South Australian Area Schools Leaders Association
By Chris Roberts posted May 18, 2020
The SAASLA Executive conducted its quarterly ‘face to face’ meeting via Teams on Monday 11th May, given the current COVID restrictions. Executive Members for 2020: Ray Marino – President, Chris Roberts - Vice President, Jan Love - Secretary, Leonie Falland - Treasurer, Annie Matthews, Maxine McSherry, Kevin Mooney, Beth Hector, Adrian Maywald.
Whilst it has been certainly been trying times, especially at the end of term 1 when sites were rapidly preparing for term 2 being based on online learning, our sites seem to have quickly re-adjusted back into face to face delivery whilst also supporting online learning as required. Sites have reported receiving internet dongles and devices to support their vulnerable families during this potential crisis, our Department needs to be acknowledged for their response and support for our vulnerable country students, especially those without IT/internet access.
It has been interesting to see the reaction that has been created from all senior school students state wide having to resort to online learning through COVID and the levels for concern about the impact this was having on learning and results, along with the levels of concern about how disadvantaged students were by this. Whilst most sites have now returned to face to face teaching, many of our country students continue with online learning which is their only option - we are hoping that the system may have developed a better understanding of and empathy for some of the challenges our country students and teachers face. We are hopeful that this might lead to greater levels of understanding and support for our country students and our Area School’s online learning work, the Area School Association (SAASLA) will continue to support this as we lobby for the creation of a Rural Education Strategy.
In term 3 last year, a SAASLA Exec committee met with State Minister of Flinders, Peter Treloar, along with Federal Member for Grey, Rohan Ramsey, to identify and discuss issues relating to rural education and Area Schools - focus was on the need for differentiated policy for the country, staffing - attracting and retaining teachers and leaders to the country, country housing, training of graduate teachers and inexperienced leaders, lack of services and support, poorer educational outcomes for rural students etc. The Exec’s idea of South Australia needing a Rural Education Policy, as have NSW & QLD, was floated and supported in principle by both Peter and Rohan. They have agreed to meet regularly with the SAALSA Exec committee members and support finding solutions to the ongoing rural education issues identified and in the creation of a Rural Education Strategy for the state. Peter Treloar spoke to our Minister of Education re the issues raised and arranged a meeting between the Minister, himself and the Exec members at the beginning of March at Parliament house. The meeting was attended by The Minister, his advisor Garry Costello, Peter Treloar and the Exec committee reps. The issues were bought to the Minister’s attention along with the proposal to create a Rural Education Strategy – there was lots of active discussion and the Minster seemed genuinely interested. The Minister agreed to discuss the proposal for a Rural Education Strategy with the Senior Executive Group of the Dept. Garry Costello was tasked with researching a number of issues and will be maintaining regular contact with the Exec. The Exec will be meeting with the Minister/Garry Costello later in the term to continue the discussion.
The inaugural Rural Youth Ambassadors (RYA) program has made a successful start this year despite the COVID restrictions. The program is specifically for South Australian year 11 rural students and has been designed by Victoria’s Country Education Partnership (CEP) – who have successfully been running RYA in Victoria for the past seven years. CEP have been successful in obtaining over $1 million in Federal grants to roll this program out across Australia and have chosen South Australia as the first state to work with on this, and SAASLA as the key organisation to partner with to implement the program. Up to 20 year 11 students are now involved in the program which has been meeting virtually to date using the iSee virtual campus (given COVID – they normally meet for a 3 day conference each term in Adelaide), students involved have come from; Eyre Peninsula, South East, Kangaroo Island and the Riverland. The RYA’s have been building relationships and identifying their major projects for this year - which may possibly be lobbying our system to get schools in near geographies to work together more to share staffing and to organise and run a week long aspirational experience for country students that showcases TAFE, UNI’s, etc. There has been lots of positive feedback from the students and schools involved so far, the Exec are hopeful that this will grow into one of the flagship programs for Area Schools annually.
Mark Schultz, new Director of P& C Operations, met with the Exec. Re involving the Association in a Recruitment and Selection review that is about to be undertaken by Mark and his team. The review will be looking at streamlining recruitment and appointment process for Principals appointing staff, differentiated HR policy for country, attracting teachers and leaders to country, identifying genuine candidates for country vacancies and not having to sift through masses of names on a HR run. More information to follow shortly.
Consultation occurred with Pam Kent and her team re the year 7 to High School transition processes and supports required by Area Schools. Support identified included; increased access to training for country staff in early adolescent curriculum (Middle Schooling) , best practice in transition processes, and development of 21st Learning Areas (no major funding for this, schools will get the additional funds as year 7’s counted as High School students in the RES). Transition grants coming out to Portfolios to support 7-HS transition processes now.
The Association has been re-designing our website to improve access for our members and better reflect the Association’s work. Unfortunately this process has become quite drawn out and we are now working to finalise these changes. It seems that recently when searching for our Association website in a search engine (ie Google) our website redirection address has been altered and no longer resolves to our website but now links to an inappropriate online shop and online casino. The website itself is secure and has not been changed, only the resolution address appear to have been altered. We are currently working to rectify this issue as soon as possible.
The Exec have been planning the annual conference which was scheduled for the end of this term – it was going to pick up and continue on with the theme of making country education great and creating a Rural Education Strategy. The conference has been put on hold and is looking at being rescheduled later in the year, providing restrictions and policy allow.
Currently the Executive group are reviewing the Association’s vision and priorities and aiming to produce a ‘one page’ summary/pamphlet for use across the Association. Feedback will be sought from members once a draft version is finalised.
Exec providing input into designing upcoming training programs for leaders and teachers
Exec providing advice to Central ICT group re country ICT needs and new country support mechanisms
will continue this year in an online format, working this through currently, Credit Union SA will continue to sponsor this
may have to be an online process, working towards this
identifying new Area School Leaders and introducing them to benefits of SAASLA and its work in supporting Area School leaders.
Phone: 08 8626 1202
Fax: 08 8626 1658