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Education department books out entire Perth Convention Centre as back-up for ATAR exams

Dance, drama and music exams are expected to be held in larger school rooms to accommodate social distancing while parents currently have the option to have their child sit out of physical education activities, though not many are taking up the offer.

On August 5, Melbourne was forced to return its schools to remote learning. Prior to the lockdown being enforced, more than 80 schools across the state were temporarily closed after being linked to positive cases of coronavirus.

In South Australia a college was forced to close after the COVID-eliminated state suffered a small outbreak of cases which included a woman linked to Thebarton Senior College.

If Perth is forced to enter a metropolitan-wide lockdown, Mr Blagaich said the last option available to the department for final year students was to generate a Year 12’s ATAR score based on their grades.

“74 per cent of schools in the state ran first semester exams,” he said.

“Some schools, such as Collie Senior High School, rather than an exam did three tests, so schools have modified.”

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.Credit:PCEC

He said the main positive to come from the remote learning period was the shift for teachers to focus more on teaching rather than testing.

Teachers were advised during Term 1 they were only required to complete one assessment per subject, rather than the usual two, given the more challenging learning environment.

“What it’s shown to schools is we don’t need to assess the kids to death,” Mr Blagaich said.

Department Director General Lisa Rodgers said a negative that arose from the experience was the lack of overarching direction for schools to follow.

She said if WA was plunged into the situation again, the issue would be rectified and the department would provide more leadership.

“We had 818 schools used to leading their own schools … but when push came to shove, they needed central support and a bit more direction,” she said.

Submissions made to the committee by Educational Computing Association of WA secondary school coordinator Shaloni Naik revealed some schools had thrived in the remote learning environment, while others had struggled.

She referenced a school where only 20 out of 1500 learning packs were collected by parents.

“They had no way of tracking the students … 80 per cent of the students actually did not do work for a period of four weeks,” Ms Naik said.

She said the transition to at-home learning had exasperated the social divides between schools which was evidenced through a new ‘digital divide’, with a lack of laptops and internet connections for some students.

“It really changes the outcome for that student,” she said.

Ms Rodgers said following a rush to implement the at-home learning in Term 1, the department had since been able to do “an incredible amount of planning” for a number of COVID-19 scenarios that could occur in WA, including if a school has to close for a day for cleaning, through to a state-wide lockdown.

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