure a productive and respectful environment online, all students and staff members are expected to comply with the school’s existing policies, procedures and codes of conduct. During school hours and when engaging with school online platforms, you are expected to act as if you were at school. This includes acting respectfully, not engaging in any dangerous, inappropriate or damaging behaviour, and acting consistently with school values.

All students will be provided with a copy of the Online Learning Student Code of Conduct. You are expected to comply with this, as well as existing school policies.

At this stage, assessments for ATAR will continue where possible and we are exploring options to conduct online assessments. Continuity of learning will be a key priority for the school to ensure that you can effectively complete your child’s studies.

The school is working closely with the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority regarding how the ATAR will be formed. Decisions are currently being made about due dates for assessments and how assessments will be conducted. We will continue to keep you updated on any changes. However, please be assured that the school will be ensuring that your child/children are able to complete their studies with as minimal disruption as is possible in these unprecedented times.

At this stage one of the strategies is to get as much of the theory work done at home and consideration will be given to the practical assessments in due course. It may be that the school will allow practical assessments to take place at the school. However, further advice will be provided on this as needed. The school will continue to be guided by advice from the government and education department. If assessments do occur at school, social distancing will be observed and adjustments considered on a case-by-case basis.

Given the necessity to move to remote learning, this will affect all students at the school. All students across the state are also likely to be affected. Therefore, the impact will be uniform across the state.

As it is still early in the year, any special consideration or provision as a result of being affected by remote learning is not yet clear. However, the school will speak with you about this closer to the deadline for applying for special consideration. If you have been affected by COVID-19 or the movement to remote learning to a greater extent than other students, you may be eligible for special consideration or provision and we encourage you to discuss this further with the school later in the year. In these sorts of cases any medical certificates and letters written by medical practitioners will be important.

If possible, we recommend that your child set themself up in an appropriate place in your home to study. Preferably, this would be in a quiet place where you will not be distracted such as at a desk in your room or in a study. If this is not possible, you should be at a table or a desk that is comfortable and if needed, use headphones to avoid distraction from background noise. We recommend that you avoid distractions during school hours such as the TV, your phones or other items that may impede your ability to focus on your studies.

You can communicate with your teachers and other staff members through your email and MyPenola. Please do not ask for or contact any staff members on their personal email, phone number or social media.

Students are not required to wear school uniform however we encourage you to maintain a neat and tidy appearance and to wear comfortable and appropriate clothing to assist your learning.

Given the major health crisis that we are currently dealing with, and for the sake of health and safety for all, students are required to do their learning at home. In Term 2 the school will be open to facilitate the supervision of students who are children of essential and health workers, however, a small number of staff will be on hand to supervise; and no direct teaching will take place. Students who attend will be required to do the work that students at home are doing (which is being coordinated by their normal teachers). The normal practice of social distancing will apply.

No. Penola Catholic College is required to close and move to remote learning, so facilities such as libraries will remain closed.

Students are required to log on to their Class Page in MyPenola and are then required to click on Record Attendance on the right hand side of the page; follow the directions on that page and click submit.

Students are required to remotely attend classes in line with their normal daily timetable as your teacher will be online at that time as well. If students forget to submit their attendance they can submit it when they remember but email the teacher to let them know. Consistent breaches of this will be followed up.

These classes will have an attendance register like other classes. There are mechanisms that allow the teacher to confirm that you have been online and working at the tasks provided. Your subject teachers will give you directions as to how the class will operate as practical classes will differ in operation from those that are theory based.

If you are unwell and unable to complete work or to log on, just email the teacher when you are well enough and let them know. If an important work task was set and due, please ensure that the teacher is notified.

As the VCAA are still determining how this will all work out, more information will be sent to students and families when those details have been confirmed.

Please be mindful that a response from that teacher may not be given directly. There are valid reasons for this. However, if more than one day has elapsed, contact your Year Level Coordinator or a Deputy Principal by email and let them know. They will chase it up for you.

Videoconferencing will commence in most classes at the start of Week 3 of Term 2 i.e. Monday April 27. Videoconferencing will be conducted through Microsoft Teams as it is a more secure environment for our students. Teachers will use their professional judgement and expertise to determine how often videoconferencing will be used within their subject classes. It is important that students read thoroughly the Remote Learning – Student Code of Conduct

2. Extracurricular Activities

The school is committed to continuing to engage with students across the school and student leaders will play an important role in that. The Coordinator of Student Leadership will contact you about this, and we encourage you to speak to her about how you can continue to be a leader during this time.

At this stage, sports and other extracurricular activities are cancelled and in some instances postponed. It is important that students continue to stay active during this time and health / PE classes will continue in the online format. Students can also speak to your sports coaches or health / PE teachers about exercises students can do at home and other ways you can maintain your physical wellbeing.

Work experience/placement will not be taking place in Term 2. You may need to contact the organisation with which you planned to complete your work experience/work placement and discuss this with them. Many organisations are also moving to remote work with their physical offices closing, so they may no longer be able to host you.

Please be mindful of government guidance and regulations in relation to social gatherings, which are changing rapidly. Individuals are not allowed to interact with others that are not their family members and there are significant fines for individuals who breach these directions. We all need to do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 and it is important that you comply with the regulations in place.

We recommend that you continue to connect with your friends online, keeping in mind appropriate behaviour online, including social media. Please ensure you are complying with the Online Learning Student Code of Conduct and other school policies, procedures and codes of conduct.

3. Support and Safety

We understand that this is a challenging time and it is normal to feel a range of complex emotions. We encourage students to speak to theirr parents and family members about this. There are also a range of other external supports available that you can access online or through the phone. Please see section 3 below.

You may also email your teachers, Year Level Coordinators or a college psychologist about support available through the school.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 presents a lot of new challenges that we are all adapting to. It is unclear how long restrictions will be in place. The school will continue to keep you updated on how the school is managing their response to COVID-19.

Cyberbullying, image-based abuse (such as sharing intimate images or sexts without consent) and other inappropriate behaviour is a breach of the school’s code of conduct. If you are experiencing this behaviour, you are encouraged to seek support through the external support services below or through school support services (a teacher or a Year Level Coordinator for support). Students may also wish to refer to the resources available on the eSafety Commissioner’s website.

If students feel unsafe or you are worried about the safety of a friend at any time, there is help and support available. If you feel there is an immediate threat, please call the police on 000. Otherwise, students can contact a teacher, psychologist or staff member whom you feel comfortable speaking with. They can refer students to further support as well.

We also encourage students to access the support services below if needed or refer your friend(s) to them.

4. Support

It is a challenging time at the moment and students or their friends may be feeling overwhelmed.

We recommend that you access the following support services if you need support:

5. Contact Information

If you have any questions about your studies or assessments, please speak with your relevant teachers or your year level coordinator.

If you would like support, you can contact the school psychologists via email.

If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of any other student, please contact your Year level Coordinator.