Small school shows big growth

Elphinstone Primary School principal Brendan Stewart's experience of remote and flexible learning has reaffirmed the value of being flexible and responsive, and using students' interests to grow and extend their learning.

The school has maintained its almost 100 per cent attendance rate during both periods of remote and flexible learning, and students have been highly engaged in learning.

Delivering targeted, differentiated support

While learning from home, students at Elphinstone have continued to read one-on-one with a teacher at least once a week.

'Instead of being next to us on a chair, we've read with students online, working on individual reading goals set during face-to-face learning,' Brendan said.

'We were lucky to have the technology needed for remote learning already in place, so it was quite a smooth transition.'

Throughout the day, the students are rotated through small group lessons led by Brendan and his colleague, graduate teacher Alexia Dickson. The school's part-time Education Support staff member is there for students who need extra help, including wellbeing support. Students and their families can also speak to the school's chaplain.

Extending students' learning

Teachers work closely with parents, provide shorter and more frequent online lessons, and frame lessons around students' interests.

Brendan and his team use inquiry-based project learning — or passion projects — to extend students' learning.

This approach has allowed students to pursue areas of interest independently, which in turn produced creative results. It also gave them something enjoyable to fall back on if they felt overwhelmed.

`One student is monitoring the changes around their bush block and exploring the science behind it,' Brendan said.

`The kids talked about watching the penguins come in at Phillip Island live online.

`We picked up on incidental things like this and used it in our teaching.

`The discussion about penguins was really animated, and we found this type of thing also helped take their minds off coronavirus (COVID-19).'

The school also introduced Fun Friday featuring a dance party for younger students.

 Lessons from remote and flexible learning

Brendan said the value of students learning in smaller groups, independent learning, and making learning fun had all been highlighted during remote and flexible learning.

`We'll continue with these things when we go back to the classroom, and not only look at students' passions but also at expanding their base and hopefully lead one passion into another,' Brendan said. 

`And we'll keep the name Fun Friday.'