Term 2 Week 4

This week has been an uplifting week as I returned to work after three weeks Long Service Leave. I was fortunate enough to travel to the US to celebrate my daughter’s University of Michigan graduation. After 6 long COVID interrupted years she has finally completed her degree and is back home in Australia. Walking into St Augustine’s I was greeted by so many children and parents heartily welcoming me back. Any anxiety about the accumulated work I was facing was soon dissipated by the warm embrace of our community. It was a first hand experience of the welcome that continues to remind me of the caring community that we belong to.

You may have heard reports on the news about the dire situation that schools are facing with replacing absent staff members. The depleted casual relief teacher pool has greatly affected us all with overseas teachers not yet returning to work in this area. While some schools have resorted to drastic measures to accommodate continued learning such as sending children home (more in secondary schools) we are fortunate that we have been able to replace absent teachers with either CRTs or using our own staff. At times classes have been split amongst the other classes. We know that the winter months may bring increased challenges with staffing but we will face each day as it presents itself.

The building and renovation project is moving slowly along. It has taken longer than usual to finalise details with the ever changing world issues. The cost of resources such as wood, petrol, steel etc…has greatly impacted the costing of the scope of work. The tenders that came back were costed far greater than expected and so we have needed to cut some costs  and try to reduce the scope without impacting the integrity of the whole project. This takes time and the need for negotiation between the builder, MACS and rethinking the finances for the project. We have finally come to an agreement with endorsements from the Archbishop, Bishop and  MACS. The architect will be instructed to send a letter of intent to the successful tenderer. This is leading us closer to a start date for these works. However this is still not something I can advise you of….hopefully soon! In the mean time we have been preparing Cooinda as the home for Yrs 1/2, the library for prep and the staff resource room for Yr 3/4M once the project starts. The teachers have been planning with the changes in mind and taking advantage of the new opportunities the move can offer. While the classes will be in one space they will have their own home space, working with their teacher and LSO. They will also have the opportunity to work as a whole cohort and with the full group of teachers and LSOs working in that year level. For the Yr1/2 children this could mean six teachers working with them at any one time! A number of staff are experienced in working in open plan environments and have already planned ways to take advantage of this opportunity. 

On Wednesday we conducted our term emergency drill. We engaged with our Emergency Management contractor, Dynamiq, who facilitated this drill. This term we conducted an ‘In Shelter’ bush fire drill. The library and foyer outside the library were spaces used as the area to move to. The children were unaware of this drill and have not practiced this type of bush fire drill before. The staff and children are to be commended for their prompt movement and cooperation during the drill. The facilitator observed and found that it was conducted perfectly and in accordance to instructions. Proof that regular practise assists with the efficient running of these drills.

The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) has been leading Catholic education’s federal election campaign. Working with stakeholders from across Australia, including the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV), the NCEC identified several priorities for the upcoming election. You can also access the report card and responses from the NCEC website.

In July 2021, the Victorian Government announced new Child Safe Standards (CSS) to further strengthen child safe environments and protect children from abuse. The new CSS come into effect on Friday 1 July 2022. From 1 July 2022, 11 new Victorian Child Safe Standards will replace Victoria’s seven current Child Safe Standards and principles in place since 2016.

The revised Victorian CSS support greater national consistency, reflecting the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, developed following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The CSS include new requirements, including:

  • the involvement of families and students in child safety efforts
  • focus on the safety of Aboriginal children and young people
  • management of the risk of child abuse in online environments
  • governance, systems and processes to keep students safe.

The CSS are underpinned by Ministerial Order No. 1359 (MO 1359), which was released by the Victorian Government on 10 February 2022. MO 1359 defines the actions schools and school boarding premises must take to meet the requirements associated with the new CSS. As Catholic educators, we have a moral, mission-driven and legal responsibility to uphold and actively promote the wellbeing and safety of every student entrusted to our care. Catholic schools are well-placed to respond to the changes because the extensive strategies and policies already in place for the wellbeing and safety of every child will help us to be compliant with the new CSS. St Augustine’s has always held a strong commitment and focus on the safety of our children. We are working to review and implement these new and revised standards and will engage with families and students as we work through them.

Each year schools are required to present an Annual Report To The School Community detailing the previous year’s work. I am pleased to present the St Augustine’s 2021 Annual Report to the Community

Cathy Steere

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