I am pleased to be able to present this report on the growth and development of St Pius X Parish School through 2021. The following outline offers a summary of key decisions, events and achievements of the school, that are detailed in the body of this document.
External School Review
Our 5 yearly school review was completed early in Term Two. The process for this review had actually begun in 2020, with a decision being made to continue as best we could with our preparations, to ensure that reflection and analysis was not overlapping our attempts to start the new school year.
We were joined on April 22 & 23 by our external review panel, Dr Mary Lovelock (lead reviewer), Dr Susan Crowe (CEO), Mr Lee Schlooz (CEO consultant) and Mr Jack Lenaghan (Principal of Sacred Heart, Colac). Throughout the two days the panel worked with a number of focus groups made up of staff, students and parents. The purpose of the focus groups was to gather further data to compliment the report that the staff had generated in preparation for the days.
A report was compiled by Dr Lovelock with her recommendations, which were largely in agreeance with the goals recognised by the school's own self reflection report. The panel were very complimentary of the efforts the school has made in diversifying and broadening the way that we cater for individual needs especially in the area of social / emotional education. They noted the clarity students had about their learning and the relationships they have with their teachers. The panel also made mention of the supportive community which was evident in the conversations with parents.
Learning & Teaching
The school's approach to Learning and Teaching was to make each day on site count, and to be agile in our planning a preparation. Clear intervention structures are in place across the school to support the academic and social-emotional growth of the children in our school. Our Maths coalition led by Mr Mick Sully made the continued development of problem-solving skills a priority, with this team engaging in professional learning though the year and sharing this with our whole staff. Our Literacy team, led by Mrs Kate Sewell, worked to create consistency in our spelling program across the school using the framework of SMART Spelling, and agreed teaching practices. The provision for children with disability continued to be key focus for our school, with the role of Learning Diversity Leader expanded and two staff working in this space. The end of 2021 saw the conclusion of Ms Jenna Osborne's leadership. We thank her for her leadership during the past years, especially during the change to our funding model, which more accurately recognises the needs of specific students, but requires a greater degree of coordination and accountability for the school.
COVID 19 Response
2021 saw another year of school attendance being affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. Our 2021 school structure was specifically adjusted to ensure that extra support was allocated to our junior school. This was an attempt to boost students whose start to school had been marred by remote learning. Combining school resources with government funding, St Pius X ensured our Yr 1/2 cohort was divided into four classes of 17-18 students. This gave scope to more opportunities for these students to be taught in small groups throughout each day in literacy and numeracy. This approach was advocated in research undertaken by Sonneman & Goss on behalf of the Grattan Institute into the effects of COVID on student learning across Australia. The research also suggested low cost / high yield strategies for schools to make up lost learning ground for students.
Despite this planning for on-site provision, student attendance was again affected at various times by the pandemic. What had been a novelty in early 2020 was a source of genuine hardship by Term 3 of 2021. I thank all students, families and staff for persevering through the difficulties of remote learning at these times.
After completing our initial year in the ReLATE framework in partnership with MacKillop Education. it was decided that we would consolidate our year one work, rather than beginning year two. Over the course of the school year the staff engaged in a day of professional learning (remotely), and were supported by the ongoing work of the school's ReLATE school implementation team.
The priorities for this work were the continued implementation of agreed strategies including safety plans, community conversations, zones of regulation and the management of challenging behaviour in the school yard.
St Pius X also welcomed a new pastoral care worker to the school; Belinda Sheen. Belinda replaced Molly Melican who resigned her position in Term One. The school continued to provide 2 days of counselling in partnership with Catholic Care (formerly Centacare). I thank Mrs Sara Graham who has completed her time as Wellbeing leader in our school.
Recognition of Our First Nations People
Over a number of years St Pius X has sought to have a greater acknowledgement of the First People of our district. This desire is sometimes hampered by lack of cultural and historical understandings. Important symbolic actions such as the acknowledgement of country and the
flying of the Aboriginal flag have been important steps, but the school also worked to immerse our staff in local culture during 2021. A successful professional learning day was held online on October 8th, with our staff continuing their learning about the culture of our First People. We are grateful to Mel Steffensen and Uncle Locky Eccles, a mum and grandfather to our school respectively, who engaged our staff with spirituality and story.
This connected beautifully to our afternoon session where we analysed the idea of sacramentality from a Catholic faith perspective with Jim Waight. There were many complimentary links that were able to be made.
The school has purchased a new resource that will allow more links to be made across the curriculum to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in an ongoing manner, rather than these concepts being covered in isolation.
Ms Stacey Atkins
Finally, I note the secondment of Ms Stacey Atkins to St Colman's in Mortlake for the 2022 school year. Stacey has been our Deputy Principal since 2017 demonstrating high levels of pedagogical practice, curriculum leadership and relational links within our community. The opportunity to act as principal at St Colman's is recognition of Stacey's standing in the local Catholic education community. We look forward to her rejoining our staff team in 2023.
Read more of the 2021 Annual Report by clicking here.