Warners Bay High School experienced another highly productive year of teaching and learning in 2020, with teachers and students working hard to achieve personal bests.
Our Response to the COVID-19 Lockdown
Perhaps our most remarkable achievement for 2020 from a teaching and learning perspective was the efficiency with which 140 teachers, educational leaders and support personnel responded to the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the space of a week, the teaching staff made the shift from face-to-face teaching to online delivery, engaging in extensive online learning to ensure they were able to develop and deliver quality teaching and learning resources and experiences to 1340 students.
It was a baptism of fire for our new leadership team who worked around the clock to ensure that information was communicated in a timely manner to all members of our learning community, and that our students felt connected and supported. They were ably supported in this complex logistical undertaking by the Executive, Wellbeing Team, Classroom Teachers, Support staff, Technical Support Officers and the school’s Administrative staff.
Outstanding Commitment to Professional Learning
WBHS teachers devoted hundreds of hours to ensuring they had the necessary skills to engage and support our students both in the online learning environment and in the classroom. The NSW Department of Education and other providers developed high-quality, targeted professional learning to enhance the professional practices of teachers and support student learning. Many of these opportunities were provided free-of-charge.
The collaborative practices that were evident in every faculty were truly outstanding. Expertise was readily shared, quality resources were collegially developed, and personal and professional support was always forthcoming. An outstanding effort from all members of staff.
Accreditation of Early Career Teachers
Despite the unusual demands of 2020, four of our Early Career Teachers successfully attained accreditation as Proficient Teachers and thus join the ranks of our highly qualified and talented teaching staff. They were ably supported throughout the year by colleagues who provided mentoring, coaching and targeted professional learning.
Strong Results in the HSC
The Warners Bay High School community celebrated the success of all of our Year 12 students who, despite significant disruptions to their early preparations, applied themselves throughout the year and achieved personal bests in the HSC. Our students achieved 50 Band 6s and 194 Band 5s across 29 courses.
One of our students was recognised in the All Rounders’ List for achieving Band 6 in five subjects, and 32 students were named as Distinguished Achievers. The work of our students was shortlisted and chosen to be featured in HSC showcases and exhibitions including ARTEXPRESS (Visual Arts), Encore (Music), Texstyle (Textiles and Design), Shape (Textiles and Design) and Reprise, the Hunter Regional Showcase for outstanding HSC Music performances. Further details are provided elsewhere on this website.
Best Practice Teams
A new initiative at WBHS in 2020 was the establishment of nine Best Practice teams. The role of these cross-curriculum teams was to interrogate research data to ensure that the teaching practices employed by our teachers are evidence-based and of the highest quality. The major themes that were addressed were: Assessment and Feedback, Collaborative Practices, Explicit Teaching and Differentiation, Future Focused Pedagogy, Literacy, Numeracy, Positive Learning Environments, High Expectations and Wellbeing.
The Best Practice teams collected, analysed and evaluated data relating to these focus areas; set developmental targets for our school; and identified initiatives to facilitate continuous improvement and enhance student outcomes. These initiatives are now embedded in Warners Bay High School’s Strategic Improvement Plan.
Professional Experience Placements for Teacher Education Students
In a year significantly impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions, schools were reluctant to welcome pre-service teachers into their communities. In Term Two our teachers provided mentoring support to three students in their final year of study at the University of Newcastle. These pre-service teachers were initially required to operate in the online learning environment and then adapt to face-to-face delivery as our students returned to school. Despite these unusual circumstances, these students successfully completed their Professional Experience placements. A further twelve students were subsequently supported in their placements in Terms Three and Four. The time and effort invested by the teachers who mentored these students and the faculties who hosted them in these extraordinary times were greatly appreciated.
More than 42 Warners Bay High School teachers have now completed formal training with the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). They provide an exemplary service to preservice teachers and a number of tertiary institutions.
Hub School Project
Warners Bay High School continued to work in close partnership with the University of Newcastle on the Department of Education Professional Experience Hub School Project throughout 2020. Two formal research projects were initiated; one assessing the impact of professional experience placements on the preparedness of the Early Career Teacher, and the other examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on professional experience placements. The results of these investigations are yet to be finalised.
WBHS staff members also participated in a research project examining the role of School Co-ordinators in successful professional experience placements. The findings of this research are to be published in 2021 and will be used to inform staffing decisions within the Department of Education.
WBHS continued to develop resources to support successful learning experiences, focusing particularly on numeracy strategies. It is anticipated that the resources that have been developed will be available to all NSW Public Schools via the DoE website. WBHS will continue to contribute to this project in 2021.
High Potential and Gifted Education
High Potential and Gifted Education was a major focus for Warners Bay High School in 2020, with all teachers completing professional learning in this area. Staff engaged with online learning, case studies and podcasts to consolidate their knowledge and understanding of the new Department of Education High Potential and Gifted Education Policy. Current practices were evaluated, differentiation adjustments and strategies were trialled and a commitment was made to further enhance WBHS’s work in this area.
As with many of our initiatives, the EEE program was impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions throughout 2020. Teachers focused on enriching and extending the learning experiences of students within the classroom using a range of differentiated teaching strategies and critical and creative thinking skills. In the final two weeks of Term Four, our Years 7 and 8 EEE students completed a research project which required them to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on both the local and global community. The driving question for this project-based learning was: How will students at Warners Bay High School relate their experiences of COVID-19 to their grandchildren?
Students were involved in workshops, conducting research, critically analysing existing data, preparing creative solutions and developing presentations to showcase their knowledge and skills. They worked in small teams, supported by Mentors, and interacted with other teachers, organisations and experts throughout the project. At the end of this project students presented their work to an audience comprised of their teachers and their peers. We are unable to stage our usual presentation for family and friends. Why? You guessed it; because of COVID-19.
In the final weeks of 2019 Warners Bay High School welcomed Mr Marcus Neale as our new Principal. Mr Neale came to us from Hunter School of the Performing Arts, bringing with him a wealth of experience as an educational leader. This was certainly used to great effect as we navigated the challenges presented by COVID-19. Throughout 2020 Mr Neale also led us in the development of our Strategic Improvement Plan for 2021-2024. Collection and analysis of data and extensive consultation with members of the school community via surveys, focus groups and meetings were undertaken to help us articulate our educational priorities for the next four years. Our Best Practice teams have been very active in identifying specific strategies WBHS will use to support ongoing improvement in learning, teaching and leading.
Ms Megan Fletcher also joined our leadership team as a Deputy Principal in 2020. Ms Fletcher came to us from Lambton High School where she was very active in the areas of Future Focused Learning and student wellbeing.