Deputy Headmaster and Head of Preparatory School

Mr Jeff Symms

All back on track from Monday!

Monday the 25th of May will see all boys welcomed back to school and I’m sure we are all pleased to see the day finally arrive.  Australia has done an incredible job of managing its COVID-19 infection rate, no doubt helped by our geographical isolation, but also by a population that while some would say enjoys a reputation for larrikinism, has proven to be socially responsible and community spirited when it has counted the most.  I genuinely thank the TSS parent community for working with us so well during this time in keeping their sons at home where possible and observing our requests if their son was attending school, to remain off campus and make use of the drop and go zones in the morning and afternoons.

While school will return to almost normal for all boys next week, there will still be some arrangements in place due to COVID-19:-

All classes have access to hand santiser and disinfectant wipes.  Extra cleaning of high touch areas is occurring as is extra cleaning of all common areas. Teachers will continue to remind boys of hygiene practices and social distancing will be observed, as practical, within a school environment.

Other things to note:-

  1. Parents should not walk onto campus unless visiting the school office.  We are required to keep adults on campus to a minimum, so please farewell your son at the drop and go zones in the car park in the morning and greet him there in the afternoon. Parents should not walk their boys to or from their classroom and of an afternoon should not wait outside classrooms.
  2. School sport will not resume immediately.  Sports training and fixtures will be reintroduced in a stages when considered safe and appropriate.  Information will be disseminated to parents through the sports folder on Prepbook and in other Prepbook notices.
  3. Music ensembles will not resume immediately.  Depending on the nature of the activity, ensembles will resume as appropriate.  Information will be disseminated to parents through the music folder on Prepbook and in other Prepbook notices.
  4. We will advise parents regarding the way in which parent-teacher interviews will be conducted closer to the date.  This will depend on social distancing requirements.
  5. Canteen will be open for ordered lunches through Flexischools.  To begin with there will not be any over the counter sales for boys at break times.
  6. Most school excursions, camps, tours and incursions have been cancelled for the remainder of the term.   Those planned for Term 3 will be subject to the prevailing health advice and parents will be advised of their viability as each approaches.

Some boys have elected to bring their own hand wipes to use before and after lunch.  Liquid sanitser is not the best option for boys to use as the dispensing of it often is difficult for them to manage.  Disinfectant hand wipes are a better option if you wish for him to have his own.

Please ensure that your son returns all of his learning materials and resources to school on Monday:- books, pencils, musical instruments and so on may be needed from day one and he will be inconvenienced if his needed materials are at home.

Hair Cuts

Please ensure that this weekend the boys get to the barber in order to get their hair ‘school ready’.   Boys hair is too long if the fringe reaches his eyebrows,  hair covers his ears or sits over his collar at the back.  Also remember, no trax cut into hair or hair colour is permitted.

I appreciate you helping maintain our uniform standards.

Thought for the week

Now that school is almost back for everyone and mums and dads are running out of steam, I thought this might sum up how many are feeling:-

Car Parks

As mentioned in last week’s newsletter we have been monitoring the car parks in the afternoon.  As no after school activities are being undertaken at the moment, all boys will be leaving school at the same time.

Our experience was that the first few days when Reception and Year 1 came back to school were challenging – with long queues to access the Cribb pick up zone.  And while, as the days have gone by, there are still a lot of vehicles to get through the gate, things have settled well and all boys are collected and on their way home within 15 minutes.

This success has been the result of parents helping us by making good decisions around their pickup routines:-

  1. Not arriving way too early for the end of day pick up.  There is no need, nor advantage, in arriving 30-15 minutes too early for pick up time.  Cars can not start moving until after the boys are released from school and so to arrive too early, simply means a long wait in the car park, or out on the street impeding other traffic.
  2. Self-staggering arrival times.  The boys at all school pick up zones are supervised by staff for 30 minutes after the end of the school day.  Those parents who are making the wise decision to delay their arrival until 15 minutes after school has finished generally drive straight in and then straight out.
  3. Remaining in their car rather than getting out to help. This speeds up the process.
  4. Displaying patience and courtesy towards others.   Everything seems to run more smoothly when approached with a positive mind set.

Next week when the boys in Years 2-6 return the Jordan carpark will face the same challenges.  If parents follow the following suggestions, whilst it will be busy, it should also be manageable.

  1. Do not arrive too early.  Doing so creates traffic jams in Lupus Street making it difficult for the parents picking up at Cribb to access their car park.  Please don’t arrive until 3.20/3.30pm.
  2. Only enter via Lupus Street if you are using the pick up zone.
  3. Only enter via Brolga Avenue if you are going to park your car.  Drivers who enter via Brolga Street must not attempt to cross over to the pick up zone as this creates a bottle neck and slows everything down.
  4. Delay your arrival to create a staggered pick up time.  Don’t arrive until 3.45/50pm.  You will drive straight in and then straight out if you delay arrival until later.
  5. Don’t get out of your car.
  6. Don’t leave your car to meet your son at his classroom or along the pathways leading to the car park.  This helps us with social distancing (adults should not be on campus), but also keeps traffic flowing.

Remember:-  the car park at pick up time will be busier than normal.  But, it is important to remember that during the normal pre COVID-19 time, Friday afternoons are an example of when all boys leave at the same time as there are generally no activities rostered on for after school.  The car park works well on Fridays, so there is no reason to believe that, with planning, it won’t work well on Monday – Thursday also.

I have every faith that parents will make the arrangements for pickup that work best for them and their son, which will help us avoid having to inconvenience families by changing start and finish times to the school day, which other schools have been forced into doing.  I really want to ensure that upon their return, the boys receive a full day of school, in order to provide them and their teachers with as much class time as possible.

We will monitor the situation over the week May 25th – May 29th and then make some decisions about whether or not adjustments need to be made to our pick up arrangements.

The link between Handwriting and broader literacy skills

Over this last few months, our boys have been having too much screen time.  With lessons on line, family catchups via Zoom or Skype and then free time being video games or TV – our children will have been exceeding the recommended daily screen time allowance.  While there has not really been much choice, a return to school brings amongst its many benefits the opportunity to learn and engage with content away from screens.

The boys will talk, build in groups, play educational games, play instruments, engage in PE, create in LegoRobotics and write.

I wrote in a previous newsletter about how much everyone has learned about the uses of technology due to the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 lockdown, and while I acknowledged the opportunities that it brings to enhance many aspects of learning, I also mentioned that this period has exposed technologies greatest weakness – the loss of the human element.  No amount of streamed learning fully replicates or replaces the benefits of face to face interaction.

I would add to this and say that another of the limitations of current technology and how it is used is the move away from traditional handwriting.  Whilst many laptops are now equipped with software and stylises which replicate the paper and pencil experience, I don’t believe they are widely utilised with keyboards and typing skills being the default mode for most written tasks.

This is not such a good thing.

The increasing shift to paperless schools could have a real negative impact on student literacy, according to a new study which shows crucial links between handwriting and other literacy skills.

The study was conducted at Monash University by Dr Anabela Malpique and the University of Canberra’s Associate  Professor Deborah Pino-Pasternak.  They investigated the link among young children and found that handwriting automaticity, or fluency, predicted writing quality and reading skills a year later.  They warn that the move towards paperless schools does not have strong research support.

A growing body of research points to specific cognitive benefits of handwriting, particularly during early childhood years of schooling.  These include brain development, working memory, translation of thought-to-page and overall writing quality and production.

While it may be tempting to dismiss the importance of handwriting as simply cosmetic, handwriting in fact underpins many higher functions of writing.

The study highlights that poor handwriting automaticity:-

  1. hinders vocabulary selection
  2. hinders revision of work
  3. affects motivation – poorer hand writers are reluctant to engage in written activities.
  4. generally leads to lesser academic success.

At a time when many schools tout their move away from paper and pencils to a digital-only environment, research is telling us that this is counter productive to overall learning.  Some schools have moved to only 30 minutes per week of explicit handwriting instruction in their early years which is insufficient for handwriting to become automatic and therefore supportive of wider literacy learning.

2021 Enrolments

Demand for places at TSS Preparatory remain high and interviews for places in 2021 are well underway.

Interviews and offers are well advanced for Preschool and Reception and so I advise parents that if they have a younger son for entry into either of these two year levels, applications should be lodged with the School as soon as possible, as available vacancies are offered to boys primarily based upon the date of their application being submitted.

Full time places in particular are very popular in the Preschool and demand always outstrips the available number of places.

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