From the Head Master

From the Head Master

It has been an eventful week in the life of the School, particularly for those staff and students on the Summer Hill campus. Monday was the first day, in the memory of our longest-serving staff, on which students were sent home en masse unexpectedly.

The issue that we encountered was an electrical short in Hansen Yuncken’s worksite between the Science and TAS buildings. This electrical fault and some associated damage to the local substation caused the School to lose power to a number of areas in the School. Science, TAS, Visual Arts, New School, the Quadrangle building, the Sports Centre and the Oval #2 carpark all went dark about an hour after school started. As you can imagine, this posed us with something of a challenge!

When it became apparent that the power would not be restored quickly, senior staff developed and carried out a plan to send the students in Years 10 and 11 home with parental permission, and to re-room classes for Years 7-9. Whilst it is relatively easy to summarise, this was a complex task, relying on our digital communications systems, the adaptability of staff, and the responsibility of senior students. Parental capacity to adapt to the situation was also crucial, particularly with reference to travel and pick-up arrangements.

Late in the afternoon, when we were advised that Ausgrid would repair the substation in the evening but that we could not be confident that the School’s systems would be fully functional and safe in the morning, we took the decision to pivot to a day of remote learning on Tuesday for Years 7 to 11. As the Junior School was not affected by the outage, it was possible for these staff and students to operate as usual.

The general feedback from boys and teachers is that remote learning on Tuesday ran smoothly; the systems and protocols developed during the lockdowns served us very well in this new situation. We were particularly impressed with how well the Year 7 students were able to adapt. This is not to say that there were no issues, but it is to note that we have a shared capacity that we did not have in 2019. As I reflected to the MS/SS boys on Wednesday, the key determinant was actually their stance to their learning; that is, did they attempt to evade or dodge it, or did they lean into it. Did they look for excuses, or did they attempt to overcome challenges. Their approach on Tuesday may well have revealed something about themselves more broadly.

There were a number of valuable points of learning for us emerging from the experience.

The first is to reinforce the importance of our communication channels. Over the past couple of years, the School has been refining its communication practices with the intention of streamlining and making communication from the School to the home more efficient and effective. Whilst this work is still underway, with the remaining major element due for implementation at the start of 2023, the School app is a crucial piece of this digital ecosystem. The School uses the app to send out time-critical push notifications, such as Monday’s information about dismissing Year 10 and 11 students early and the pivot to remote learning on Tuesday.

It has become apparent that not all of our families have set up the app to receive these notifications. Information about how to do so can be found at this location I also spoke to the boys on quad this week, encouraging them to provide any necessary tech support to their parents if that should be necessary! If you are experiencing any problems with the app, I urge you to lodge a support request with our ICT Help Desk; instructions for doing so are on the page linked above.

In debriefing the situation, I recognise that there is merit in a ‘belt and braces’ approach to communications in situations like this one. However, I also note that flooding multiple communications channels with this sort of information does not bring to light the issue of non-use of the app, or problems with the function of the app. If the app is causing you difficulties, please let the ICT Help Desk know so that we can seek solutions with you.

A second takeaway for us was the importance of having set up Bishop Chambers House as an examination centre, away from any disruptions associated with the Renewal Project. Whilst we have every expectation that this will prove to have been an isolated incident, it is good for us to have confidence that high-stakes examinations will not be disrupted by events of this sort. You can read about and watch a video on our new examination centre here.

The third thing that we learned was the resilience and adaptability that we can expect from our community. Our experiences with COVID over the last few years have helped us to see that we can cope with disruption as and when it comes. Whilst undoubtedly inconvenient, stressful and annoying, the events earlier this week were not catastrophic. By going through this difficult experience, we are better equipped – corporately and individually – to manage the next challenges that come.

Detur gloria soli Deo

Tim Bowden | Head Master

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