Posted on April 21, 2020 / Senior College
VCE and IB News
I begin with an apology for what is a lengthy letter, which contains important information for parents of our most senior students. I reach out to you during these very challenging times knowing that some of you will be grappling with difficulties I am not aware of, but also some that I am. As a senior student’s parent, particularly if your child is in Year 12, these are truly uncharted and potentially anxious times. I have been holding off on contacting you in the anticipation that I would have received some concrete communications from VCAA and the IBO. We have had contact, but it has expressed similar uncertainties to those I have previously expressed to you. Both organisations are facing the same landscape as we are, and no doubt feeling a similar inability to confirm a defined course moving into the future.
However, there are some things I can offer as facts, together with some strong indicators.
VCE and IB parents will be understandably focussed on high standard completion of curriculums, on what will happen with Year 12 assessments and on the quality of teaching and learning. To this I would offer the following:
• Teaching time: Tintern students began with or before many or most students in Victoria and were also taught through all of last week, unlike all government students and many other independent school students. We will lose two days in what was Week 1 of next term but will very likely not have a mid-year examination period, or the GAT in Term 2. This will give us additional teaching time then. So, if anything, Tintern students will have been advantaged over many other Victorian students and certainly not penalised in any way.
• Teaching quality: The first 7 weeks of Term 1 was business as usual, with our outstanding teachers doing their outstanding work. In the final week, as I have already said multiple times, no student in Victoria would have been delivered a better teaching and learning offering. Again, if anything, Tintern students will have been advantaged over many other Victorian and Australian students. As we move into Term 2, however that ends up looking, your child will either be advantaged by what will be delivered, or certainly have parity with any other students, whether face to face, or online off-campus.
To VCE parents
• Assessment: VCAA will ensure it will be a totally level playing field for all VCE students, as it must. This is reassuring, but for our students, who have had no delivery or opportunity disadvantage, this just to be taken as read, in my view.
o Examinations – I am close to certain that there will be external examinations at the end of the year. This will be the last thing that VCAA will relinquish.
o Possible modifications to examinations – Exams may be a little later in the year, Unit 4 may be weighted differently to Unit 3, examinations may contribute a different percentage of an overall study score or may be composed differently. We will be absolutely across whichever, if any, of these options are taken up, when we know what it/they might be.
o Unit 3 assessment – I think it is possible that Unit 3 will be assessed primarily on internal SACs which will then be moderated against some combination of the GAT (which will need to be held later than the currently advertised date in Term 2) and possibly external end of year examinations. It is not possible to know how this moderation might occur and I may not be correct. Regardless, it is critical that students focus, progress and assess as well as they can in Unit 3.
Regardless of all of this, VCE students can continue to work hard with confidence that the School will ensure they; have full understanding of what is needed to be done, will be very well prepared and will have the resilience and confidence to “adapt, improvise and overcome” as I believe the US Marines’ slogan is.
To IB Year 1 parents
• Although this is a very unusual year for your children, it is essentially business as usual (clearly with some modifications!) and at this point there are no indications that assessment and completion will be any different to previous IB experiences.
To IB Year 2 parents
Assessment: You will no doubt have heard that the May examination period was cancelled in the northern hemisphere. At this point we have no details on how this will be managed there.
o Examinations – I am extremely confident there will be an examination period for southern hemisphere IB Diploma students in November as usual. Primarily, because it will be possible by them, and also because I expect that all IB students will have access and opportunity with a largely equal experience leading up to the examination period.
o Internal Assessments – these will be very important as they are every year, but if the examinations take place, no more than usual. We are receiving support from the IBO and the Asia-Pacific IBO leadership to ensure that students can complete these to the best of their ability. I have confidence that while there may be some challenges, any barriers to achievement will be fairly and appropriately considered as required.
o EE, TOK and CAS – at this point our understanding is that these will proceed as normal. I can envisage that there may be some modifications if time pressures become significant, but this cannot be anticipated at present. Again, students doing their best in each of them is the key here.
Our 2020 Year 11 and 12 students will work through a period of teaching and learning that will certainly be very different to those of previous years. It will be very much a bonus for them; they will have been forced (along with staff) to accelerate the development of skills attributes and dispositions that will advantage them in the world outside our gates. As always, the new learnings are difficult and uncomfortable, they stretch and challenge us like hard physical training, but we grow and develop precisely because of the stretch and all our students will now be particularly well prepared for post-schooling opportunities, whether in education or the workplace.
The ‘rites of passage’ elements of the final years of school are key blocks of student memory and social connection. In this very moving landscape, we are examining how we can retain as many of these as possible. We will update you on these when we have some certainty, which is not possible now.
The social aspect of school for Year 11 and 12 students is also a foundation of wellbeing and good mental health. The School is looking at how it can retain connections between students, particularly the mentoring and guidance of older to younger students. Our students must also be missing other students intensely. While classes provide some social and mixing opportunities, we recommend the use of Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and similar apps to ensure coffee catch-ups and chat with friends is a part of every students’ day.
Finally, COVID19 will pass. We do not know when, but it will pass. In 6 months we will look back on it as a time of test, growth and challenge, and we will move on with our lives, changed, but whole. You and our senior students also need to know that we will have them back on campus for face to face teaching as soon as we are safely able to do so. We miss them, and many staff have said this since we farewelled them, now nearly two weeks ago. I particularly look forward to sharing the last months of schooling with our Year 12 cohort, a fabulous group of young men and women.