St. Mary's eNews

Term 3 Week 6



Principal's Message 20 August 2021

Dear families,

I encourage you to take some time to read the Remote Learning update article. It outlines important information about our current Remote Learning model.

I'm sure you will agree with me when I say we are all really struggling at the moment. I have noticed that many people who seemed to have handled previous lockdowns relatively well are also now showing signs of struggle. 

I urge you to be kind to yourselves and to each other. It is ok if you wake up one day and cannot face remote learning. Give yourself permission to just be. The world will not stop spinning. Let your child’s teacher know your family is taking some time out. It will be fine. And it will be wonderful. Enjoy some time together doing something for fun and for no other reason. Bake. Eat. Picnic outside your front or backyard, or lounge room.  Do so without guilt and without a moment’s pause. Children are resilient. More than we give them credit for. We know that as we eventually re-emerge from another lockdown, our focus needs to be on mental health and wellbeing and on being social, far more so than academics. Academics are important, of course, but we know that learning cannot take place without a positive mindframe. We will tackle things together and show our children the power of community.

I ask that you keep Jane Sammut, learning support, in your prayers. Jane’s dear mother, Lourdes, passed away on Monday 9th August. Her funeral was held today. It is never easy losing a loved one and I cannot fathom having to go through it under these current circumstances.

I also ask that you keep Nancy Leone and Alessandra Sottile in your prayers. Nancy’s father, Alessandra’s grandfather, is currently in palliative care. The family have had to endure some heartbreaking decisions, again, in these times of restrictions.

In what can only be described as an illustration of the circle of life, this week we congratulate Ruby Williams and her family on the safe arrival of her beautiful baby brother, Fletcher. 5/6KC got a lovely surprise when Fletcher made a guest appearance at the class morning meeting earlier this week. What an exciting time for Amy, Daniel and Ruby.

Finally, be sure to take a look at some of the Wellbeing posts featured in this week’s eNews.

Wishing you all a happy weekend,


Remote Learning Update

Yesterday Victoria hit a not-so-happy milestone - 200 days of lockdown. It’s no wonder there are so many more of us struggling this time around than in previous lockdowns.

Our community is hurting; our children, parents and carers and our teachers.

I came across this poignant piece online this week:

"Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fish hooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said."

I have corresponded with many of you over the various lockdowns we have faced. It is so very heartening when, in these tricky times, so many of you have taken the time out of the madness of your hectic lives to send us messages of gratitude. Our whole community is doing the best we all can, but our strength really does come when we work together to not only build each other up, but more importantly, build our children up.

I have mentioned now, over several eNews messages, some of the rationale behind our remote learning model. I have spoken with a few parents who have mentioned the preference for a whole day ‘live teaching’ model, which is the model most secondary schools use. I can understand the lure of this style, as it means the students are ‘sitting’ with their teachers all day. Here are some of the reasons we will not be adopting this model:

  • While children might be present online with their teacher more, very few, if any, will be engaged the whole time and the teacher is not able to roam like they would if they were in a classroom, to ensure children remain on task
  • Teaching this way means we are teaching to the ‘middle’ of the range of student abilities. One lesson, no differentiation. Therefore, the children who find the lesson too difficult get nothing out of it, nor do those who already have a grasp of the content.
  • We have noticed several students have genuine anxiety about being seen online with a large group and would therefore have their camera off for most of the day. This means the teacher has no way of engaging with these students. Because they are expected to be live all day, there is no other time to engage in learning together.

I have had the opportunity to speak with dozens of principals over the last month in the Western region. All of those I’ve spoken with follow a similar model to ours. Some actually started the online all day model, but quickly dropped it because it was ineffective.

What our model allows:

    • Family flexibility: Many parents have told us that they try and spend their mornings doing their own work from home while the children attend their class and small group meetings (if they have any that day). They will then work though some of the learning tasks with their children in the afternoon, evening or weekends in some cases. 
  • Teacher flexibility: Because they’re not live for 5+ hours per day, teachers and support staff can offer extra sessions based on the feedback or work they’re receiving. Some students will have multiple short, sharp sessions of 5 minutes just to set up the next expectation before moving on. Others are part of small groups that come out of needs identified by parents, teachers or support staff.
  • Individualised learning: Almost all small learning groups are based on the needs of the students. This means students are getting what they need rather than a generalised one-size-fits-all approach where only the small group of average students have their learning needs met. In these small groups students have the opportunity to show their learning to the teacher and teachers obtain great data that will help inform the next lesson. Intervention programs are also able to run in this model as students have time in their days when they are not online with their class teacher
  • Social Groups: We know that the children are desperately missing their friends. Our model allows the children to spend time together in social meetings 
  • Daily Drop-In Sessions: Four days per week, one teacher per level avails themselves online for an hour. These open sessions are available to parents and students. This is the perfect time to seek clarification, ask questions, get some help if you’re finding something difficult and if the teacher’s not too busy addressing questions, a great opportunity for a social chat.

While we will be keeping our current structures, we are not closed to the notion of improvement. 

As of this week, you may see some of the following:

  • More teacher videos where they explain tasks or teach new concepts. This will allow students to be able to revisit these, pause, replay as needed so that parents are not having to try and teach skills or strategies.
  • More audio recording of instructions for tasks in Seesaw so you as parents don’t need to sit and read these for your child
  • After hearing back that some of the teacher videos have frozen or shown errors, we will now be posting some of our content through our private St Mary's Youtube channel to try and overcome this

As I have mentioned on multiple occasions, if your child or you as parents and carers need more support or feel you need something extra to help you all through, please speak to your teacher and together we can get the right balance to support you and your child. Perhaps you don’t even know what that support could look like. Just talk to us. Together we can come up with something that works.

Here are just some of the ways we have been able to offer extra assistance to children and their families:

  • Students who have found it overwhelming to complete so many tasks each day have made arrangements with their teachers to reduce the work required. In some cases we have arranged quick one-on-one sessions throughout the day so that the child can be given simple instructions to help them get moving
  • Some parents were finding getting things organised in the morning difficult. Teachers have begun sending timetables out the afternoon before
  • Students who have found a particular subject area difficult are receiving extra online support from either their teacher or learning support staff
  • Parents who wanted more work for their children have been given information on how to do this

Your child’s teacher also wants to hear from you if you feel the work being set for your child is too hard or too easy. We are receptive to this and will make adjustments according to this feedback.

We are not perfect. Nor is our model. But we are all human and committed to work with you to help your child. We understand that most of you are not teachers. We appreciate this and the enormity of the role you are currently being asked to undertake. By the same token, we ask that you have faith in us as your children’s educators and in the model we have adopted and trust the decisions we are making. 

Let us be a true civilisation as Margaret Mead envisaged - helping each other through difficulty. We are all a little bit broken right now. Some more than others. Let us help each other heal. We are all at our best when we work towards the common goal of doing and being our best for our kids and for each other.


Footy Fun Day ~ 27th August

Our JSC Footy Fun Day team have been working hard on planning activities for Footy Fun Day.  They have lots in store for get your footy gear ready to wear to your Class Meetings. Look out for more information about our Trivia Quiz.

Introducing ~ Caitlyn Gallagher

Hi my name is Caitlyn Gallagher. I have been teaching at St Mary’s for 4 years now and I love the caring community here. After I finished university I did some emergency teaching around the Werribee and Geelong area. 

I grew up in Ballarat with my family. I am the eldest of 3 girls, so I have 2 younger sisters and as we have gotten older, we have become a lot closer. Probably because we don’t all live together anymore. 

I enjoy spending time outdoors, particularly at the beach. I find the beach soothing, especially over the past 12 months. I enjoy camping on the Murray River and hold many fond memories of each Easter. I LOVE watching my Lions play and enjoy the banter when they play the Bulldogs.  I also enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends. 

I am very excited for my next chapter of becoming a first time mum. My baby is due in October and I cannot wait to bring him in for a visit. The student’s in 1/2G are all very excited and have named him Benjamin. 

Mental Health help

A new online mental health communication program, designed and delivered by young people and parents for young people and parents, has been launched.

The new program, called #ChatStarter, will see a unique and collaborative approach to community mental health support.

It comes at a time when the nation continues to face the mental health impacts of pandemic restrictions and COVID-19 outbreaks.

 was developed by the National Mental Health Commission in partnership with parents and young people who have experience of mental health challenges and Australia’s national mental health organisations - ReachOutButterfly FoundationOrygenbatyrheadspaceBeyond Blue and Kids Helpline.

#Chatstarter has two easy components to get involved in:

  • Visit and select one of the #ChatStarters.
  • Create your own ChatStarter content (video, post, reel, story) on your preferred social media platform, include the link to the Head to Health webpage so that more and more people can appreciate the benefits of starting and continuing a conversation with someone they care about who is facing mental health challenges.

Click here to read more

Science Week

What is National Science Week?

National Science Week is an annual festival of science that takes place in August each year. National Science Week 2021 will run 14-22 August.

This celebration aims to raise the profile and increase the public understanding and public appreciation of science, innovation, engineering and technology, and their role in maintaining and improving our society, economy and environment.

In schools around the nation, thousands of teachers and students from early childhood to senior secondary levels contribute to National Science Week celebrations by organising and participating in a diverse range of activities and events.  It provides an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Australian scientists’ to the world of knowledge. It also aims to encourage an interest in science pursuits among the general public, and to encourage younger people to become fascinated by the world we live in.

This year during, our teachers have not let remote learning get in the way of celebrating Science and there have been some funtastic experiments happening and some super scientists emerging from all of our classrooms from Fizz Inflators and Paper Spinners to Cabbage Dye Indicators and experiments with Skittles and M&Ms, YUM!

Check out some photos of Science at St Mary's this week

Scholastic Book Club Issue 6

In response to the current lockdowns, Scholastic have added the temporary option for all parents to have their orders sent directly to their homes. This option will enable you to place and receive orders while your children are undertaking remote learning. When you place your Issue 6 Book Club orders, you'll have the option to select home delivery or school delivery 
The home delivery option can be selected by you at the time of ordering for $7.50.
If you choose to have your books delivered to school and we will call you once they have arrived.

Click here to view the catelogue

Community News

Take a look at this week’s Community News!

We have some key enrolment dates for Year 5 Students in 2022 starting in year 7 in 2024, as well as our Church Bulletin and news from our local secondary schools; Emmanuel College and Mount St. Josephs.

Church Bulletin

Emmanuel College News

Mount St. Josephs' Latest Newsletter

Now We're Talking - On site tutoring available 

Now We're Talking - Social Skills Groups

Altona Jnr. Cricket Club Registration info

Key enrolment dates for Year 5 students in 2022 starting in Year 7 in 2024

  • 28 January 2022 – Applications will open for Year 5 (current year 4) students commencing Year 7 in 2024.
  • 19 August 2022 – Applications will close.
  • 21 October 2022 – Offers will be posted to prospective Year 7 applicants
  • 11 November 2022 – Final date for parents/carers to accept an offer made by a school
Families are strongly encouraged to make at least 2 applications to colleges to ensure students have a place.
Many colleges are in high demand, therefore numbers are limited.
These schools are heavily zoned, therefore if demand is high, the likelihood of being offered a place if you live outside their catchment is low.

Wellbeing: Great ideas for Kids at Home

Looking for fun and engaging activities you can do at home? Here’s a list of ideas from around the world to keep kids of all ages – and adults – entertained and engaged.

  They are grouped loosely into age-appropriate content, however, you’ll find some will suit varying ages, so be sure to check them all out.

Wellbeing: Stay calm and carry on

Coronavirus has enlisted us all in a giant social experiment, where the work, family and social lives we’ve known have been tipped on their heads. Add the responsibility of learning at home to the mix, and the uncertainty and anxiety can feel overwhelming. Parents and kids are facing some struggles in our stay-at-home lives.  Peter Hanlon asked the experts for some practical tips and advice to help, part of the Best of The Parents Website series.