The Auracle – Volume 40, April 2020

From the Principal’s desk

In describing the enormity of the challenges that have faced our communities in recent times, including drought, floods and bush fires, we have probably all reached for words such as unprecedented, unparalleled or extraordinary.

With the promise of a new year, I’m sure we all hoped that these adjectives and their synonyms would take a hiatus from our conversations and communications. And yet, as the devastating bush fires were finally extinguished and as promising rain has begun to fall in parts of our parched land, a new challenge has emerged. Like me, I’m sure you feel we are living a period of world history that will be poured over by generations to come.

Who would have imagined a start to the year like this? Who would have imagined that Aurora College, the state’s only virtual school, would soon be joined by all other schools in delivering learning and teaching in a virtual environment? As much as it pains me to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on how we are currently able to live our lives in ways that are unprecedented in modern times. As has been the case with all the challenges we have faced, it is our adaptability, our resilience and our sense of community that will overcome this latest threat.

Laura, working from home in Griffith

Today is Day 13 of our Learning from home mode of operation and I am pleased to report that our school has maintained a largely ‘business as usual’ approach to learning and teaching during our state’s response to COVID-19. On Tuesday 24 March, Aurora College began delivering scheduled live lessons for all years in Microsoft Teams. This platform is familiar to all students and staff; it being our learning management system for the past three years. In this mode of operation of our school, we have also been utilising Team’s audio and video meeting facility for our live lessons. The move from our usual virtual classroom platform was necessary to accommodate the lower bandwidth available to our students in the their homes.

The changes to the normal mode of operation for schools has not been without challenges for a number of students who have limited access to the internet. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to work with the families of these students and our partner school staff to ensure all students have continuity of learning.

Please be aware that students accessing classes and class resources from home may also impact on your internet connection’s download limit. We have been collecting information from families regarding home internet connections to assist in planning for future lessons and we understand that some students have limits either on bandwidth or downloads that may impact class attendance.

If you are concerned about limits on your connection and the impact that online classes may have on your account, I encourage you to contact your broadband provider to enquire whether there is additional capacity available for education purposes during the current situation. As always, Ben Hillsley offers excellent advice on this and other technology topics in the Technology support section, below.

You should also be aware that whilst students may be using Aurora College or NSW Department of Education equipment to study from home, any filtering or monitoring that the Department has in place to protect students at school is not available at home. School internet connections include an automatic filtering system, preventing students from accessing sites categorised as unsuitable or inappropriate for education. This includes social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

As the filtering system is attached to the school’s internet connection, and not to the individual devices in use at the school, students using an Aurora College device to access the internet from home or other internet connections will not be bound by these filters. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Technology Support Team on 1300 610 733.

If you have not yet visited the Learning from home page of our website, I urge you to do so. Here you will find links to videos and support documents to help students stay connected, including advice about learning from home with limited internet access.

I want to especially thank our Aurora parents and carers for the assistance being given to our students at this time. As a parent of two teenage students, I appreciate the added stress on families that comes with monitoring the learning of children at home. The NSW Department of Education’s website has advice and resources for parents and carers to support students when learning remotely, including supporting student wellbeing. I remind all students and parents that class rolls are being marked for all lessons. If your child is unable to attend their scheduled lesson, parents should contact the coordinating office by telephone on 1300 287 629 or by email at auroracoll-h.school@det.nsw.edu.au.

Of course, leading best practice learning and teaching in a virtual environment is a space that Aurora College has comfortably occupied for some time. As you can imagine, advice and support from the Aurora staff has been in high demand as all schools transition to online learning and teaching. Virginia Cluff, Serena McLean, Carolyn McMurtirie and Ben Hillsley, in particular, have made outstanding contributions to the Department’s response to COVID-19 via state-wide professional learning presentations. We have always taken great pride in the work that we do at Aurora in support of public school students and staff. I can say unequivocally that I have never been prouder than I am at this time, of the willingness of our staff to share their expertise and experience with our colleagues in other schools.

How long the COVID-19 pandemic will impact on school operations, or on our lives more generally, nobody really knows. At this stage, the expectation is that schools will continue in the Learning from home mode well into Term 2. Until further notice, therefore, Aurora College will continue to hold all scheduled lessons in Teams. To keep up to date with school operations, I urge you to bookmark and visit regularly, the Department’s COVID-19 website. Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about the Department’s response to COVID-19, information on schools that have temporarily ceased operations, and resources relevant to continuing childrens’ education at home.

My best wishes to you all for the Easter break. Be kind to one another and stay healthy!

Chris Robertson | Principal

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Deputy Principal’s report

Our deepest condolences go to the family, friends, and students of Michele Hall.

I and the entire Aurora College staff would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and students of Michele Hall who passed away recently.

Michelle was the Librarian and Aurora College Coordinator at Molong Central School. We appreciate all that Michele did for our students and the educational legacy she left for the students, families, and community in Molong.

Term 1 residential school
Our first residential school for 2020 was held from Monday 2 March to Friday 6 March at Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation. 314 students and 52 staff travelled from all parts of the state to enjoy an educational and fun-filled program that included a range of activities. This was by far our busiest and largest residential to coordinate to date. A big thank you to Connor Boyko for organising everything, as well as all staff for giving up their ‘lives’ for this week.

Planning for our second residential school program is underway. It will be held at Canberra Park, Canberra, from Monday 26 October to Friday 30 October. Details will be forwarded to parents and students early in Term 3.

Parent webinars
Throughout 2020, Aurora College will again be providing parent webinars. These webinars will provide parents with information related to a number of topics, including: the use of technology at Aurora; supporting gifted and talented students; how to support a child with anxiety; and Cyber safety.

Our first parent webinar of the year took place on 24 March and helped parents to use the Sentral Parent Portal and to understand safe student laptop use at home.

For more information, please visit our website: http://www.aurora.nsw.edu.au/parent-masterclass-registration/

Reports
Interim reports were issued for students in Years 7 to 11 via email and the Sentral parent portal (https://admin.aurora.dec.nsw.gov.au/portal) on Friday 3 April 2020.

This interim report indicates how your child has begun the new academic year, identifying areas in which he or she might require further attention or support. The report also provides an opportunity to make contact with teachers in each subject about student progress.

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s progress or well-being, please contact the coordinating office by phone on 1300 287 629 or email auroracoll-h.school@det.nsw.edu.au

Assessment handbooks and scope and sequences
Assessment handbooks and scope and sequences are available in Sentral via the parent portal link. This will allow parents to further support their children by accessing timelines for formal assessment tasks and topic outlines of each subject.

Connecting to virtual classrooms
A reminder that all timetabled Aurora lessons and tutorial support sessions for students are continuing as normal. Student attendance will continue to be recorded and monitored. If students are experiencing significant connectivity and technical issues with lessons please contact the Aurora office and let us know.

A parent’s guide to health and safety issues related to laptop use can be accessed at: https://education.nsw.gov.au/content/dam/main-education/student-wellbeing/health-and-physical-care/media/documents/laptopstudents.pdf

A student’s guide to health and safety issues related to laptop use can be accessed at: https://education.nsw.gov.au/content/dam/main-education/student-wellbeing/health-and-physical-care/media/documents/laptopparents.pdf

Please contact our Learning Technology Support Officer, Ben Hillsley, by telephone on 1300 610 733 or email: support@aurora.nsw.edu.au for further information or assistance with technical issues.

What’s coming up next term?

  • School holidays begin Friday 10/4/20
  • Aurora lessons begin Tuesday 28/4/20
  • Year 12 academic reports issued by 11/5/20
  • Parent Webinar ‘Raising kids in a screen world’ 13/5/20 at 7 pm
  • Year 12 parent teacher interviews on 20/5/20
  • Year 11 academic reports issued by 5/6/20
  • Year 7-10 academic reports issued by 9/6/20
  • Year 6 academic reports issued by 29/6/20

Carolyn McMurtrie | Acting Deputy Principal

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Opportunity class pilot

Congratulations to our OC students, as they have navigated their new working from home set up with ease. Delivering lessons in Teams has added new challenges but we are still enjoying the chat and learning. We appreciate the support our students have received from home to make this possible.

In these physically isolating times and with students unable to access webcams for social interactions, we have noticed many OC students who are keen to email, ‘Zoom’ or chat in Minecraft after class time. I encourage parents to support students with making time for online chats, if possible, and provide guidance with appropriate privacy settings. If you require support with this, there is the support provided by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner https://www.esafety.gov.au/about-us/blog/covid-19-online-safety-kit-parents-and-carers

We have continued with our lessons in mathematics and science and technology with our focus on STEM. Our new unit of learning in science and technology and STEM focuses on the ‘Future of Industry’. We won’t be needing our Spheros for this unit as there is more of a research and design thinking focus.

This week in Mathematics we have been looking at Area. Students have been exploring the relationship between area and perimeter, finding the area of rectangles, triangles, and composite shapes. Students had to design three bumper car arenas that matched specific criteria (a perimeter greater than the area, an area greater than the perimeter, and one where both are equal). Once students designed their arenas, they were given the challenge to create them in Minecraft.

 

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Serena McLean | Assistant Principal

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Technology support

Home internet

I would like to remind parents that there is help available if you are having issues with the amount of download quota you have available for students studying from home. On March 25th this year, NBN Co released this media statement outlining additional download limits for Sky Muster satelite customers, which should have automatically been applied to your service.

For Sky Muster connections, an additional 45Gb of data per customer is being supplied to resellers at no additional cost. For Sky Muster Plus connections, a large range of internet content will now be classified as unmetered, and will not be included in your download limit quota.

Other service providers have also offered additional data for their customers as well, including for mobile broadband, ADSL, and NBN connections. Please take this opportunity to contact your service provider and enquire about any assistance they can offer families with students now studying from home.

You might also like to review the recent Learning from home with limited internet access post for some tips on how to get the most out of a limited internet access in a learning from home environment.

Browser notifications

We have recently experienced an issue with some students receiving inappropriate and unwanted messages in their web browser. So far, the most common one pretends to be your virus scanner warning about a number of viruses on the computer, and asking you to “run a scan”. Please be aware that this is NOT genuine, but rather a modern spam technique hoping to have someone click the link. If you see these messages, or other unwanted content in your browser, please ignore it and follow the instructions here to prevent them from coming back: Turn Website Notifications Off

If you are concerned about viruses and want to make sure that you do not currently have any, I recommend that you run the Windows Defender anti-virus build in to Windows 10. Windows Defender runs constantly in the background checking your files but can still be run manually if you are concerned. Instructions on how to manually run a scan are available here: Updating and Running Windows Security

Technology support contacts

As always, if you have any issues with your technology, we are happy to help. Please feel free to continue to call us on 1300 610 733 or email at support@aurora.nsw.edu.au. Please note that support is offered during school hours only, but please email or leave a voicemail message so we can follow up with you after the school holidays.

Ben Hillsley | Learning Technologies Support Officer

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Faculty news – English, HSIE and Languages

Year 7 English

In the ‘Storytelling’ unit of work, Year 7 students have been engaging with a wide range of ‘story’ texts, including ballads, short stories, myths, poetry and autobiography extracts. Students have been learning about the building blocks of narrative and the techniques that are used to enhance the art of storytelling. Armed with this knowledge, Year 7 has been engaging in regular in-class writing tasks that aim to enhance their skills in writing in different text types and for various purposes. At the end of this term, students will contribute to a portfolio of works demonstrating the skills they have developed over the course of the unit.

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Year 8 English

In Term 1, Year 8 have been exploring “The Hero’s Journey”, examining the characterisation of ‘heroes’ in a variety of texts and considering the implications for audiences. Students were asked to compose a short non-fiction text about a Modern Day Hero that they admire. Enjoy this selection of responses.

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Year 9 English

Throughout Term 1, students in Year 9 have examined the impact of context on a literary text. They have considered a variety of different contextual elements, including the personal life of the author, social attitudes and political climate. Classes are reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Night by Elie Wiesel and through their close reading and research into context, will develop an interpretation of the text. This unit of work will culminate in an assessment task that will require students to write creatively from the perspective of a character, asking them to consider things from a different vantage point and just as Atticus Finch states, “climb into (their) skin and walk around in it.” Throughout the unit, students have been completing a variety of imaginative exercises, where they have been using their focus texts as mirrors to help them develop their own writing style.

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Year 11 Advanced English

This Term, students have undertaken intensive and close reading of quality texts from a variety of modes and media. In doing so, they further develop their skills and knowledge necessary to appreciate, understand, analyse and evaluate how and why texts convey complex ideas, relationships, endeavours and scenarios. Central to this module is developing student capacity to respond perceptively to texts through their own considered and thoughtful writing and judicious reflection on their skills and knowledge as writers. Students have read texts that are engaging thematically, aesthetically, stylistically and/or conceptually to inspire or provoke them to critique skilfully, or to respond imaginatively. Through the study of texts, students develop insights into the world around them, deepen their understanding of themselves and the lives of others, and enhance their enjoyment of reading. It’s been a great introduction to what is a very demanding course for students.

 

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Year 11 Extension 1 English

In 11 Extension 1 this term, students have been studying ‘The Archetypal Quest’ in literature. This is part of the module Texts, Culture and Value in which students “explore the ways in which aspects and concerns of texts from the past have been carried forward, borrowed from and/or appropriated into a more recent culture.

The following are samples of work that students have also completed this Term. Students are examining key texts from the past such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s The Odyssey, which display elements of a quest as well as archetypal characters. Students consider the relationship between the text and its culture, the language of the text, later manifestations of the text and the different ways we can respond to the text. The assessment for this term is a creative composition in which students attempt to incorporate what they have learned about ‘The Archetypal Quest’ into an original narrative.

Cassandra Kaloudis | English Teacher

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Year 12 Advanced English

Texts and Human Experiences:

This is the only common module completed by all Year 12 students, which is designed to deepen students understanding of how texts represent individual and collective human experiences. We examined how texts represent human qualities and emotions associated with and arising from the experiences and themes explored in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four. The students appreciated, explored, interpreted, analysed and evaluated the ways language is used to shape representations in a range of texts in a variety of forms, modes and media. We created multimedia Glogs to explore these themes.

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Year 12 Japanese Beginners

Year 12 Japanese student, Chloe Makim, has been rehearsing her writing skills in preparation for the HSC. She is learning how to use traditional “genkoyoushi” paper to compose various texts. This is an example of her excellent first attempt to compose a letter to an imagined Japanese host family, informing them of her preferences around food and what she is looking forward to eating in Japan.

Renetta Wolfe | Languages Teacher

Luisa McDiarmid (Simeonidis) | Head Teacher English, HSIE, and Languages

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Faculty news – Science and Agriculture

Residential science experiments

Throughout our Residential School in Narrabeen, students in Years 7-12 conducted a number of different experiments to supplement what they have been learning in their online classes at Aurora. Check out the video below to see what we got up to.

Virginia Cluff | Head Teacher Science and Agriculture

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Learning and support

As we progress through coming weeks and months, there will be an increased use by our students of digital platforms for both learning and relaxation. It is very important that you as parents and carers understand this environment.

The e-Safety Commissioner, NSW Government Anti-bullying website, Bullying No Way and Outreach all have excellent parent resources, including fact sheets, posters, strategies on having conversations with your child/teen and downloadable parent guides.

Visit the Office of the e-Safety Commissioner website for:

  • Advice for parents and carers to help children have safe online experiences
  • COVID-19 response – online safety kit for practising social distancing
  • The big issues – cyberbullying, online gaming
  • Skills and advice – online safety basics, the hard to have conversations
  • Time online
  • Online safety downloadable guide with practical skills and advice
  • An eSafety guide – information about the latest apps and games your child may be using
  • Helpful links and popular topics including latest research and statistics

Visit the NSW Government Anti-bullying website for:

  • A step-by-step guide for parents and carers when their child is involved with bullying
    • What is bullying?
    • Staying safe online
    • If your child is being bullied
    • If your child is bullying others
    • If your child has seen bullying
    • Coping skills: resilience and teenagers
  • Videos for students – addressing steps they can take to help prevent and respond to bullying behaviour
  • Fact sheet for parents and carers

Visit the Bullying. No Way! website for:

Visit the ReachOut website for:

Visit the NSW Department of Education website for:

  • Learning from home – Advice to parents and carers. The site contains information and links on:
    • Parent responsibilities
    • Students responsibilities
    • Establishing routines and expectations
    • Setting up a learning environment
    • Wellbeing
    • Communicating with
      • your child
      • the school
      • teachers
    • Purchasing new software or devices – not really relevant to Aurora students
    • Accessing digital learning platforms
    • Accessing digital devices and the internet
    • Managing screen time
    • Managing behaviour
    • Digital citizenship

Cathy Groth | Wellbeing Coordinator

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Library news

Aurora College Reading Challenge (ALL Years & Staff)

The 2020 Aurora College Reading Challenge is open to all Aurora College students and staff. A total of eight (8) books are to be read, one from each of the categories listed in the attached PDF.

Congratulations to: Iris, Archie, Laura, and Leila- our reading stars!

The Challenge opened on Tuesday 3 March 2020 and concludes on Tuesday 1 December 2020. All entries are to be emailed to our teacher librarian: kaylene.g.taylor@det.nsw.edu.au

Successful summer of reading

The Aurora College Summer Reading Challenge was completed by many of our students over the summer break. Congratulations to these reading stars: Iris, Archie, Laura and Leila!

Guest author – J.C. Burke 

It was fabulous to have award winning author JC Burke inspire students with her insights into the process of writing a great story!

Pop-up bookshop

Our pop-up bookshop was a huge hit with our students from Years 6 – 12 at the Sydney Residential School. Students were spoilt for choice with the selection of books from Merimbula Extra. I do hope our students are enjoying the books they purchased at our Pop-up bookshop! So many keen readers.

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Premier’s Reading Challenge (Years 7-9)

Students in Years 7-9 are encouraged to participate in the PRC this year. The PRC is now open and will close on Friday 28 August 2020.

Students are required to read 20 books:

  • 15 books from the PRC booklist
  • 5 books of personal choice

All students in Years 7-9 have been emailed reading logs and the PRC booklists. A full annotated list of new PRC resources in our digital library has also been emailed to students.

 

Online resources

Students have access to a wide range of online resources at Aurora College. These can be accessed via the student portal. I am happy for students to continue to email with requests for support in using our digital library.

Recommending resources

To recommend resources for our digital library, it is as easy as sending me an email (kaylene.g.taylor@det.nsw.edu.au), with a subject, book title or author’s name. This is our school library and student and staff contributions are most welcome.

Kaylene Taylor | Teacher Librarian

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Connect locally, learn globally

Hi, my name is Oscar and I am almost 14 years old and live just outside of Bathurst. I attend Denison College, Bathurst High Campus and Aurora – the best of both worlds if you ask me.

Bathurst is a fantastic town to grow up in although I was born in Sydney. We spent 2 years travelling around Australia in a caravan and lived in a really remote town called Kununurra in the Kimberley before moving permanently to Bathurst. It’s fair to say I’ve seen some pretty amazing things.

Bathurst is the oldest inland settlement in Australia and with that comes a lot of very special traditional Indigenous culture and modern history, including infamous bushrangers, the famous Mount Panorama – home of the V8 car races, Ben Chifley – a train driver and Australia’s 16th Prime Minister lived here, and many old villages that used to be gold mining towns. At one-point, Bathurst even had the record for the greatest number of pubs in any one town. We also have our very own real T-Rex dinosaur on display and a brand-new train museum which just opened.

Right now, like most of you, I am learning from home and to be honest I’m really enjoying the lazy starts to the day and stress-free dress code. Armed with a cuppa tea in hand I head to my online Aurora classes to catch up with friends and enjoy the challenges in class. Though, I am really missing my friends and sport classes at school and especially our epic Year 8 handball championships every lunch!

I don’t find it hard to stay motivated at home, I find keeping my normal timetable routine going is the best option and trying to make my day as normal as possible works. The best part is when the work is done I can do what I want and find myself reading and playing board games, riding my bike and hanging out with my three younger siblings.

Lots of things I do after school have also converted to the online learning environment so I am staying connected with my music classes, Scouts and even friends and family through Zoom calls.

Oscar Simeonidis | Year 8

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Spotlight on… Raymond Happ

Mr. Happ is still learning the ropes with all the technology! He is currently focusing on using ‘mute’ in meetings so he doesn’t disrupt everyone.

Where is your ‘home’ school?

I currently work at Coonamble High School, as well as with Aurora College.

What is your local community like?

Coonamble is out in the Central West of NSW with a population of just under 2800. The main industries in the town are based around agriculture, with dryland livestock grazing and cropping being the main types of farming. I was lucky enough to grow up out here, so I know most people in my community, as well as now teaching in the school I went to. With the drought, Coonamble has had its share of hard times, but the recent rain has raised the spirits of the community. However, everything is currently on hold while we are all social isolating – not the most ideal situation, but definitely something that we all needed to do. The toilet paper craze has also come to town – it’s a crazy time to be alive in a small country community!

What’s your favourite subject to teach?

That is a tough one! As a HSIE Teacher, I teach History, Geography, and Aboriginal Studies. I love teaching all aspects of geography, including the formation of different landscapes and landforms, as well as population geography. However, I probably would say that Aboriginal Studies is my current favourite, especially when I get to explore topics such as Social Justice and Human Rights, and the Aboriginal Land Rights Movement- all amazing and important parts of our history. I am currently studying English at Univerisity, so that will probably be my next thing to focus on. . . . watch this space!

Red is Mr. Happ’s ‘doggo’. Here he is chilling with his good mate ‘Scout’ who belongs to one of Mr. Happ’s teaching friends.

What do you like about teaching at Aurora?

I love the online learning opportunities that students get to be involved with through Aurora! When I was completing my HSC I needed to do some of my subjects by distance. I really enjoyed this, but it would have been amazing to see and talk to my classmates and teachers in real-time like they can now. It’s so cool!

What are your other interests?

At the end of last year I adopted my neighbours dog after she went into a retirement home. Redmen, or ‘Red’ is about 14 years old and I love taking him for walks around town, but I’m not a huge fan of his snoring though! Apart from looking after him I enjoy a good Netflix/Stan binge when I am on holidays and doing a spot of gardening.

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From the engine room

During these difficult times we have had to adapt to many changes which affect how Aurora College delivers learning to students and how the Administration Office is run.

As I write this article I am sitting in my home study equipped with a laptop, extra monitor, headset and printer/scanner. Continuing into Term 2, the Administration Office will operate with a School Administrative Officer in attendance to answer phone enquiries. For the interim, I will be working from home, a phrase we are hearing more and more, and Thara and Georgia will be alternating working in the office.

Please be assured that our administration staff are still available to assist our parents and students. Our contact details remain the same; office telephone 1300 287 629 and school email auroracoll-h.school@det.nsw.edu.au. Our office hours are 8:30 am to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday during school terms.

We wish all our families a Happy Easter and fabulous holiday break and as always, stay safe.

Denise Deaves | School Administrative Manager

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