I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the pit, out of the mud and the mire. He lifted me up, set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Psalm 40:13

Do you remember the first time you tried to change gears as you learnt to drive? Or the first time you had to do a hill start? I am pretty sure that for me, there was a little too much accelerator and the clutch release was a little too late. I remember a few bunny hops, the occasional stall and roll-back.

Today we had almost 1200 students and 100 staff navigating our remote learning environment, and it went well. I can promise that all of you “teachers” out there did a better job than me on my first day. I am sure that not everything worked as it was meant to, I am sure that in some learning sessions, the pace was too fast and there was too much work, and in others, it was too slow and there wasn’t enough. I look forward to building on the fantastic platform that we have put in place to allow learning to continue, and encourage all of us, staff, students and parents, to be part of the learning journey. As we learn, we will get better at it, and the process will change, that’s what learning is. Be kind to yourself and others, learning is hard work.

The overwhelming response of staff in moving to remote learning has been sadness. A school without students doesn’t seem right. Empty learning spaces and empty playgrounds leave us with little joy. We are effectively two days in, and staff are already keenly looking forward to the day when students and staff are back on campus together. In the meantime, staff will seek, virtually, to provide care through connection, continuity and community, some of which is easier said than done. And through this, learning and relationships might continue.

I am grateful to parents, students and staff for all the work that is going in to making learning meaningful and successful. In my view, you are all doing a tremendous job in trying circumstances. You have my admiration and my support.

Message from NESA

I was heartened to read the following communication from NESA.

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) Board confirmed that the Higher School Certificate (HSC) is going ahead in 2020, along with a commitment to providing clear and regular advice to the community about the HSC as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.The Chair of the NESA Board Professor Peter Shergold had three important messages for HSC students:

  1. We know you are worried. While we recognise we are facing an unprecedented situation, we want to assure you that you will be able to get a HSC certificate this year, and that the certificate will facilitate access to university, further education and employment, as it has for students over the past 50 years.
  2. Keep learning, do your assessments as advised by your school, make progress on your major projects where you can and, most importantly, look after yourself, whether you are at school or at home. Reach out to family, friends and your teachers if you need to.
  3. If you get sick, your school and NESA have provisions to ensure you are not disadvantaged.

Effective immediately the Board is giving principals or system authorities the power to make decisions about the number and weighting of HSC formal assessment tasks for their school in 2020. The Board affirms its complete trust in principals and teachers.

As per our previous instructions, all hand-in tasks will continue as per schedule, while all in-class tasks have been put on hold. All students will, in due course, receive information about the rescheduling of in-class tasks and any changes to their nature.

Message from UAC

Like NESA, the Universities Admission Centre (UAC) released advice for Year 12 students yesterday. It is advice that should allay any fears. “Year 12 students will be emailed their UAC PIN on 1 April. Further advice regarding special arrangements for Year 12 students will be made available in the coming weeks and months as we work with universities, NESA and other stakeholders to ensure that no student is disadvantaged in relation to university entry in 2021”.

Economic Impact

A key concern of governments around the world, and second only, it would seem, to the physical health of citizens, is the impact of COVID-19 on the economic health of nations and citizens within them. Here at NBCS, we are conscious that parents will receive a billing statement in the coming month. We are looking at ways we can support families in need across the coming six to nine months. The advice, economy wide, seems to suggest a need to resolve cashflow issues for the coming six months or until the world can resolve the health crisis and turns its focus to alleviating the economic impact. We know that there are many fortunate families who will not be materially affected by this. However, we are supremely conscious of those who will be hit and hit hard. Our aim, in the coming weeks, is to develop a means-based mechanism that will enable families to overcome a short-to medium-term cash flow problem and keep their children at NBCS. This mechanism may be in the form of a payment plan, or a partial deferment of fees until later in the year. Rest assured, we will work with all families, on a means-tested basis, to avoid schooling decisions being driven by cashflow problems.

Message from our Senior Chaplain

Today, in our remote Years 7 to 9 Chapel time, our Senior Chaplain Damien Whitington spoke about how we might respond to COVID-19 and where God might be in all of this – WATCH VIDEO HERE

He referred students to another two videos on his site, Scruffy Chaplain, to help them think more deeply about the following questions.

  • How could a good God allow suffering? LINKED HERE
  • What do we do when God’s timing seems off and it looks like he doesn’t care? LINKED HERE

And finally, a poem, Pandemic by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Centre down.

And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.

Kind regards.

Tim Watson