St. John’s College’s Year 13 students are on track to finish the academic year well despite Covid-19 disrupting preparations for NCEA.
Deputy Principal (Director of Curriculum) Tracy Russell said the College had moved quickly in March when the government announced that schools conduct classes online under Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown requirements.
“We basically gave out every laptop we had on the school property and a large number of boys who wouldn’t normally have laptops were able to take one home.”
“At that point we knew we needed to swing into gear with onenote, microsoft 365, zoom and email. Luckily we had done a few years of planning with onenote and microsoft 365 with both the staff and students and we felt we were ahead of the curve.”
Mrs Russell said that when classes resumed after lockdown, a survey of students and staff showed “overwhelmingly” that everyone preferred to be back at school.
“It’s proof that the social interactions and the real human support that you get in this school is a large part of what makes learning successful for teenage students.”
She says that courses were modified in line with NZQA requests and recommendations, while the number of credits to pass NZCEA and to get endorsements were also changed by NZQA.
“We finished a 12 week term last term where realistically many of the students and staff didn’t get a two week holiday at the end of week 8 in term one. It was one mammoth term all the way through from the first week of February. This term is the first normal or near normal term of the year.”
Despite the disruptions, Mrs Russell expects all the students to have the same chance of success as in any other year, but she does believe the NCEA changes needed to happen.
“They reduced the need for a merit and excellence endorsement from 14 to 12. That was needed. They added learning recognition credits and they will be added on after you get your record of achievement in January. “
Assessments were not paused during lockdown, with the school leaving it to teachers to alter their courses as they saw fit.
“Many of us who did not intend to finish assessments during lockdown actually ultimately did. People grew in confidence and found ways of doing things. But we were supported by NZQA who set out directives saying that you can find ways not to drop the standard of what was expected but to find other ways of doing things.”
During lockdown and in the first two weeks back at school, the focus was on wellbeing.
“The courses and the material havn’t been the problem, the real issue with the whole Covid-19 lockdown has been fatigue - wellbeing and fatigue. It has been extremely tiring for students and it has also been a time of anxiety and hardship for some families.”
“There were a lot of changes with new and unexpected pressures. It been these sort of things we have been mindful of as we’ve moved forward,” Mrs Russell said.
She believes the special character of the school has been to the fore and she is confident that the students should be able to end the year with the successes they had in mind in February.
St. John’s College Head Boy Josh Villanueva said that the academic year was going well after the disruptions of the lockdown.
He says that the support the school and teachers offered had helped students.
“If we have any concerns with NCEA, we can we talk to them to see if there is anything they can do about it. There is a lot of support, especially after the lockdown and even up until now,” says Josh.