Silver lining for COVID-19 affected HSC students

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

In a year that delivered sudden and dramatic disruption for students at all levels, local year 12 and University of Newcastle students have found a silver lining, participating in a clever initiative aimed at reversing COVID-19 chaos.

John Fischetti with student in front of Callaghan College
Professor John Fischetti with student, Sinead Conway

Conceptualised by University of Newcastle’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Education and Arts, Professor John Fischetti and supported by NSW Department Education Executive Director School Performance, Mr Tim McCallum, the initiative sees University of Newcastle Masters of Teaching students deliver one-on-one tutoring support for more than 300 students at Callaghan College.

Professor Fischetti said that confronted by the scenario that Masters of Teaching students might not be able undertake their first practical placements during the pandemic, he collaborated with the Department of Education to explore other possibilities.

“We were well across the significant disruption impacting schools, particularly those students completing their stressful HSC year. We were also committed to finding a way for our Masters of Teaching students not to miss out on vital, face-to-face classroom teaching opportunities,” said Professor Fischetti.

“The idea to remodel typical classroom-based practical teaching placements to deliver one-on-one and group tutoring for HSC students had a clear dual benefit. It allowed our aspiring teachers to experience a practical teaching environment while providing much needed prep and remediation for students preparing to undertake their HSC.

Professor Fischetti said his team worked with teachers to design a program that would work for their school and their students.

“We didn’t want to overburden our amazing teachers in our partner schools, but provide extra help as they sought fit,” said Professor Fischetti.

“It’s been a hugely successful initiative. We’re so proud of and grateful for the enthusiasm demonstrated by the NSW Department of Education, the great Callaghan College leaders and the students, teachers and future teachers who participated.

The initiative ran in the weeks leading up to the HSC trials, which commenced last week.

Roger Macey, Principal of the Jesmond Campus of Callaghan College, said the program had given HSC students a huge leg-up for their HSC.

“While we offer study sessions as an added extra, this was like a smorgasbord of tutorials for students to choose from. It has really has given the kids a leg-up in terms of preparing for final year exams,” said Mr Macey.

“While COVID-19 provided the special circumstances for this initiative to happen, what it has proved is how beneficial this has been for our HSC students and I would like to see it continue moving forward.”

Mr Macey said of the 315 final year students, more than half would go onto university, with the vast majority opting for the University of Newcastle.

“Over the past seven weeks, our kids have formed really strong relationships with the teaching students who, in turn, have had an opportunity to experience life on a senior campus which will help them determine if they want to pursue a career in education.

“The program has been given the thumbs up by staff and students, as well as the university, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Professor Fischetti said the initiative had been a high point in what had been a very challenging year for the class of 2020.

“Our young people need to know that they will be okay and that we support them even in these disruptive times.”

Professor Fischetti said this was a transformative moment in Education, and with innovative thinking and leadership we could work to ensure students, educators, caregivers, parents and school communities were supported.

“Education is a fundamental thread of our community. We must find ways to innovate and adapt to embrace these new challenges. This project is just one example of the amazing outcomes generated when community leaders work together to problem solve,” said Professor Fischetti.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.