Covid 19 Principal's Update - 9 April

Good afternoon to members of the Hutt Valley High School community. I hope this message finds you well. 

This message is to provide an overview of the next few days, from the perspective of the teaching and learning at the school. 

The amended holidays end after the Easter break, with school lessons officially resuming on Wednesday 15 April. I am told that staff have fielded a couple of queries about whether students are expected at school next week. Absolutely not. The country remains in Lockdown and all schools are closed, including schools’ grounds. Next week we begin distance learning, with students working from home. 

This afternoon, a guidelines sheet Student guide - working from home will be sent out to all students, as well as being posted on the website. It contains the basic instructions for students to access their work programmes. Those programmes are delivered through Google Classroom. We have already asked students to log on and check there are no problems with that. It is already clear that some students have not accessed Classroom, and it would be helpful if they did that before next Wednesday, so they are ready to do their work.

Staff are in the process of contacting students and setting up material for study. Both our own and others’ experiences make clear that working from home has to accommodate the realities of the household and who is in it. The Prime Minister has made clear that this is not about expecting parents/caregivers to act as teachers; the teachers provide the learning as usual. It is helpful, of course, for those at home to offer encouragement and reinforcement of the need to develop a routine.  

During recent days, the Ministry of Education asked schools to provide details of students who have no internet access at home, who have no device to use for study, or who were having to share a device with siblings and/or whanau. We have provided that material, using the feedback from the survey we sent out. The Ministry say, “We will reach students and ākonga and households in waves, with an initial focus on connecting students and ākonga in senior secondary school working towards NCEA – to minimise disruption for those working towards a qualification – and on those with greatest need due to disadvantage. The first devices and modems are being dispatched this week.” 

The Ministry will also have two television channels operating next week to provide Home Learning TV | Papa Kāinga TV, on TVNZ, which will run from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm on school days on TVNZ2+1 and Sky channel 502. Some lessons will also be available on TVNZ On Demand. This is likely to be material aimed at the non-NCEA level of secondary education, apart from the Te Reo material which will have wider suitability. 

The MOE say that “the programmes on Māori Television are for reo Māori learners of all ages, with a focus on those who are aged 0-18, covering ākonga in kōhungahunga (early learning), kura tuatahi (primary) and wharekura (secondary).”

While the television support will be available and useful, students should focus on the set work on Google Classroom.  

Prior to the Lockdown, we were due to provide Attitude to Learning reports, and we have eased the date when these are due, in order to look after staff wellbeing. Families will understand, I hope, that term one’s loss of IT service for a little over a week, followed by the Lockdown, have conspired to create a delay in getting through those reports. 

I want to thank our host families for international students studying at the school. Clearly, this is an anxious time for the students as they deal with being a long way from home and they are naturally concerned about their families’ health. International Department staff have been in contact with them and with host families during the Lockdown and the students report that they are being well looked after. That’s great to hear.

Our guidance staff have also been working hard. They are in touch with several students who just need a little support to deal with these unnerving times. They have also been able to help sixteen of our families whose “givens” have been in upheaval following the Lockdown. Guidance staff have been able to connect families with the appropriate agencies, or in some cases offer direct help. Thank you, too, to the families that have provided help to offer additional support. If you are aware of any of our families or students being under particular pressure, please let Guidance know so that we can help. 

Thank you also to our deans, Heads of Learning Areas and senior staff for the work they have been doing, including attending a series of virtual meetings during their “holidays”. These are unusual times, and the staff focus on monitoring and reporting on students’ circumstances has been heartening to see. Our school values say “we are kind; we are welcoming; we persevere and we achieve” and that is very much the driving impulse as we work to ensure the wellbeing of our students. 

Best wishes for the start of term two, next Wednesday.

Ross Sinclair