From the Head Master
This week we saw a number of shifts in the COVID-19 restrictions that have implications for the School.
Remote learning to continue
The key issue is that schools in Greater Sydney will remain under Level 4 restrictions for another four weeks; in Trinity’s context, we will be in remote mode until at least the end of Week 7. I suspect that this decision was not surprising for most of us, given the continuing escalation of the situation. Nonetheless, I do not doubt that many hearts sank at the prospect of continuing with the current arrangements. While the overall feedback from the community suggests that remote learning is generally going as well as we could hope, we want it to be over.
Broadly speaking, the current arrangements for remote learning will continue. Supervision of students will be provided onsite for those students who need it. The protocols for remote learning can be accessed from the MyPortal.
Year 12 to sit Trial Examinations
The Premier announced that Year 12 students would be able to return to schools on Monday 16 August (Week 6). Trinity is planning for our Year 12 students to sit their Trial Examinations for both the HSC and IB Diploma in Weeks 6 and 7. At this point, the best advice for the boys is to continue to prepare for the examinations.
The School has a number of concerns and questions raised by the government’s initiatives. We expect that the government will provide clarity over the next two weeks; health advice will come from NSW Health and the education authorities will provide guidance with applying the health advice to schools. An announcement was made by the Premier today with reference to the provision of vaccination for some Year 12 students. We expect further information to be provided with reference to COVID testing for students. When the School is able to provide information as to how the Trial Examinations will be conducted in a COVID-safe way, it will be communicated to the School community.
The School is also awaiting guidance from NESA with reference to the assessment of major works in practical and performance subjects. There will be misadventure provisions for boys whose preparation and completion of major works has been impacted by COVID-related restrictions. Again, the School will communicate about these issues with boys as soon as we are able to do so.
At this point in time we do not have the information to be able to answer questions in a meaningful way. The School leadership is seeking clarification, making our concerns known to the authorities, and planning for a number of scenarios. In the meantime, the boys and teachers should continue to consolidate their learning to the best of their ability.
End of year assessment in the MS/SS
As families are aware, unlike most schools, the academic year for the Middle and Senior Schools at Trinity rolls over at the end of Term 3. There are only a few weeks left of the academic year. The extension of remote mode and the announcement regarding the return of Year 12 has required a significant shuffling of the planned end-of-year assessment programme.
The primary purpose of assessment is to identify where students are at in their learning at a particular point in time. Teachers have been gathering evidence of student learning throughout the remote period and will continue to do so. In Weeks 5 and 6, students in Years 7 to 11 will have a more formal assessment in each of their subjects. These assessments will be designed to be completed within the timetable and in a form that is suitable for the remote mode of learning. Boys will have received information about the timing and nature of these assessments from their teachers.
Lesson-free days for MS/SS
In normal circumstances, the process of assessment and reporting in the second half of Term 3 is very highly tuned, placing very heavy demands on teachers and providing very little margin in due dates. The issue is that we attempt to complete the process of assessing and reporting for all six Year groups in a five week period; most schools manage this process over a period of four and a half months, from August to December. There are a number of reasons why Trinity takes the approach that we do; a key consideration is that Term 4 is deployed much more effectively for learning in this arrangement, rather than being characterised by a long, slow slide into summer holidays. However, it is important for families to understand that the second half of Term 3 is very pressured for teachers of Years 7-12.
One of the ways that the School attempts to meet the demands of this ambitious schedule each year is to provide a student-free day for marking and reporting on the Friday of Week 8 (3 September). You will see this date noted in the Record Book. As we have juggled and shuffled the assessment schedule this year, it has been decided that teachers will need an additional day for marking and reporting. Therefore, Friday 27 August (Week 7) has been gazetted as a lesson-free day for MS/SS students, as well as Friday 3 September (Week 8). Reminders about these days will be provided to boys and families over the next few weeks.
Field Studies Centre and Programme
The extension of the restrictions have prevented the School from resuming the Field Studies Programme (FSP) for Year 9 students as we had planned. The current Public Health Order requires fourteen days of self-isolation for people who leave Greater Sydney. We hope to offer the boys who were scheduled to go on the FSP this term an opportunity to do so, as soon as the Public Health Order allows. It appears that this will not happen prior to the end of August. More information will be provided as and when we are able to do so.
The restrictions will also prevent us from holding the planned Open Day on 14 August, during which we had hoped to formally open the new facilities and give School families the opportunity to explore our campus. We will not be able to conduct an Open Day this term. We are putting together a virtual formal opening of the new classrooms, which will be circulated to the community later in the term; this will include video and photos to help families become familiar with the site.
The School continues to be hopeful that the remaining boys from the Year 9 cohort of 2021 will be able to participate in a Field Studies Programme, before the new iteration of the extended programme commences in Term 4.
As always, I am appreciative of the trust that the parents of the School continue to demonstrate in us. In the changing and fluid landscape, we will continue to try to provide the best communication that we can, without pretending to offer a certainty or clarity that can’t be sustained. We understand the frustrations, tensions and pressures that so many are feeling, as we feel them too, and we remain resolute in our commitment to continue to do the best that we can in their education of the Trinity boys.
Detur gloria soli Deo.
Tim Bowden | Head Master
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