Mobile Phones Policy to be implemented

Dear parents, students and teachers,

On October 7, the Minister for Education released a new Students Using Mobile Phones Policy under section 5.2.1(2)(b) of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, for implementation in all Victorian government schools.  Under this Ministerial Order, all schools are required to adopt a local school policy that implements this statewide policy in time for the start of the new school year.  While the Department recommended that School Council be consulted and the views of the school community taken into consideration in the implementation of the local school policy, the implementation of the policy itself was compulsory with only small areas of ‘localisation’ allowed. In addition, the policy was only communicated to schools a few weeks ago, allowing very little time for consultation.

Nevertheless, School Council and the school Leadership Team took the view that, while the details of the policy were not open for review, a consultation would be a useful way to understand the impact and implications of the new policy and provide an opportunity for the school to listen to the views, concerns and suggestions of the school community.  In that sense, the consultation was highly successful. We had nearly 300 responses to our survey in addition to those who attended the meeting on November 12. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback. Students, parents and teachers expressed their views on the policy and many made useful and constructive suggestions on implementation.

Andrea Thomson and I have prepared a full report on the community consultation which is available in Compass in the folder for the November 2019 School Council meeting.  I can summarise the feedback as follows:

  • There was a stark divide in opinion about the policy.
  • The majority of parents and teachers were very supportive of the policy.
  • The majority of students were very negative about the policy.
  • Some students (and some parents) were clearly angry about the policy, the way it was introduced and the implications of its implementation.
  • Those who were supportive of the policy were primarily supportive of the intention to reduce screen time, reduce dependence on phones, reduce distraction and increase face to face communication, physical activity and wellbeing.
  • Those who were concerned about the policy were primarily concerned about the way the policy has been announced and mandated, perceptions of unnecessary intrusion and overreach, loss of access to important phone functions like music for studying, navigation and communication when moving between campuses and on excursions, cameras and learning tools, loss of communication with family and friends during school hours, the need to supplement internet quality at school with phone hot-spotting.

While the implementation of the policy is compulsory in all Victorian government schools, the manner in which we implement it is our responsibility and should reflect the values and approaches that characterise our school community.  The stark divide in community attitudes on this policy provide us with the opportunity to demonstrate our Fitzroy High School values: Trust, Engage and Respect. For example, our values help us understand that we should not dismiss the concerns of some students,teachers and parents, even if others disagree with them.  Our values also help us understand that solutions to problems are best found by engaging, communicating, listening and learning. And, while rules are required in school in a variety of contexts for reasons of law, by direction of the Department or to define community standards, in implementing and enforcing those rules, we come from a place of trust and engagement rather than compliance and enforcement.

There were many positive and constructive suggestions in the feedback.  Some people made suggestions for how the policy could be modified, for example, by allowing students to use phones at lunchtime and recess.  Another suggestion was that senior students should be allowed phones. Unfortunately, these are not options allowed by the Department, and so cannot be considered.  Many people made suggestions about the importance of effective communication and clear and simple rules and consequences. Other suggestions considered ways that the goals of the policy might be more broadly supported, for example, by the school providing more opportunities for sport and physical activity at lunch and recess.  There were also useful suggestions about monitoring the impact and implementation of the policy and taking opportunities to reflect and improve. Finally, there were suggestions about ameliorating some of the negative impacts of the policy, for example, by improving internet quality so that students don’t need to hotspot, providing ways for students to listen to music through the school network and ensuring parents understand how students can be contacted through the office during school hours for health and emergency reasons.

After reviewing all the feedback, Andrea and I have made four recommendations to Leadership in respect of the policy:

  1. The policy should be implemented as part of a respectful, constructive and inclusive change process that acknowledges the significant concerns of many students and some parents and teachers about how the phone ban will impact their day to day lives, study habits and communication.  Through this respectful, constructive and inclusive change process, the school can co-design with students, parents and teachers ways to address and mitigate the perceived negative impacts of the phone ban and ensure it is implemented with a minimal impact on students, staff and parents. 
  2. The school needs to ensure that new expectations, behaviours and processes are clearly communicated and well understood across the school community.
  3. The school should strive to ensure that the expected behaviours of students, parents and teachers are clear, simple, consistent and easy to understand. 
  4. The school will need to identify how the policy will integrate and interact with other policies and practices at Fitzroy High School and Collingwood College.

It was recommended that the School Council adopt the policy in a minimal fashion using the basic policy document provided by the Department.  That policy document was considered and formally endorsed at the November School Council meeting. The policy can be summarised as follows:

  • Students who bring phones to school must keep them switched off and locked in their lockers at all times.
  • Students are not allowed to use phones at all on school grounds during school hours. That includes breaks, lunchtime and recess.
  • Students can use phones while travelling to and from school and while travelling between school campuses (e.g. between Fitzroy and Collingwood College). 
  • There are some exceptions allowed but these must be part of formally documented plans relating to learning, health or risk.

Having formally adopted the policy, we now have a lot of details to sort out over the next few weeks and months in preparation for next year when the policy comes into effect.  We hope that our recommendations for implementation will help ensure a positive and constructive approach across the school community.

I thank you all again for your input into this process.  

Cheers,

Ralph Saubern

President, School Council

School Council President’s Report – Term 3, 2019

Dear Fitzroy High School Community,

Over the last few weeks, School Council has been working closely with the regional office of the Department of Education to get the principal appointment process underway. One of the Senior Educational Improvement Leaders (SEIL) in the Northwest Region has presented to the School Council and the staff on the details of the process and worked with School Council to finalise the school profile information, the selection criteria and the selection panel. The advertisement for the role went up on the Department job board on Friday 26 July. Applications close on 10 August. Following the close of applications, the selection panel will meet to shortlist and conduct interviews before providing a recommendation to School Council for approval. School Council will then send its recommendation to the Department. Our aim is to have the process completed and the appointment made by the start of term 4. If you are interested in taking a look at the details of the role description and selection criteria, you will find it on the Department job board here.

In June, councillors and staff from Fitzroy High School and Collingwood College School Councils received an update from the Victorian School Building Authority and architects from GHD Woodhead and Grimshaw on progress on the Fitzroy Gasworks Senior Campus project. The design of the building is progressing well and the intention is to have the new campus open for students in the 2022 school year. We discussed a number of aspects of the design including: grounds-to-roof design, indoor-outdoor learning, massing concept and facade strategy, main circulation, large teaching spaces, flexible/operable learning spaces, dispersed staff workspaces and acoustic treatment. Following the presentation and discussion, the two school councils convened a special joint sitting to endorse the schematic design and approve progression to the design development phase.

Thank you again to all the families who have contributed to the school Scholarship Fund and other parent funds. So far this year, the school has provided nearly $7,000 from the Scholarship Fund to support students from less advantaged backgrounds to participate in the rich learning experiences of the school. If any families are experiencing financial hardship and need some help to ensure their kids are able to participate, please speak with your child’s team leader.

The school production, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is just a few weeks away from what promises to be a fabulous opening night. Tickets are on sale now on TryBooking. Performance dates: Thursday 5th, Friday 6th & Saturday 7th September, 7pm at Collingwood College. There will be a working bee on Sunday 18th August from 9am-4pm (TBC please check Compass for details) to make sets, paint, sew costumes and work on any other hands on things that need to be organised for the show. If you are able to offer your time or skills on this day that would be fantastic and greatly appreciated.

A reminder that School Council meetings and Education, Community and Buildings & Environments Subcommittee meetings are open meetings and parents are welcome to attend. You can find the schedule of meetings on Compass under School Documentation or in the school calendar.

If you have something you would like to raise with School Council or would like to know more about getting involved with subcommittees or other volunteering opportunities, please feel free to contact me at ralphs@fitzroyhs.vic.edu.au.

Cheers,
Ralph Saubern

School Council President Report – Term 2, 2019

Dear Fitzroy High School Community,

After 14 years association with Fitzroy High School, Pauline Rice has relinquished her role as Principal.  I spoke with Pauline last week and passed on all our thanks and best wishes.  As acting Senior Education Improvement Leader, Pauline is looking forward to a continuing role in supporting Fitzroy High School.  Pauline’s announcement means that we will now undertake a formal process to appoint a new principal.  As I wrote in my earlier message to you, there is an extensive process involved in principal appointment in Victoria, requiring significant input from the school community.  This will be a major focus for me and School Council in the coming weeks.  I will keep you informed on progress.  In the meantime, Linda Mitchell and Sandra Dickins will remain in the roles of Acting Principal and Acting Assistant Principal.  We are very fortunate to have such a strong leadership team at Fitzroy High School and confident in their capacity to lead the school.

One of the most important roles of School Council is to oversee fundraising and co-ordinate the use of parent donated funds.  In our May School Council meeting, we discussed fundraising, its role at the school and our general approach, vision and goals. You can find a summary of that discussion on Compass with the May School Council minutes. School Council confirmed that fundraising is an important way in which we seek to improve the quality of the Fitzroy High School program and support fair and equitable access for all students.  We talked about ways to improve our approach to fundraising, including by being more explicit about our aims and goals, improving our processes for managing fundraising and better communicating our successes.

And thanks to the generosity of the school community, there have been many recent successes to communicate about! 

Just a few:

  • School Council has allocated $5,000 from the school Building Fund to contribute to the development of the teachers’ bike shelter ($3,085) and the supply of electricity to the new kiln shed (approximately $2,000) and another $5,000 to contribute to the refurbishment of windows in the older part of the school.  The bike shed is now complete (including removal of the old, non-functioning water tank) and the concrete plinth for the shed has been laid.  The windows have been repaired and now await repainting.
  • A big thanks to families who have contributed to the school Scholarship Fund.  So far this year, the school has provided $4,500 to support students from less advantaged backgrounds to participate in the rich learning experiences of the school.  If any families are experiencing financial hardship and need some help to ensure their kids are able to participate, please speak with your child’s team leader.
  • School Council has approved $15,687.20 from the Performing Arts Fund for the purchase of two new projectors for use by the music and drama departments. Teachers and students are excited about the difference these will make to the quality of the music and drama programs.

Our Buildings and Environments committee has highlighted a number of additional major works we need to carry out in coming months and so now is the perfect time to remind you all that donations to the school Building Fund are fully tax deductible (as is the Library Fund). Please contact Ross McDonald in the school office to find out details of how to donate to any of the school funds.

Another important role for School Council is to review and approve school events and excursions, particularly through the perspective of risk or equity issues.  At the May meeting, School Council approved four new events: two outdoor education camps, the Feminist Collective camp and this year’s Y10 experience.  These activities look absolutely fantastic and I congratulate teachers and students for all their work on preparing and planning camps and excursions. 

Speaking of fantastic events, tickets for the 2019 Year 12 Theatre Studies production, The Awakening of Spring, and the Mid-Winter Recital are now on sale.  Tickets sell out every year so book early to avoid disappointment!  Details on Compass.

The next meeting of School Council will be a joint meeting with Collingwood College School Council to continue discussions about the Fitzroy Gasworks development.  We will have much more to say in coming weeks and months about this exciting new development – so stay tuned.

If you have something you would like to raise with School Council or would like to know more about getting involved with subcommittees or other volunteering opportunities, please feel free to contact me at ralphs@fitzroyhs.vic.edu.au.

Cheers,
Ralph Saubern
School Council President

School Council President Report – Term 1, 2019

Dear Fitzroy High School Community,

After four years serving as President of the School Council, Kath Boyer has “retired”.  Kath has done an amazing job as President and member of School Council.  We thank her for all of her commitment, energy and effort over many years.  Kath leaves an important legacy, including long term support for the great improvements we have seen in the school environment, the vibrant and high quality performance program and, of course, the improved canteen facilities!  Kath has also been tireless behind the scenes improving school council processes to allow it to focus more effectively on supporting school leadership, staff and students.  

At the recent March meeting of the School Council, I was elected to the role of President by the new School Council.  For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ralph Saubern.  I have two kids, a boy and a girl, in Year 9.  I’ve worked in education for many years, originally as a teacher and now for an educational research institute.  I’ve valued the opportunity to make a contribution to the school as a School Council member over the last two years, including as Treasurer for the past 18 months. I have a particular interest in educational technology and last year I was asked by school leadership to lead a review into the use of digital technology at Fitzroy High School. 

Stepping into Kath’s shoes is a daunting task but one that I take on with the knowledge that we have a strong School Council and great school community to work with.  This year, as School Council President, I am hoping to focus on a few key areas.  One is to complete the three School Council working group reviews currently in process (languages education, digital technology and reporting) and hand those reports over to school leadership for consideration.  Another is to support school leadership as we step further along the process of establishing the new senior school campus at the Gasworks.  Fundraising is another area that I would like to focus on.  The Fitzroy High School community has been incredibly generous and engaged with fundraising and we have seen the many benefits to our students and community.  I am interested in ways that we can further improve and focus our fundraising efforts and outcomes.  Finally, I am hoping to continue work to streamline and improve processes in School Council and the subcommittees to ensure that we spend more time focusing on important issues relating to school facilities, education, health and wellbeing and fundraising.

Other positions that were decided at the March School Council meeting were as follows:

  • Vice-President:  David Huxtable
  • Treasurer: Sharon Cleaves
  • Convener of Education Subcommittee: Marina Henley
  • Convener of Buildings and Environment Subcommittee: Roger Smith
  • Convener of Community Subcommittee: Ian Taylor

The conveners of the subcommittees have particularly important roles.  The three subcommittees are where we discuss the details of issues that come to the School Council and make recommendations about the use of parent donated funds for buildings and grounds, health and wellbeing, library, performing arts and scholarships.  Subcommittee meetings are open to all parents to attend and contribute to, as are School Council meetings.  Details of when subcommittee meetings are held and the minutes of the meetings can be found under the documentation tab in Compass.

Apart from electing new School Council officers, at the March meeting, the School Council endorsed the school Annual Report prepared by Acting Principal Linda Mitchell, ratified the February school finances report and gave approval for the Great Victorian Bike Ride camp.  You can find the minutes for all School Council meetings in Compass a few days after each meeting.

If you have something you would like to raise with School Council or would like to know more about getting involved with subcommittees or other volunteering opportunities, please feel free to contact me at ralphs@fitzroyhs.vic.edu.au.

Cheers,

Ralph,
School Council President