Strange and Difficult Times

We are living through strange and difficult times. The return to remote learning for all students presents challenges for us all but increases the safety of all students and their families. I welcome the move to remote learning as it reduces the chance of transmission of COVID-19 within the school community but also acknowledge that face to face learning is preferable and more effective than remote learning.

I wanted to send a “shout out” to all health care workers.  I know that many are members of the Penola community. We value the work that you are doing to keep us all safe and deal with our health issues. I know our community sends a collective thank you for the difference you are all making!

Year 7 Enrolments 2022

A reminder to all of our existing families that Year 7 enrolments for 2022 close on Friday 9 October. A number of families applied after the close of enrolment last year and it makes it very difficult to accurately plan for the following year so I ask that you submit your enrolment as soon as possible.  Often families assume that we know that there is a younger sibling, but I would be very disappointed if one of our existing families missed out on an enrolment due to not submitting their enrolment in a timely manner.

Mary MacKillop Day

St Mary MacKillop is Australia’s first saint and patron saint of Penola Catholic College.  This year we celebrate St Mary MacKillop Day on Friday 7 August 2020 which is close to the anniversary of Mary’s death on 8 August 1909.  Much has been planned for the day and the day has a different focus given that nearly all students are working remotely.  It provides us with a chance to celebrate our collective Josephite charism and spirit here at Penola.  This is done through a mass at the beginning of the day followed by the prospective 2021 College Captains each having an opportunity to speak with the College community.

I am looking forward to St Mary MacKillop Day and hope that it is both successful and rewarding for all.  A reminder that all students are expected to login and be involved in the activities on the day.  When you sign up for a place at Penola there are a range of different things that you are required to do as a result.  Involvement in whole school activities such as our masses and St Mary MacKillop Day is a non-negotiable.

VCE and VCAL Remote Learning extended

As of the Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews announcement on Sunday 2 August, Years 7-12 students are all learning remotely for the remainder of the term. The criteria for students that can attend on-site has changed as follows:

  • children whose parents are permitted workers. The Victorian Government will provide further advice about this over the coming days
  • vulnerable children in out of home care, children known to child protection and other agencies and children the school identifies as vulnerable
  • children with a disability who also fit one of the above two categories.

The Broadmeadows Campus will reopen on Monday, 3 August but it is limited to the children of essential workers and vulnerable students only. ICT services will be conducted out of the Glenroy campus with 2 staff onsite and others providing support remotely. Years 11 & 12 Homeroom teachers will set up a Microsoft Teams Meeting for Homeroom at 8.35am each day and mark the roll as is currently the case for all Years 7-10 Homerooms.

Family Liaison

Approximately half of our families have indicated that they would like someone from the school to make contact with them throughout this term. This role will be shared amongst teaching staff and support staff this term as many of the support staff have additional responsibilities during this period due to the combination of face to face teaching for VCE & VCAL students and remote learning for Years 7-10 students. Contact will begin this week with the families who responded that they would like contact from the College.

No Blanket Reduction of School Fees

I have had a small number of requests from parents again requesting a blanket reduction in fees for all families during the period of remote learning. This won’t take place as there are unfortunately a number of our families whose financial circumstances have changed dramatically due to the restrictions instituted to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  In a number of situations this has meant a loss of jobs or a significant reduction in hours of employment which obviously places significant stress upon the finances of these families.  I am hoping that all will agree that we need to support these families and, as such, any savings incurred due to remote learning will be used to offset the loss of income for these families. One of the strengths of our Penola Catholic College community has always been the willingness of the community to support the marginalised and disadvantaged families seeking a Catholic education.

I am conscious that the Stage 4 restrictions that have been introduced have shut down many businesses and industries.  As a result, your family’s financial circumstances may be very different to what they have been. Rather than trying to wait it out or simply stopping the payment of school fees, please make contact with the College so that we can support you through this difficult period.  The best person to contact is Ms Lisa Crosbie, our Fees Collection Officer via or alternatively ringing her directly on 03 99089041.

Wellbeing Day – Tuesday 18 August (Student Free)

At our Executive meeting this week we decided to have a wellbeing day on Tuesday 18 August to give both staff and students a reprieve from screens! This will be a mid-term break to allow staff, students and families time to reflect on what they have achieved to date and prepare for what lies ahead. There will be no classes held on this day and it is my intention to shut the school so that all can take a well-earned break. In conversations that I have been having with a number of staff, they have commented on having sore eyes and headaches which they have attributed to the increase in screen time required of them with remote learning. Parents have also made comment about their concerns regarding the amount of time that their son or daughter is spending on their screens. We hope this time provides you with an opportunity to spend quality family time together and a time to relax.

Parent Engagement in Learning

There is a significant amount of research that indicates the greater the level of parent engagement in learning, the better the student results.  Research from John Hattie suggests that when the effect size of effective teachers is complemented with the effect size of engaged parents, the resulting effect size is above 0.8 or two years’ achievement in one.  This suggests that when parents and teachers work together the achievement of all students is greater. Parent participation can be seen as a continuum from involvement to engagement to empowerment.

Our statistics taken from our College website indicate that less than 30% of families open the newsletter every fortnight.  The following strategies are suggested to increase parent engagement.

  1. Authoritative Parenting – a balance between love and warmth and setting boundaries.
  2. Know the value of education – parents model the behaviours of successful lifelong learners to their children
  3. Have high expectations and aspirations – parents hold high expectations for their children, communicate a belief in their potential to achieve and discuss their child’s educational and career aspirations.
  4. Family-led learning in the home – linking schoolwork with current events, discussing learning strategies with your child and making connections between their current effort and achievement of future goals of employment or further study.
  5. Becoming engaged and staying engaged throughout their schooling – regular talk about school and the value of learning throughout schooling, particularly at transition points.
  6. Family-school communication – schooling is relationship based and requires quality two-way communication and meaningful dialogue between home and school.

Effective Ways to Study

With semester 1 reports not far behind us, parents are often asking the best way to assist secondary age students with their study. At times (particularly in years 10-12) the courses are fairly difficult and demanding and parents are not always able to help directly with the content or answers that students are grappling with. However, there are many ways that parents can support students as they prepare for tests and other types of assessment. Perhaps the most helpful is to assist with a structure or method for studying. This ensures that students are not just sitting staring at textbooks or doing their work in front of the TV. One such method is known as the SQ3R method, which stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

Survey – get the best overall picture of what you’re going to study BEFORE you study it in any detail. It’s like looking at a road map before going on a trip.

Question – ask questions for learning. The important things to learn are usually answers to questions. Questions should lead to emphasis on the what, why, how, when, who and where of study content. Ask yourself questions as you read or study. As you answer them, you will help to make sense of the material and remember it more easily because the process will make an impression on you.

Read – Reading is NOT running your eyes over a textbook. When you read, read actively. Read to answer questions you have asked yourself or questions the instructor or author has asked. Always be alert to bold or italicized print. The authors intend that this material receive special emphasis. Also, when you read, be sure to read everything, including tables, graphs and illustrations. Often times tables, graphs and illustrations can convey an idea more powerfully than written text.

Recite – When you recite, you stop reading periodically to recall what you have read. Try to recall main headings, important ideas of concepts presented in bold or italicized type, and what graphs charts or illustrations indicate. Try to develop an overall concept of what you have read in your own words and thoughts and make connections to things that you already know. When you do this periodically, the chances are you will remember much more and be able to recall material for essays and tests.

Review – A review is a survey of what you have covered. It is a review of what you are supposed to accomplish, not what you are going to do. Rereading is an important part of the review process – it helps you to measure what you have learned and gained from your study. The best time to review is when you have just finished studying something. Don’t wait until just before a test or exam to begin the review process.

Is the semester 1 report still in a prominent place and referred to regularly in order to assist with setting semester 2 learning goals? There is significant research to indicate that the higher the level of parent engagement in their child’s learning, the better the outcomes for these students.  I am keen to hear from parents if there are ways that we can assist you in being engaged in the learning process.  If you have any suggestions please contact me via phone or email