Kia ora e te whanau
We are built for connection. We are not solitary people. We are connected in families, in partnerships and marriages, in friendship groups, in teams and by many other social links. When we are disconnected, we feel lonely, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling. This week is Anti-bullying awareness week. It’s an issue that has grown in significance during the pandemic. When we feel left out or are purposely excluded from friendship groups it can be extremely lonely and it is a form of bullying.
- We can feel lonely when we are with our friends, our family or our social group - even when we are in a crowd.
- We can feel lonely or detached if we feel left out of certain conversations or activities.
- We can feel lonely because we have no one to discuss a problem with, in confidence. This can make us realise that the relationships that we have are fairly shallow.
- We can feel lonely if we sense that we’re out of tune with others’ expectations because ours are starting to drift in a different direction.
There are probably some members of our community reading this who would describe themselves as feeling lonely right now.
In terms of our mental health, loneliness can result in depression, sleep difficulties, anxiety and low self-esteem. Over time, loneliness can also affect our physical health. We lose fitness, our energy levels reduce and even our immune systems can be impaired. This is why it is important for us to learn some strategies to handle loneliness.
Jesus had times when he was lonely. The Bible uses words from an Old Testament prophecy to describe his experience, particularly at the crucifixion: “We despised him and rejected him; he endured suffering and pain. No one would even look at him – we ignored him as if he were nothing.” (Isaiah 53.3) Jesus’ final words as he died - ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27.46) - indicate the total loneliness that he felt. Christians believe that this is a sign of how closely Jesus identifies with us and sympathises with us when we experience loneliness. I overheard a group of year 7 students discussing why Jesus would like pink shirt day this week- they said: He would like it because he was bullied too!
This is why, in creating his Church, Jesus emphasised that it was to be a community of people in relationship. St Paul expands on this by likening the Church to a body, with many different limbs and organs connected together. We are built for connection.
Loneliness has always been around; it isn’t a new phenomenon. To alleviate it, we can try some of the following:
- Volunteering at a local charity.
- Doing an unexpected favour for someone in our community.
- Smiling and saying hello to complete strangers.
- Exercising. Our bodies will automatically produce endorphins and we never know who we might meet at the gym, on a walk or on a run.
Kia ora e te whanau
It is great to see so many of our students back at school, wearing their uniform correctly and following the wearing of masks expectation. We do not feel that we are ready to make mask wearing optional yet. There is still a long tail of Covid cases in the south and we are hearing from schools that have lifted the mask mandate that Covid cases are rising again. More than anything we really want to avoid any further rostering of year levels home, school closures and most of all sick students and staff members. Even if we have already had Covid, I am sure we all have family members and friends who may be immune compromised who we want to keep safe. Our case numbers are getting very low, and we are hopeful that we can be back in whole school assemblies and gatherings soon.
It was lovely to be able to celebrate the Academic Blues recipients yesterday in person at the Blessed Sacrament Church. These achievements have placed our students as top academic leaders within the region and well above the Government’s measures of student success in NCEA and University Entrance. These achievements and experiences in and of themselves are special and deserved today’s accolades. We are very appreciative of the work and encouragement that you as parents put into these students to bring them along with us on this journey.
Next Friday is Pink Shirt Day in NZ schools and we encourage our students all to wear something pink to school that day just not hair dye or nail polish please. This will be a free mufti day to raise awareness of anti-bullying in our society. No school is immune to bullying and we take it very seriously when students are experiencing any form of bullying. At this week’s assembly I talked about cyber bullying in particular. Our young people spend a lot of time on phones, tablets, social media sites and messaging apps, so they are more likely to come across it. A survey in 2020 found that seven out of ten children aged 10 to 15 years who experienced online bullying said that it was by someone from their school. Nearly the same number were emotionally affected by the online bullying behaviour that they experienced.
Just because the bullying is taking place online does not make it any less harmful. Cyberbullying can have devastating and sometimes long-lasting effects on the person involved. It is important to know the signs so that we can put a stop to it. Anyone who makes threats to us on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. In NZ, it’s against the law to use the phone or the internet to cause alarm or distress to others. If we post abuse online about anyone or send threats, our internet provider has records of our activity. The police can require internet providers to share this information. Cyberbullying can have a massive impact. It can cause a range of emotions and feelings, including embarrassment, worry, loneliness, hopelessness and feeling overwhelmed. As soon as a message has been sent, it cannot be taken back, so it is important to consider the effect that our message or post could have on others. Cyberbullying often starts behind a keyboard, which may lead the bully to think that they are untraceable, giving them further confidence to post abusive comments.
When cyberbullying continues, it can feel relentless. It may result in victims not wanting to come to school or go about their usual activities. They may withdraw from friends and family, and sometimes, their feelings can even lead to self-harm and suicide. The most important thing is not to ignore or hide what is going on. Otherwise, the bullying may escalate. If students are being bullied, whether it is happening online or in person, they must tell an adult whom they can trust. This could be a parent, a member of school staff or a helpline advisor. There are actions available to put a stop to bullying; we do not have to put up with it. Most social media sites have a button for reporting abuse; making a report can result in the perpetrator being blocked or deleted from the site anonymously. We can also block anyone on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram so that they cannot message us again. It is a good idea to take a screenshot of any abusive messages to use as evidence.
We wish Mrs Kate McGowan all the best as she goes on maternity leave and we know her year 7 homeroom class will be in capable hands with Mrs Liza Wilson coming back to teach this class until the end of the year. We will be re-advertising the Learning Support Coordinator role later in this term.
Kia ora e te whanau
I write before the beginning of Holy Week when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ passion, and the mystery that is, his death and resurrection. It is a time for prayer and reflection of who we are as a Catholic school. “Charity Fulfils the Law” our school motto, comes from the Rosminian tradition and also reflects the charism of the Sisters of Mercy. Charity Fulfils the Law can also be translated as Love Fulfils the Law. The “Law” of Jesus Christ is the commandment to love God and love thy neighbour. Love is about acting in a way that is consistent with the Ten Commandments. Our challenge is to reflect on this as we enter this holy period.
It is my very great privilege to share with you all the schools new strategic plan for the next three years. Our plan is a result of a joint effort of students, parents and teachers. Thank you to our staff for the dedication and professionalism they bring to St Peter’s College, and for the encouragement and care of the students they connect with daily. Thank you also to whānau for supporting the college, and the investment in your children’s learning. We hope you see the hopes and dreams you have for your children reflected in this plan. The strategic plan can be viewed via the school website: https://www.stpetersgore.school.nz/governance.html
Supporting busy young men and women who balance schoolwork, after school activities, part time jobs and a growing interest in having ‘a social life’ has its challenges. However, I am sure you will agree it brings a huge amount of satisfaction. Each one of our students possess God-given gifts and talents and it is our job, and our privilege, to help them become the very best version of themselves aiming high in their aspirations. Early next term we will have our Academic Blues Assembly where we will recognise last year’s senior student success for those who achieved Merit and Excellence endorsements. This will be an opportunity to recognise those students who achieved in the academic sense, on a par with the best in the country. The young people who will be acknowledged are examples of students who live our school motto through taking every opportunity to learn. This is a habit that has been nurtured, nourished, and formed over time. It has involved learning how to prioritise, be organised, make best use of class time and teacher availability and how to balance a busy life.
We certainly hope that here at St Peter’s, the education of the students is a partnership and that our desires as parents and teachers complement our Catholic tradition which aims to form young adults who will make a difference. One of the ways we develop these relationships is through our Parents, Teachers and Friends association (PTFA). This group helps support us to complete and fund key work in the College community. Today a special fundraising request will be going out to each and every family in our school community to further help support this key work. Recently the PTFA purchased more outdoor seats for staff and students which has been greatly appreciated, especially while we are still in the red traffic light setting and are encouraged to eat outside.
Winter is fast upon us and please note: winter uniform is compulsory from the start of Term Two this year. Winter uniform means no hoodies or puffer jackets (school related or not) as they are NOT part of the school uniform. Thank you for your continued support ensuring that our students present themselves with pride in the Blue Blazer. This will be our last newsletter for the term due to the short week next week. To our students, I always say at this time of the school term, travel safe and don’t take risks over the holidays. Think before you act. I look forward to seeing you all next term, winter uniform, hair neat and a desire to learn. These are all key aspects to our way of following our school motto, “Charity Fulfils the Law.”
Kia ora e te whanau
The Education Review Office, more commonly known as ERO is due for its third visit to St Peter’s College next week as part of the new ongoing partnership model- Te Ara Huarau. Under this model ERO is moving from one off event based external review visits to supporting each school in a process of continuous improvement.
Te Ara Huarau will use a developmental approach to evaluation that will reflect our school’s individual context, culture and needs. Their aim is to strengthen the capability of all schools through embedding a continuous improvement approach, strengthening our engagement with and accountability to whanau. We have an ERO evaluation partner who is working alongside us, Ms Christine Gold, to support us to be an even greater school and every child a success.
We are excited to share with you next week the schools new strategic plan for the next three years. This work is a culmination of board planning and leadership, community and student consultation involving 75 parents, 58 students and all teaching staff over the last 8 months. We hope this plan mirrors the dreams and wishes you have for your children, and you can see your feedback reflected back at you.
Covid continues to wreak havoc across the community, and we are continuing to roster senior students’ home to ease the pressure on staffing. This will be reviewed next week, and we will share the plan for the last week of term with you then. Some students have returned from isolation under the impression that they have had Covid now so they no longer need to wear a mask as they can’t catch it again. This is untrue and all students must please continue to always wear a mask when inside. Every day when I collate the statistics, I can assure you that those students who are wearing masks correctly and consistently are on the whole avoiding Covid. It is also ensuring the safety of our staff and keeping them at work every day.
We remember the special soul of Whaea Vanessa’s mother, Anne Whangapirita who went with God this week.
Oh God, Who has commanded us to honour our father and mother, have compassion in Thy mercy, on the souls of our fathers and mothers; forgive them their sins, and grant that we may see them in the joy of eternal brightness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Charity Fulfils the Law
Kia ora e te whānau
Once again, I'd like to express my gratitude for the seamless transition to online learning for all students isolating at home either as positive cases or household contacts. Everyone has experienced significant disruption since the start of 2022, and disruption will continue over the next few weeks as the Omicron outbreak reaches its peak in the South.
We are committed to caring for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and student body within the limitations we have to work. For the rest of the term while the virus peaks, we are preparing for the possibility of a number of staff and students being away. We have now reached the point where we cannot staff all timetabled classes face to face.
Therefore, starting on Monday 28 March we are going to have senior students doing home learning, for two consecutive days per week. This means that all year 7-10 students will come to school as normal. Senior year levels will be rostered home to continue their learning. All learning will be prepared for them the day before they are rostered home by their teachers and further instructions and tasks will be put up on Microsoft Teams. For the two days students are at home they will not have any contact with their teachers so self-management and discipline will be required. Whanau can help by providing a quiet study space and checking in with your child to see they are working on their lessons. These dates will be reviewed as we progress.
Our hybrid teaching and learning plan is based on having a sustainable, practicable and proactive response. It is sustainable because teachers and students know what they can expect from each other. It is practicable because it means that we can offer flexibility in the case of staff shortages. By taking this approach, we hope to be able to keep the school running smoothly. We will keep you informed as to any changes to this plan or developments.
Our plan will be discussed with students today in their subject classes and in Microsoft Teams.
· Year 13 - Monday 28th March and Tuesday 29th March
· Year 12 - Wednesday 30th March and Thursday 31st March
· Year 11 - Friday 1st April and Monday 4th April
· Year 13 - Tuesday 5th April and Wednesday 6th April
· Year 12 - Thursday 7th April and Friday 8th April
We are continuing to follow our NCEA assessment policy, in line with guidance from NZQA. Should we be closed for a period when assessments were going to be set, we may defer assessment and alter deadlines. We will work to ensure that assessments continue to be reliably and consistently managed.
Our approach to teaching and learning is centred on student wellbeing. Please contact your child's whanau teacher if you require assistance at home, as well as the subject teacher if you have any concerns about learning in a particular subject. Please also note however that these teachers may also be isolating so a wait time of 24-48 hours for a response can be expected.
Finally, we know how hard the impacts of COVID-19 have been for many families. If you know of a family in your community who is struggling, please encourage them to reach out for support for example to access food, medicine, or access financial support: Help is available.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact Bridget Ryan (DP of Learning and Teaching) firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance.
Kia ora e te whanau
Two years ago, we would never have been as conscious as we are now of coughing or sneezing in public. If you cough or sneeze in the supermarket, people instantly take a step away from you and you even wonder yourself, could I have Covid? The sneeze is probably related to dust in the air and the cough is probably related to wearing a mask all day! Two years ago, a sneeze or a slight cough was nothing to worry about it, in fact we probably didn’t think twice because it is a normal part of being a human being.
Thinking about this in terms of the pandemic, Covid has and continues to make us all think differently about things. Whether it is something as small as “what does this sneeze mean?” or much larger dilemmas such as “what do I need to prioritise at this time?” or “how are we going to manage this?” Covid has certainly given us many opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge.
There are two ways we can respond to this. The first way is to be resentful about all the things we have missed out on as a result of Covid and focus on how much harder life is, or we can use the pandemic to make us better people and celebrate all our new ways of thinking and doing.
For example, prior to the pandemic I would have argued that you could never run a professional development workshop online. But do you know what? You can. I have learnt to participate online. In fact, I now find this easier than face-to-face. It is also cheaper and quicker than flying around the country!
Perhaps what we all need to be learning through this season is something Christopher Robin once said to Pooh: “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Christopher Robin to Pooh, A.A. Milne.
We can’t control what the future may hold. The fact is we never could, but it seems to take a pandemic or natural disaster to remind us of this. What we can do though is control our response to what stands in front of us. We get to choose our next step.
In this season of Lent, let us give up being resentful and remember with hopeful joy that the Resurrection is coming.
Kia ora e te whanau
Perseverance has been a strength that I am sure we can all relate to and remember times when we have needed this quality. There are circumstances that we face every day that bring out this strength in each one of us. How we approach these circumstances says a lot about our innermost strength and our faith. We often rely on our own strength and are under the impression that we must solve everything with this strength of ours without seeking assistance from our family, friends or spiritual guidance. In times of difficulty, we are called to persevere and not be afraid of what lies ahead knowing that we are guided and upheld by the Good Lord in our daily lives. Romans 5:3-5 says, Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The last couple of weeks have not been easy but I am pleased with the resolve shown by our young people in adapting to each new situation and working with enthusiasm. They are, on the whole, following health and safety guidance and protocols that can keep them, their teachers and family safe and I am proud of their approach.
As we progress through this year, I encourage our community to be positive and work together with us at St Peter’s College to ensure that every young person builds on their future. Your encouragement and presence in the lives of each of our students is important in building on their perseverance and the outcomes that come from this perseverance. It allows them to not be easily discouraged by set-backs but to endure and seek and achieve the goals that they have set themselves. This will continue to grow their confidence and strength of character, knowing that they are supported well by you and all of us at school.
You will aware that today at 11:59pm the required period of isolation for positive cases of COVID-19 and their household contacts is being reduced from 10 days to seven days. Office staff are keeping a spreadsheet of dates of infection, positive test results etc and will inform you of the date a student can return to school. Thank you very much to all of you who have been so vigilant in keeping your child at home if they have cold and flu symptoms and informing us of positive case results in your households. This information is treated with confidentiality. Day 0 is the day symptoms began or the day the test was taken (whichever came first). Cases will isolate for a full seven days and are free to return to normal activities on Day 8, if they are not symptomatic. Please only return your child to school if they have had no symptoms for at least 48 hours.
We have done really well so far at not spreading Covid in our school. I post daily updates on Facebook of cases and attendance for those of you who are interested: https://www.facebook.com/stpetersgorenz
Kia ora e te whanau
This week began the Church season of Lent, starting with Ash Wednesday which leads up to Easter and the Resurrection, the greatest feast of the Church.
In this time, we are asked to put a greater focus and effort on prayer, fasting and giving to others, often referred to as almsgiving (Matthew 6: 1-8). These three things are not ends in themselves but a means of deepening faith, personally and communally through repentance, sacrifice, self-giving and prayer. Of Lent, Pope Francis reminds us, “It is time to reconsider the path we are taking to find the route that leads us home and to rediscover our profound relationship with God, on whom everything depends…It is an exodus from slavery to freedom.”
Since the very early days of the Church, ashes have been put on ones forehead in the sign of a cross with words uttered, “Repent and believe in the Gospel" or more traditionally, "Remember that you are dust and unto dust, you shall return." While some might interpret the latter as somewhat morbid, it is both realistic and a reminder of our eternal destiny.
While we were not be able to distribute the ashes as normal, we can still remember what they signify and take on the challenge of Lent encouraged to draw closer to the One who made us. We celebrated Ash Wednesday in our whanau classes with a liturgy led by the Year 13 house leaders. It was a lovely service that enabled our Year 13’s to show true servant leadership and for their younger brothers and sisters to experience prayer and reflection in a respectful and faith filed way.
There are six weeks left of the school term to go and preparations are in place for winter sports to get going in term two. Trials and trainings are starting up and we encourage you to check out our sport Facebook pages for updates and information. Registrations have only just taken place and with committee meetings only able to take place over Zoom at the moment please be patient with us. We are still weeks away from naming any teams and we have a lot of time before this is necessary. We will share this information with you when we have it and please know a lot of work is going on behind the scenes from our sports coordinator, code convenors, committees and teachers in charge.
Almighty and Everlasting God,
You have given the human race
Jesus Christ our Saviour as a model of humility.
He fulfilled Your Will by becoming Man
And giving His life on the Cross.
Help us to bear witness to You
By following His example of suffering
And make us worthy to share in His Resurrection.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son.
Kia ora e te whanau
I am pleased to report that the first two weeks have run smoothly with the majority of students quickly adjusting to the expectations that this current climate requires. It is heartening to see how quickly everyone has settled into the routine of being back at school. With Covid cases continuing to rise in the Southern region and with Wakatipu High School reporting some positive cases last night, it is a timely reminder to remind your children about the importance of wearing a mask appropriately throughout the day. Students who have been observed not doing this when we are contact tracing after a positive case will be classed as close contacts automatically.
St Peter’s College academic results for 2021 once again make for great reading:
University Entrance pass rate: SPC 69.2%; National 50.8%
Level 3 pass rate: SPC 84.6%; National 69.9%
Level 2 pass rate: SPC 98%; National 77.4%
Level 1 pass rate: SPC 94%; National 68.5%
Excellence endorsement rates (50 credits at Excellence level):
Level 3 rate: SPC 9.1%; National 17.9%
Level 2 rate: SPC 25% ; National 17.7%
Level 1 rate: SPC 31.9%; National 21.1%
After the year that 2021 was, these results are a credit to the resilience and efforts of our students. My thanks also to our wonderful hard-working teachers, who ensured that the impact on our students learning was significantly reduced.
We are grateful to our St Peter’s Community for your continued support in helping us teach your young men and women. We are confident that this year will be an exceptional year for teaching and learning and that they will work with dedication and enthusiasm throughout the year. We wish each of you the very best for the year ahead.
Ma te Atua tatou e manaaki
Kia ora e te whanau
Happy new year and welcome back to St Peter’s College for 2022! Omicron is casting a pall, but a new year should be a time of hope. And no one is more hopeful than educators, “teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” So, we are going to face some challenges this year, but we are prepared and well planned for all levels of adversity that will come our way. We will do this with continued hope and strive to do all that is possible to keep our students and staff safe. Our health and safety plans are all up to date and can be provided for you to read upon request.
Universal masking, vaccination of children and adults, systemic testing and tracing infections, keeping at least 1.5 metres of distance, practicing good hygiene, and sanitation and ventilation of buildings are all ways we can help minimise the spread of Omicron. Thank you for ensuring your child is wearing a mask to school. This is going to be the best way to guarantee your child does not spread or catch Covid and/or become a close contact. We have a small number of students with mask exemptions. When Covid reaches St Peter’s College, and cases rise, close contacts will instantly be asked to self-isolate at home for 10 days minimum. Wearing a mask is one way to avoid being a close contact. The table below shows how this is worked out. When we begin to back trace contacts, students and staff who have not been wearing a mask around a Covid case will be the first to be sent home.
We don't expect widespread system shutdowns like we have had before, but it's highly likely that outbreaks in individual schools may force a temporary closure and the need for quick deployment of remote instruction. We are ready for a fast pivot to virtual learning. As has always been the case throughout the COVID-19 response, some children, students or staff may be required to self-isolate (as they are a confirmed case or a close contact) or have complex medical needs, particularly if not fully vaccinated, and therefore may not attend onsite for a period of time. Our planning needs to consider what we will do if a large number of staff are unable to be at school. While it is unlikely that St Peter’s College will be closed entirely for public health reasons, it may become unmanageable to remain open for onsite learning. In this case the Board of Trustees will decide if all students and staff need to work remotely for a period of time. We will do our utmost best to accommodate the needs of students under 14 who would not have supervision at home.
As a school and community, we have learnt a lot about health and safety, online learning, communication and social media to a level we have never needed to before and as teachers our job has changed immensely. We can deal with the Covid related stuff, but it is the loss of empathy and appreciation that is unmanageable. Teachers and leaders are coping with impossible, unfamiliar burdens during this pandemic. Should you have the chance to offer grace or support over the coming weeks, I hope you will. Grace, forgiveness, patience and a willingness to work together is what will get us through 2022.