Tuesday 16 August 2011

2011, a great year

I know it isn't, but it FEELS like the end of the year. Please add to the list of the things we've survived this year (so far):

Two thousand and eleven’s going fast
And there’ll be some relief when it has passed
We know that time eventually will deaden
The pain of things that nearly did our head in

So just for now, let’s keep the pain alive
And list the stuff that so far we’ve survived:

Floods, high winds, gales, acts of God
Callouts of the Armed Offenders Squad
Unscheduled closures due to too much snow
And scheduled visits from the ERO

Mumps, measles, flu, and chicken pox
Allergies, and anaphylactic shocks
School camps, concerts, and the school production
Building renovations and construction

Earthquake damage, cracking, aftershocks
Broken pipes and windows, fallen rocks
Sharing sites and using portaloos
And being interviewed for TV news.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Review Summary: Documentation and Self Review

Documentation and Self Review was reviewed by school boards last term and we have made some changes to the topic as a result.

We believe that SchoolDocs gives schools great tools for the important task of reviewing: advisories, a review schedule, the self review tool itself, and policies that are clear and up to date (thus easy to review). We know that these tools are much appreciated by boards.

Tools aside, the stakeholders still have to actually do the reviewing and we are pleased to report that the number of schools taking part increases with every policy review. Many schools organise to review and submit their feedback and rating at special review meetings, boards at board meetings, staff at syndicate meetings, etc.  Whether feedback is submitted as a group, or individually, the opportunity for discussion is invaluable.

A number of interesting points were raised in this review, some have resulted in changes to the topic and some are just interesting. Some need to be addressed by individual schools and we urge you to check your implementation feedback.

An important point raised was that our Documentation and Self Review topic concentrated more on policy reviews through SchoolDocs than on other reviews undertaken by schools.  We have addressed this in our draft topic .

Many schools feel that their community engages more with the policies now that they are online and they are invited to participate in reviews, while other schools find this participation difficult to achieve. Here’s a list of suggestions for encouraging participation:

  • Use the instructions on the dashboard to advertise reviews to the relevant groups.
  • Convene special review meetings (board, staff, syndicate, parent groups, etc) when a policy is under review.
  • Advertise the site regularly in your newsletters – the URL and the community username and password.
  • Have a link to your SchoolDocs site from your school website – there are instructions for this on your dashboard.
  • Read the implementation feedback submitted to your school and, where appropriate, report back to your school community about points raised, actions taken, etc.
  • Direct the school community to the What’s New topic on the site where new or changed content is listed.
  • Let your community know that they can send feedback on a policy even when it is not due for review by clicking the Send Feedback button in a topic. This generates an email to the principal.

Review Summary: Employer Responsibility

In term two this topic was reviewed by school boards and staff. Generally, the ratings were very high for both content and implementation, with most review comments very positive. There were two recurring themes, however…

  1. EEO. It’s true, schools are no longer required to publish an EEO programme each year. We have changed the topic to say this.
  2. Many reviewers were unhappy with the wording, ”recognises the needs of ethnic and minority groups, and the requirements of women and persons with disabilities”, objecting to the “lumping in of women with minority groups and the disabled”, and wondering what women’s special employment requirements are. We decided to remove the entire bulletpoint from the topic, and put it in the draft EEO topic with wording that better reflects the spirit of the EEO policy (recognises the value of diversity in staffing (for example, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, hours of work, etc) and the employment requirements of diverse individuals/groups).
In the EEO topic is a link to the Ministry of Education’s EEO Planning Resource which (among other things) talks about the value of diversity in a school’s staff. Just to summarise, very roughly, some of the benefits of diversity are that with a bigger range of people there’s a bigger opportunity to find someone you can relate to; a greater selection of role models, the opportunity to learn new things, and new ways of doing things, and great value in learning to work with, and deal with, people whose needs might be different from our own.
Some reviewers mentioned specific concerns and, as usual, we urge schools to check their implementation feedback and address any issues raised there by members of their school community.

Dogs at School

So the issue of dogs at school rears its head again, although it's possibly issues from the other end that are the problem. What happens at your school?

A couple of schools have asked us about dogs at school policies. We have one if anyone wants it. It says "dogs are not permitted on the school grounds at any time". It seems that schools have different tolerances in this area, and probably very different experiences and problems.

What's it like at your school? Are dogs a problem? Do you have/want a policy about them?

On 24 August 2011, John said: "We have a Canine Educators programme where we have identified staff owned dogs, that have been independently assessed and passed a specific course to be certified as a SNBS Canine Educator. We have signs around the school where we state Canine Educator Dogs Only."

And Graeme Sullivan said: "We do have a dog policy.We believe dogs are part of the community and family life. Children should be given the opportunity to learn about how to approach dogs. So we have a policy that allows dogs into school under controlled conditions. Not everyone agrees with this but so far so good. The policy has been working well for five years."

The Peanut Peril

As mentioned in a (much) earlier blog entry, we hear of increasing numbers of children with potentially life-threatening allergies. How do we keep them safe at school?

There are plenty of things that children can be allergic to, but peanuts beat the others for causing anaphylactic shock, and reactions to peanuts can be triggered by such tiny amounts. In a sensitive individual, symptoms can occur after exposure to 1/800th of a peanut. You don't even have to eat it, it might be transferred by hand, on a surface, through a hug, etc. It's hard to avoid the peanut peril altogether because peanuts are used in so many things, including as thickeners, as cooking oils; and exist as traces through cross contamination with exposed items.

So, how do we protect allergic children at school? Do we educate the school community about the dangers of peanuts, and sharing food generally, and hand hygiene, etc etc. Do we ban peanuts outright? Do we avoid "shared food" at special morning teas/lunches?

What challenges have you had with allergies at your school? Have you had to use an Epipen on anyone? Does everyone at school know how to use one?

Good news: many children outgrow peanut allergies (don't test this at home!), and scientists are genetically modifying peanuts to rid them of the problem causing proteins.(And shrimp, apparently - good news for seafood allergic types!).