Lord, we thank you for the freedoms we enjoy today as Australians, the freedom to learn about our past and to recognise our successes and our failures as a nation. We thank you for those who have fought for our country.
Lord, we ask you to bring peace to the world, that peoples of all religions may learn to accept each other as humans, to recognise the common areas of our humanity and not to focus on the differences between us. We ask this in your name.
We pray for the leaders of our world’s governments. We pray that their hearts and minds may focus on the need for peace and that they will make just decisions for the world’s peoples and that they will not be led by self-interest.
We pray for those who serve in our armed forces. We ask that you keep them safe and help them to do the job they do with compassion and dignity. At this moment we pray for the families of Australian servicemen who have been killed or injured on active service in Afghanistan. And we ask also for your blessing and healing hand on those who, having served our country, now find their world is full of nightmares, trauma, ill health and other mental and physical ailments.
God of love and beauty, we bring our thanks today for the peace and security we enjoy. We remember those who in times of war faithfully serve their country. We pray for families and for ourselves whose freedom was won at such a cost. Make us people zealous for peace.
St Brigid, pray for us.
(Prayer offered at Wednesday’s Anzac Assembly)
Welcome to Term 2 and what is arguably the start of winter. With the beauty of sunny days still lingering, it is hard to imagine winter coming. I think we had only one or two days of cool weather to tease us into thinking summer was over but we are not succumbing. The sun shines and the new school term reflects the optimism that comes with beautiful autumn days. There is an old Australian poem, “Said Hanrahan”, written by the Australian bush poet John O’Brien, the pen name of Catholic priest, Patrick Joseph Hartigan. The poem was first published in 1921 in the anthology Around the Boree Log and Other Verses. The poem begins with a gathering of country folk before Mass one Sunday morning complaining of the longevity of the drought. Hanrahan, the local pessimist, leads the discussion.
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan
In accents most forlorn
Outside the church ere Mass began
One frosty Sunday morn.
And so around the chorus ran
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.
Eventually, the rains come and the drought is lifted.
And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.
And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.
But Hanrahan, true to form, bemoans the threat of imminent flood!
And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”
The rains stop and the countryside blooms. The consequent harvest promises prosperity but Hanrahan, never to be beaten, warns
“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”
Now, before you wonder where I am headed with this nostalgic trip down memory lane, the poem serves to remind us of the value of being positive. On Tuesday of this week, the whole staff at Brigidine were engaged in workshops on positive psychology, the wellbeing framework that governs how we approach enabling students to flourish and prosper. Dr Toni Noble, Adjunct Professor in Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University, spoke to the staff on both student and staff wellbeing. “Positive Education creates an educational environment in which all members of the school community can succeed and prosper by integrating the core principles of Positive Psychology with the evidence-informed structures, practices and programs that enhance both wellbeing and academic achievement.” (Noble & McGrath, 2015; 2016)
We have been drawing on this framework of Positive Psychology since 2013. It comes from Dr Martin Seligman’s challenge to traditional psychology when he was elected to the role of President of the American Psychological Association in 1998. He stated that the past hundred years in the evolution of psychology had been to acknowledge mental illness, then hopefully diagnose and cure it. His philosophy was to address wellbeing in a way that gave people the skills to build mental fitness so that their mood is mostly positive, they understand and use their strengths, they develop and sustain positive relationships with others, they are confident about their ability to learn and succeed and they learn how to cope with setbacks across a range of situations.
The workshops began with a presentation by the two College Psychologists on the statistics, both national and at school level, on the mental health of young people, the increasing incidence of wellbeing issues and the ways in which students present that they are at risk so that teachers and carers may identify and intervene early before the risks escalate.
As a community that cares about the wellbeing of young people, we need to focus on the ways in which we can help our girls bounce back. Dr Noble used an acronym which I recommend to all to help keep us grounded in reality:
Bad times don’t last. Things always get better. Stay optimistic.
Other people can help if you talk to them. Get a reality check.
Unhelpful thinking makes you feel more upset. Think again.
Nobody is perfect – not you and not others.
Concentrate on the positives (no matter how small) and use laughter.
Everybody experiences sadness, changes, hurt, failure, rejection and setbacks sometimes. It’s normal. Try not to personalise them.
Blame fairly – how much of what happened was because of you, others or bad luck or circumstances?
Accept the things you can’t change (but try to change what you can first).
Catastrophising exaggerates your worries. Don’t believe the worst possible picture.
Keep things in perspective. It’s only one part of your life and doesn’t have to spoil everything else.
Life will rarely be perfect and not always on an incline. Rather, it is a series of ups and downs, a rollercoaster ride where we need to understand that every ‘down’ can be succeeded by an ‘up’, that we can build our capacity to bounce back. Otherwise, we seriously risk living the life of Hanrahan, believing that we’ll all be rooned.
At the start of Term 2 we will be checking that ALL students have the correct uniform for the two winter terms. Please ensure your daughter has her uniform prepared and ready for the start of the term. Thank you for your support of this matter.
The Guiding Principles for the wearing of our uniform are that the uniform covers all aspects of College life including items like bags, accessories and sports apparel. Dress standards are maintained that promote modesty and a consistency among all students. Students are supported and encouraged to wear their uniform well in all situations. Uniform standards also cover areas involving personal grooming, jewellery wearing and hair presentation.
N.B. The wearing of grey ankle socks is permitted only on medical grounds – a medical certificate for a legitimate skin condition or medical concern must be provided each year to the Year Coordinator. Students have the option of wearing cotton stockings as well.
You must always wear your blazer with your winter uniform to and from school - you may wear your jumper underneath it.
You must always wear your blazer when representing the College e.g. at debates, excursions (unless sport uniform is specified), on formal occasions e.g. speaking at Assembly, attending public events, receiving visitors to the College or if you are required to report to the Principal’s Office.
Assistant Principal Pastoral
When talking about student ‘flourishing’ at Brigidine we often focus on student health and the importance of relationships. These are essential elements but are only two aspects among six factors that all contribute to student wellbeing and a positive outlook on life.
Coming to the end of Term 1 we can see that Positive Engagement and Positive Accomplishment have been important elements in the success of a number of students who can look back on the term with a sense of pride in all they have achieved.
Positive Engagement is about students getting into ‘flow’, an optimal zone where they are challenged with a task or situation that is not too easy or too hard, but just ahead of their capacity so that they are driven to explore it further and push themselves. Many students have taken the opportunity to try something new and be involved in a new club or sport, have put their hand up for leadership of their Mentor group or even taken on the challenge of an activity on camp like abseiling, the vertical challenge, rock climbing, canoeing or the giant swing. In classes our students are challenged by their teachers with critical and creative thinking and engaged in many practical lessons where the whole self is engaged in the lesson and in ‘flow’.
Positive Accomplishment is a focus on the steps taken to attain success and not just on the success itself. The College Musical is a clear example of this aspect. Staff and students work diligently over many hours and days to rehearse and refine their performance. They all take on their part of the show and whether they are supporting the cast backstage, being musicians, or being a member of the cast themselves, they all contribute their time and effort to the whole production. The sense of accomplishment comes with the final performances and the accolades they receive for such hard work and sustained effort over two terms. The quality and brilliance of the 2016 production of The Sound of Music was testament to this dedication from the staff and students involved. All who attended were stunned by the talent of the students on display and the high quality of the whole production.
In the area of sport in Term 1 the improvement in performance in both softball and tennis has been clearly evident. Students are responding to quality coaching and training hard to improve their skills. The number of teams in finals last week is a direct result of this improved approach to preparation. Improvement too is evident in debating and public speaking with more students winning debates through thoughtful argument and improving their skills in speaking and public performance. This is all Positive Accomplishment.
As we end Term 1 2016 it is important that all students take some time to reflect. A short time taken with their parents or carers to discuss things will help them reflect on their own effort and learn from their experience. You can find the right time to discuss how they have approached their studies, whether they are finding the right balance with all their activities, or do they need to be more active or involved in things that enable them to be a part of something beyond themselves and to make their own contribution. Holidays give us time for this space and to be mindful of what we need to do to be our best self.
Being at school and being happy can often be about a sense of accomplishment and a positive engagement in learning and life. Through taking a positive approach and taking on the gift and blessing of an education, our girls can thrive and flourish and look back happily on their own achievements as part of a team or group attaining success.
I wish everyone a safe and restful holiday break and that they return to a busy Term 2 with a positive energy to engage and to thrive in their learning and life at Brigidine.
Assistant Principal Pastoral
A recent joint release from the Premier’s Department signed off by the Department of Education, the Catholic Education Commission and the Association of Independent Schools arrived on the future of NAPLAN:
PREMIER’S PRIORITIES FOR LITERACY AND NUMERACY AND NAPLAN ONLINE
We write to update you on the Premier’s new priorities for NSW and our participation in NAPLAN Online.
PREMIER’S PRIORITIES FOR LITERACY AND NUMERACY
Last year the Premier released NSW: Making it happen - his 30 priorities for improving NSW, which include 12 Premier’s Priorities and 18 State Priorities. See https://www.nsw.gov.au/making-it-happen
One of the 12 Premier’s Priorities is to raise the percentage of all students in the top two bands in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) by 8% by 2019. One of the 18 State Priorities is to increase the proportion of Aboriginal students in the top two NAPLAN bands for reading and numeracy by 30% by 2019.
These targets reflect the importance of literacy and numeracy skills as the foundations for success in schooling. We know from our research – and you know from your experience in schools – that students with strong literacy and numeracy skills stay at school longer and complete their HSC, setting them up for a pathway to further study or work.
NSW schools have always had a core focus on literacy and numeracy development. To ensure we maintain this focus and do all we can to achieve these targets, we expect that every NSW school will have in place strategies to improve student literacy and numeracy outcomes and report progress to their school communities.
MOVING NAPLAN ONLINE
Commonwealth, State and Territory Education Ministers have agreed that the annual NAPLAN tests will move from pen and paper to online testing from 2017, with full participation by all Australian schools by 2019. The three school sectors in NSW have agreed that all NSW schools will transition together and an opt-in date will be confirmed by the NSW Minister for Education in 2016.
Research and trialling by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) suggests that moving NAPLAN online will have a wide range of benefits for students and teachers, including:
Reduced time between testing and reporting - faster turnaround of results for parents and teachers and more accurate assessment of each child’s strengths and areas for development
Tailored test design - this approach will provide targeting of questions to student ability and will improve the precision of assessment for all students.
Some NSW schools will be approached by ACARA to participate in ongoing development, trialling and testing throughout 2016 to ensure that the move to NAPLAN online will be a success for all.
In addition, all schools will be encouraged to access an online trial assessment in Term 3, to help teachers and students familiarise themselves with the online environment. Schools will be required to meet the necessary technical requirements for online testing, including the provision of suitable devices with minimum specifications, by the beginning of 2018. Students will take NAPLAN tests on computers, laptops and portable tablet devices, and the most current requirements for these devices can be found on ACARA’s website.
Recently I had the honour of attending the final day of the Year 11 Street Retreat and the itinerary for my group included a visit to William Booth House at Surry Hills in Sydney. Run by the Salvation Army, it is a place where people with drug, gambling and alcohol addictions can come for in-house rehabilitation. Upon arrival, we were taken to the top floor to their Meeting Room where we were addressed by a case worker. His introduction to the programs was followed by two speakers who were currently undergoing programs sharing their stories with the girls. Tony spoke first. Growing up in Sydney’s south, he had begun using drugs in his early teens and his life had spiralled from there. Drugs became all-consuming for him and eventuated in criminal activity to support his addiction. He spent his 21st birthday in Long Bay prison. At the time he spoke to us, he was in his early 50s and had had many stints in rehab and prison throughout his life. He had lost two families in the process and this current attempt at breaking free from his addictions was in the hope that he could salvage his relationship with his children.
In chatting to him afterwards, I shared with him that I had taught in a prison in the south of NSW, in the Snowy Mountains, Mannus Correctional Facility. He had been there for two years in the early 1990s, just after I had left the area to return to Sydney. His face lit up at the connection – hardly the concept of ‘alma mater’ most of us think about. We often ask each other where we went to school or grew up to make connections with people but it is rarely that we make connections through our prison affiliation. He was even more excited when I was introduced to him as the Principal of the school. That gave the connection even more status for Tony. In truth, I was humbled. His struggle against addiction and his desire to live a normal life made my life’s journey seem simple and blessed.
It always worries me how we respond to these experiences like the visit to William Booth House. Are we passive observers of others’ tragedies or do we learn that we too are vulnerable to life’s misfortune given the right circumstances? One of our strategic goals for 2016 is to make charity more educative so that the girls shift from a position of sympathy to a position of empathy where they learn to understand what the value of their involvement is. It is my hope that they come to understand that their fundraising has benefits beyond filling their stomachs with a nice warm sausage sandwich; that their fundraising provides food for a women’s shelter so that families in crisis can be fed, that the money they raise for cancer is actually about financing research that will bring about a cure such as the cervical cancer immunisation program and the spray on skin that reduces the scarring associated with burns, both Australian initiatives. When we talk about encouraging our girls to make a difference, it is not about paying a dollar for another cupcake, for a momentary sugar fix. It is about understanding that they have a role to play in improving the quality of life for those, like Tony, who won’t make it without a helping hand.
Today the College celebrated Easter with a liturgy focusing on the theme ‘The Way of the Cross’ and continuing Pope Francis’s challenge to Open our Doors to Mercy. During Holy Week, central thoroughfares of the College displayed a series of posters representing the Stations of the Cross. Over doorways, the girls recognised aspects of Christ’s passion. The posters were reminders that Christ is with the community in daily life. At times when we stumble, feeling overwhelmed or experience heartache, the liturgy looked for hope in the risen Christ.
The posters became the Brigidine Stations of the Cross for the prayer. College Senior Vice Captain, Eloise Ott, led the Stations, with Bianca Burmeister (Year 9) delivering the prayer and Valentina Buay (Year 10) offering a message from Pope Francis. Mrs Curran linked the Stations with a modern Easter message reflecting on the Missy Higgins song, Oh Canada.
“Missy Higgins wrote a song, Oh Canada, on the death of Aylan Kurd, the three year old Syrian boy, washed up on the beach of Turkey last year. A video was created to go with her song. Many of the images in the video were drawn by Syrian refugee children in a Caritas program. These images reflect what the children have seen but some images reveal their hope for a new life. Our hearts were changed by the image of the boy on the beach last year, and so should the image of Christ on the Cross touch our hearts and remain with us as the ultimate sacrifice. When we see evil in the world, our challenge is to open our hearts.”
As the school term closes for Easter the College community looks forward to the central event of the Christian liturgical calendar the resurrection of Jesus. After several weeks of preparation in the season of Lent we have embarked upon Holy Week (Palm Sunday 20 March), in which we have re-lived the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. Easter Sunday is the most important day in the Church’s year. Every other Sunday of the year is a ‘little Easter’ in which we re-celebrate the rising of Christ. Easter is a time of reflection, joy and celebration. Hopefully all families will have the opportunity to attend some or all of the religious ceremonies with their parish communities.
Congratulations to Year 11 on the successful charity drive to support Caritas Australia with the Project Compassion collections and the hot cross bun sales.
I offer the Easter schedule for Corpus Christi, St Ives:
Most parishes follow a similar schedule. Further parish Easter schedules can be found on the Broken Bay Diocese website.
Lord Jesus, we see your face in the hunger and homelessness of your people. We hear your cry in their loneliness. Their tears of injustice are your tears.
We see your hands nailed on the cross of intolerance and of bigotry and of violence, and your side pierced with a lance of hatred and of harshness where people cannot worship as they wish, celebrate your presence as they wish, speak your Gospel as they wish.
We ask you, Lord Jesus, to open our eyes and our ears to ways in which people hurt each other. We ask, too, that we be young people who are your justice and your compassion, your love and your friendship in our world.
We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
May the joy of the Risen Christ be with all Brigidine families this Easter.
Assistant Principal Religious Formation
As you are aware, Disability provisions are PRACTICAL arrangements that make it possible for students with identified permanent or temporary disabilities to attempt examinations and assessment tasks. They are intended to reduce the impact of the disability and enable the student to best demonstrate their knowledge.
There are a range of provisions available depending on the need and documented diagnosis. Typically students may apply for rest breaks, small group supervision, or the use of a reader and or scribe. Please visit the BOSTES site for further details regarding the rules and procedures.
The BOSTES determines which students qualify for provisions in the HSC and the types of provisions granted, however schools put in place provisions for all other Year groups based on the BOSTES guidelines.
If your daughter was accessing provisions in Year 10 you would have received a letter at the information night last week regarding the process required for those provisions to continue as well as the associated timeline.
For those of you who may have a daughter with a pre-existing condition or difficulty for which you have documentation, then it is possible that she will be able to access Disability Provisions in her Preliminary course once we are notified of the issue. For her to access provisions in her HSC however a new submission must be made to the BOSTES accompanied by updated evidence - no older than 12 months and not dated earlier than Term 3 of this year. As previously stated, no provisions are permitted in the HSC without BOSTES approval.
The final date for applications for Disability Provisions in the HSC is due at the BOSTES by the end of Term 1 2017, however we will start the submissions in Term 4 of this year so that your daughter has her approved provisions in place for all her assessment tasks from Day 1.
Consequently, could I ask that if you intend to make an application for your daughter to have the use of provisions for her HSC that you begin the process of getting updated reports from the relevant specialists to support your daughter’s application for Disability Provisions in Term 3 of this year?
Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or concerns.
Head of Learning Support
God of unconditional love, in your Son, Jesus, you showed that there was no limit to your loving care for us. For all whose lives are broken, for all whose hearts are burdened and for all in our world who are oppressed by war and violence, may the love with which Jesus laid down his life be the love that we share. We make this prayer believing in your love.
We pray for asylum seekers and refugees around the world. Let us remember to show mercy to all without prejudice of skin or creed.
We pray for all men, women and children who are mistreated and exploited by others.
We pray for all children deprived of childhood and education through poverty, war or disaster.
We pray for those whose lives have been torn apart by natural disaster.
We pray for all our leaders in this country and around the world. May they work for justice and mercy while they try to make the world a better place.
We pray for our parents, families and friends, especially for those who may not be well at this time. May there always be someone to take care of them.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer. Amen.
(Prayer of response delivered at today’s Easter Liturgy)
It was interesting to read the comments made by the OECD’s education chief, Andreas Schleicher, during the week. He was critical of the Australian education system for falling behind global standards. He attributed this to an emphasis on teachers being defined by the number of hours in front of a class, a curriculum that restricts creativity and an industrial model approach to education. It made me think about the nature of schools today and the busyness of them compared to days gone by. I remember my first days of teaching very clearly. I wrote my timetable from the notice board into an exercise book, collected my Geography syllabus, which was a one sided A4 sheet listing the topics that were to be taught, a textbook and some chalk. There was no such thing as a program so I scribbled my plan of how I might teach a year in the life of a coffee farmer in Brazil on a sheet of paper and enjoyed the freedom to do so. There was no photocopying and resources were limited. Reports were a mark and a handwritten comment which amounted to not much more than a few words about the satisfactory progress that the student had made. Despite this, I do remember being very busy and spending every evening preparing work but I also remember this was not the case for all teachers.
Over the years, there have been many changes so that the business of teaching is a much different, more complex set of expectations. The timetable and its integrated databases is a feat of technological wizardry as mark books, reports and student information are created, compiled and maintained. Marks are no longer just averaged; they are weighted, deconstructed into parts, reconstructed into skill sets, graded, ranked, moderated, converted into z scores and assembled into box and whisker graphs for reports, which also include a detailed comment containing summative and formative reflections on student progress. The data is further analysed into a myriad of tables and graphs to explore opportunities for improvement.
The syllabus is now a 90 page document with prescriptive content, detailed outcomes, regulated assessment and suggested strategies that should enable critical and creative thinking, ethical and intercultural understanding, and develop personal and social capabilities. The year in the life of a coffee farmer in Brazil would now have to include ecological sustainability, transnational corporation corruption, social inequality, climate change and a virtual excursion using Google Earth. The program has become a collaborative interpretation of the syllabus written into a standard template complete with resources, chosen strategies, and differentiated work for both the most and least able students in the class. Feedback on student work is fast becoming a comment akin to a small essay. Emails eat into precious planning time as messages fly in and out of mailboxes at an unbelievable rate and demand attention. With the advent of appraisals, the quality of teaching is being aligned to explicit standards, more record keeping and a predetermined expectation of ongoing professional learning. And all this takes place alongside cocurricular programs, excursions, wellbeing initiatives, spiritual formation, performances and sport. It’s quite a different world - extremely busy and much more accountable in every respect.
It is important to note that the intention of these changes is embraced by teachers. They are intellectually engaging and oozing with possibilities that would enhance learning and the experience of teaching. Teachers enjoy these challenges but the capacity of today’s teachers to engage with them creatively and meaningfully is frequently hamstrung by the lack of quality time available to do it. How are teachers expected to introduce exciting new programs for the Australian Curriculum with no funded time given to do that? It relies on schools to squeeze the time out of already busy schedules. The impact of the law of diminishing returns is an inevitable consequence. Building capacity is an issue for all schools. Effective teachers are the most important contributors to learning so it is incumbent on systems to explore the opportunities that enable teachers to become the best they can be without compromising their wellbeing. It is inevitable the changes will keep coming but there will need to be some creative thinking about how to manage these in the future. It is why building teacher capacity is one of the strategic intents for learning within the revised strategic plan for Brigidine College.
Assitant Prinicpal, teaching and Learning