I am pleased to be able to present this report on the growth and development of St Pius X Parish School through 2020. The following outline offers a summary of key decisions, events and achievements of the school, that are detailed in the body of this document.
Our school year and this report are coloured by our experience of the COVID 19 pandemic that affected the world in 2020. It is important that I pay tribute to our students, staff and families for the way in which they responded to the challenges that the pandemic posed. While we acknowledge that the danger of this pandemic is not yet passed, 2020 showed that our school community has the flexibility and will to be able to cope with any future interruptions.
One of the major actions from our 2020 Annual Action Plan was professional learning around the philosophy and practices involved in ReLATE. In partnership with MacKillop Education, St John’s Dennington and the Catholic Education Office Ballarat, our school examined our structures, professional mindsets and practices and took on a number of strategies intended to increase positive school relationships and learning environments for both students and staff. Two pupil free days were used as part of the implementation and ongoing support was received from Brendan Murray of MacKillop.
A new role was created in our school with the aim of promoting and providing physical and temporal space for students needing scaffolded assistance with emotional regulation. Adele Webster took this role on and has worked hard to provide immediate support to students, as well as ongoing programmed assistance with the intention of maintaining wellbeing and school engagement. The creation of this role was partly funded though a grant distributed to our school from our local federal member Mr Dan Tehan.
The advent of COVID 19 meant our school community was faced with the reality of students learning at home. Our teachers worked hard to provide learning materials that were accessible to students and their families. Parents and carers created learning hubs in homes and contact with teachers was enabled through video conferencing, phone contact and emails. Whilst this system was honed and streamlined across the two lockdowns, the reality was that remote learning was hard work for all concerned. Our school was acutely aware of the pressures on students as the crisis wore on. We were particularly proud of the effort made to address the needs of vulnerable children and children of essential workers. I thank our hardworking staff who were essentially running two modes of learning, addressing onsite and offsite student needs.
Our scheduled external review was delayed by the pandemic. Rather than push our preparations into 2021, we elected to move ahead, acknowledging that COVID 19 may well be an ongoing interruption. Using video conferencing technology our staff were all involved in discussion, discernment and drafting as we worked to create our self reflection document. Persisting with this task meant we were able to begin the 2021 school year without this added burden, and ready for the visit of the external review panel.
An important action from our Annual Action Plan was the development of professional learning plans for our teaching staff. The purpose of these documents is to plan and document professional learning, and also to set an achievable professional learning goal. All staff participated in an initial meeting in Term 1, but these goals became redundant as our focus shifted to dealing with remote learning. However, I believe that the COVID crisis presented our staff with an amazing opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge that perhaps would never have been accessed if not for the requirements of remote learning. Staff were required to collaborate with each other remotely, lead learning remotely and attend staff meetings and planning remotely. This led to emerging use of video conferencing software, video software among other applications.
Despite the interruptions to the school year, our Numeracy Leader Mick Sully and our Literacy Leader Kate Sewell worked to ensure that actions around student interventions and data analysis were continued and that some staff training in agreed practices was able to take place. However, many of the professional learning goals were transferred to 2021.
Whilst it could not receive the attention it deserved, a historic change took place for the school in December 2020. The governance of the school was signed over from a parish based model to an incorporated body. Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited or DOBCEL will now oversee the running of all Catholic primary schools in the Ballarat Diocese including St Pius X. This change brings with it many benefits such as shared policy creation and management of industrial, risk and safety measures, but also presents the challenge of maintaining relationship with the local parish and ensuring that the Catholic Identity of the school remains visible and relevant.
Alongside the change of governance came the retirement of our Parish Priest Fr Michael Linehan. Fr Michael has been a loved and respected figure in our parish and school for 18 years. His dedication to the spiritual needs of our students, staff and families has been evident in his attention to liturgy, prayer, curriculum and school policy. He has fulfilled his role as school governor with wisdom, sensitivity and care. We wish him the very best in his retirement.
Read more of the 2020 Annual Report by clicking here.