Education Partner News – Term 4

Welcome to Ardoch’s Education Partner newsletter.

There is no doubt that 2020 will go down as one of the more challenging years in many of our lives, whether it is due to the devastation of being personally impacted by the loss or illness of a loved one, the  loss or reduction of employment and income, the loss of social connection as a result of extended and restrictive lockdown measures, or simply the feelings of disappointment that arises when highly anticipated plans or key milestone celebrations are cancelled or deferred.

On the flipside we have seen remarkable examples of indomitable community spirit and adaptability. When I think about the impact of COVID-19 on educators, especially those in Victoria, the word ‘adaptable’ is indeed the adjective that comes to mind. It was sobering to hear one of you say to me,

‘In 40 years as an educator I’ve never experienced a term at school without the kids’.

Through their efforts to modify planned curriculum activities to suit a remote learning environment, educators around the country have shown enormous flexibility and outstanding commitment to their students. In some cases they have driven to student’s homes to drop off books and other learning materials, and developed their own skills and confidence in using multiple technology platforms and software tools so that they can continue provide engaging learning experiences for their students. Perhaps this commitment is none more so than in the communities you work in.

If it can be said that there are any positives to emerge from such a challenging period it is that I think the whole community, including parents and students themselves, has gained a fresh appreciation for the importance of the school environment and the critical role that educators play, directly and indirectly, in all our lives.

I am pleased to share with you all that through this challenging period the Ardoch team has not rested on its laurels. Indeed, we have some fine examples of adapting our programs to suit our times. Your own roles in helping us to do this cannot be underestimated. Your willingness to pilot some of our offerings, provide feedback and offer encouragement spurs us on.

It is lovely when we receive feedback from an education partner that you are proud to have Ardoch as a partner, but that pride is reciprocal.  It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with such a committed group of educators who together enable us to make a contribution to achieving positive educational outcomes for children and young people living in communities experiencing disadvantage.

Ardoch program adaptation

Since the start of Term 2, by virtue of necessity, we’ve successively looked at each of our programs. We’ve prioritised those that we felt could be more readily adapted to a virtual environment, to enable us to continue to offer our education partners meaningful engagement and learning opportunities for your students.

Some of these will have long-term benefits, either by offering Ardoch increased efficiency and/or as complements to in-person experiences when non-essential external personnel can again attend schools and early years services.

Here are just a few examples:

Education Volunteers Program – we moved all our training to a virtual setting from late March. The feedback from volunteers has been great and it has increased our ability to offer more timely sessions. It has also enabled us to attract additional speakers to run professional development sessions for volunteers, and volunteer attendance has increased triple-fold. This program is available to all education partners – primary, secondary and the early years.

Speed Careers Program – a curated series of 10 virtual interviews conducted by students with volunteers from a range of industries and professions discussing their jobs and career pathways. The video series is accompanied by a lesson plan to support educators to build this offering into their curriculum and target student learning outcomes. This program is available to primary and secondary partners.

Literacy Buddies® and Numeracy Buddies Program – our flagship workplace volunteering programs have had various challenges arising from the inability to exchange hard copy letters, changes in some of our workplace partners that has limited their capacity to participate this year, and of course the challenges associated with a remote learning environment. We have, however, been delighted with the willingness of our education volunteers to form ‘virtual’ workplaces and write letters to students while they have been unable to physically attend classrooms. In addition, our virtual visits in lieu of school or workplace visits have been a big hit! Despite not meeting in-person, the interest and engagement from little buddies and big buddies alike has been palpable. It clearly highlights how important external connection is, even if it is in an imperfect setting.

If you had any doubt that a letter-exchange program could generate genuine enthusiasm for students or that big buddies would be less engaged without the visits being face-to-face, these notes we received suggest you should doubt no more!

‘Just touching base to see what date we can expect a reply from the students’ Police Buddies. We’re on a meeting right now and that’s all they’re asking about’  – Teacher, Ardoch partner primary school, Melbourne

‘Thanks for coordinating a fabulous workplace visit, given the circumstances. I have received lots of positive feedback from our Big Buddies who thought the visit went really well’ – Workplace Coordinator, Ardoch corporate partner

Ardoch (virtual) Broadening Horizons Program bookings – Term 4

We are pleased to have partnered with a number of third parties in order to continue to offer a range of incursions/excursions across our Broadening Horizons Cultural, STEM and Social Wellbeing Programs in virtual form.

If you haven’t yet booked into our available offerings or want to know more please see the below links to the available offerings in Victoria and New South Wales and reach out to your designated Ardoch contact to learn more.  If you are unsure of who to contact, please contact Programs Manager – Place-based, Joe Reed by emailing joe.reed@ardoch.org.au

Social skills and cyber-safety focus: Project Rockit

Indigenous cultural awareness: Didgeridoo Australia

STEM virtual excursions: Wildlife Xposure

Ardoch Speed Careers and Mock Interviews

Depending on the particular incursion/excursion and our available funding, these programs are accessible to partner early years services and primary and secondary schools.

The following programs are freely available and you can book these directly:

NGV

The Zoo – meet the animals

Piloting an Education Volunteers Program for the future

In recognition that a ‘COVID normal’ may never be the same as the ‘normal’ we were used to, we are using this opportunity to pilot a virtual version of our Education Volunteers program in which trained Ardoch volunteers would ‘zoom in’ to the classroom at their matched partner primary school to provide literacy support in a virtual setting. Considerations of child safety and risk management are paramount and with their active collaboration in the program design we will be piloting a Virtual Education Volunteers Program in two of our partner primary schools in Term 4, including the development of an e-safety policy and risk management plan.  Our review of the pilot will inform the extent to which this is feasible to develop further in 2021.

Update on School Capacity Framework project  

This project which I shared in our Term 2 newsletter has been delayed due to the effects of COVID-19 and a recognition that most of you would likely have limited capacity to participate and similarly, our pro bono partner ORIMA Research have also been equally busy adapting some of their delivery.

We are however keen to recommence this so we will be sending an invitation inviting your participation. Thanks in advance for considering it.  In the meantime, if you would like to know more about this project of volunteer for your school to provide input to the development process, we would be delighted to hear from you.  Please contact kylee.bates@ardoch.org.au

$45,000 Teaching Fellowship open to Australia’s teachers and school leaders

The Teaching Awards, an initiative Schools Plus runs in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank, celebrate great teaching and leadership in schools across Australia, recognising those who innovate, inspire and create change for their students.

The selected 12 outstanding educators will each receive a $45,000 Teaching Fellowship, which includes $10,000 to support their professional development, $25,000 for a major school project, and a group visit to a high-performing education system.

Applications for the Awards are open from 14 September 2020 – 16 October 2020.

To learn more or apply go to teachingawards.com.au.

Testimonials

We love hearing great feedback about our programs and we hope many more students will have the opportunity to participate in Project Rockit this year.

‘Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the Project Rockit webinar this morning. It was perfect for the students, especially the Year 6 students. We would like to have the opportunity to re-show the webinar once the older students return to on site learning at school. With such a vital message, we believe all students should have the opportunity to see it.’, Teacher, Ardoch partner primary school with feedback on our Broadening Horizons (Social and Wellbeing) incursion with Project Rockit.

We would love to hear your feedback on the newsletter so feel free to send this to ceo@ardoch.org.au