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COVID-19 Update (4 May 2020)

Dear Parents

As we enter the second week of Term 2, I want to begin by recognising the additional educational responsibilities that parents have willingly accepted as we have continued with on-line classes and distance learning. 

A September 2015 article from the Journal of Children’s Services reminds us that one of the most influential determinants on academic outcomes is when individual, family and neighbourhood characteristics are controlled.  While a parents’ role is always critical, in these uncertain times it has become even more influential. The stability you offer your son has a direct impact on his education. 

I appreciate that along with supporting your son’s educational needs, there are families who are facing trying and unprecedented circumstances that will be impacting their daily lives.

As on-line lessons continue for all cohorts at Auckland Grammar School, it is timely that we communicate with you about:

  1. Student engagement with on-line lessons
  2. Teaching & Learning: On-line
  3. Teaching & Learning: Grammar’s Approach at Alert Level 2
  4. The Week Ahead

1. Student Engagement

On-line lessons have been a necessity under the Government’s Alert Level system for COVID-19.  As we have not had any opportunity to engage face-to-face with students since Monday 23 March we have monitored student engagement in a number of ways, including on a cohort and School-wide basis.   An example of this is a snapshot view of students’ use of GrammarNet on Friday 1 May.  High levels of engagement were evident with 2741 student logins on the day. Students accessed 8952 files via their class pages. The level of collaboration was high on class pages, with hundreds of teacher-student interactions taking place through GrammarNet, including:

  • 164 social stream posts 
  • 50 forum posts
  • 63 blog posts
  • 10 polls taking place   

These statistics and the associated data provides us with critical feedback that allows us to improve our on-line teaching systems and strategies.  

2. Teaching & Learning: On-line

I am aware that as distance learning continues for at least another week it may be useful for you to understand more about our approach to on-line teaching.  

While there is very little research into the effectiveness of teaching on-line lessons (and less so in the circumstances we currently face), in developing the School’s approach to on-line teaching we consulted existing evidence and research.  Our approach has been further supported by the most recent research - Remote Learning: Rapid Evidence Assessment conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation in April this year. The research was conducted to support the global response to the educational impacts of COVID-19. Its key findings remind us that:

  • Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered
  • Different approaches to remote learning suit different types of content and students
  • Supporting students to work independently can improve learning outcomes
  • Peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes

Teachers have consistently implemented the School’s on-line teaching guidelines throughout Alert Level 3 and 4. Of interest to many parents will be the reviews that looked at the impact of how information is presented on-line.  They found that adding multimedia to on-line instruction had no impact on learning outcomes. The reason I mention this is that the research consistently shows that regardless of the tool, the biggest determinant of effectiveness is the quality of the teaching. Hence, we will continue with our deliberate approach to employing a variety of teaching strategies. 

3. Teaching & Learning: Grammar’s Approach at Alert Level 2

The School is preparing to operate under Alert Level 2.  While the national guidelines we have received are limited, the Ministry of Education has stated that under Alert Level 2, “All Schools are open for all year levels, but may not be able to fully accommodate all students on site and may still require some distance learning.” 

We will need to be responsive to Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and the Government’s Alert Level guidelines in the days ahead, however, in the interim the School is preparing to operate as follows under Alert Level 2:

  • Form 6 and 7 cohorts return to campus for a minimum of four School days each week
  • Form 3 - 5 cohorts return to campus one day out of three on a rotational basis
  • On-line lessons continue on the days students are not at School and involved with on-campus classes

For the past few weeks we have been preparing the logistics for returning some or all students to campus, as soon as is permissible. Parents should be assured that the health and safety procedures being worked through are extensive and will be distributed to families prior to the commencement of on-campus teaching.

4. The Week Ahead

On-line lessons will continue for all cohorts this week.  Students should be completing their class work using the structure of a normal School day. This is particularly important as we prepare for a return to on-campus teaching as all students need to be fit and able to work through a 7-period day.

This video provides useful tips on how to develop a healthy daily routine and may be worth sharing with your son.

Students should continue to interact with their teachers using the variety of methods available to them.  Students will have assessments that need to be submitted and they should continue to follow the guidelines provided to them by their subject teachers.

The School will conduct its first assembly for some weeks this Wednesday morning, starting promptly at 9.00am.  This will be live-streamed from the Great Hall.  Associate Headmaster, Mr McNaughton will be introduced to the School and Associate Headmaster, Mr Skeen, will follow custom by presenting Daily Notices. There will be a number of important announcements made for students that will not be available via archival video.  This will include the weightings for internal examinations for the remainder of 2020 and the associated class placement process for 2021. Wednesday’s Assembly will be available from

There will be a further assembly on Friday for the entire student body where I will be joined by Dr Etty and Mr Taito who will provide academic and pastoral guidance for students. The link for Friday’s Assembly is

It is our expectation that all students will be ready for both assemblies by 9.00am. Again, it is important students watch the live feed, with this process deliberately preparing your sons to return to normal routines.

Thanks for continuing to support your sons’ education and Auckland Grammar School.

Tim O’Connor



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