INNOVATION IN TEACHING
St Joseph’s Nudgee College had been teaching students for 129 years when Jason Sepetauc started as their Dean of Learning and Teaching in 2019. In that short time, he has proven to be the man needed for the moment we are in.
When COVID-19 hit, Jason was responsible for all online learning, assessment, communications, staff training and reporting. Decisive leadership was critical, and as a first step Jason set clear goals and galvanised the teaching staff. He communicated regularly, had a deep understanding of how to proceed setting up the online learning environment and a belief in the work of everyone involved.
“Jason and his staff adapted a traditional school model of learning and teaching into an online environment – on the run. Many schools ran online programs, but Jason’s collaborative leadership style brought parents/carers, students, teachers, support staff and the wider Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) schools network together to produce a learning environment of exemplary quality,” says Principal Peter Fullagar.
Jason created NC@home to school St Joseph’s Nudgee College’s 1,700 students across years 5 to 12 online. He and senior school leaders considered what they could control and what were key goals. The focus was on relationships, with students feeling cared for, staff feeling supported and everyone feeling connected.
Class timetables and daily routines were maintained online, but also lesson plans, assessment and reporting feedback as part of the larger academic routine. This kept students on track with their academic goals, and teachers with their semester planning. It also kept parents informed. Year 12 Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) internal assessment submissions met with a 100 per cent success rate.
A key part of NC@home’s success has been Jason’s empowering of Faculty Heads to take responsibility for their area in support of a strategic vision. This in turn generated energy in their own teams which achieved an extraordinary amount of work in a short time period. Teachers knew their content and their students. They were provided with training in online tools and given time to plan and trial online lessons. With each step Jason emboldened staff to try new things in the knowledge they’d be supported.
Jason created a NC@home handbook for students and parents, and live-streamed briefings, assemblies and staff meetings.
“Whole-of-school projects present numerous challenges, let alone against the backdrop of community fear and uncertainty. NC@home was successfully implemented within three weeks, a project that, in ordinary times, would have taken months or even years to plan and execute,” says Peter.
The student body is made up of boys from all backgrounds and learning abilities. There are boarders from farms (which run on their own schedule) and boarders from remote communities who returned to homes as far away as Thursday Island and Papua New Guinea, where internet service may not be available or reliable. Jason worked with Nudgee’s Indigenous Unit who mailed out schoolwork and had assessment sent to local schools so that feedback could occur. For this cohort particularly, the lessons gained from NC@home spark immediate thoughts for what could prove useful in a post-COVID world.
“NC@home did more than preserve the continuity of learning and teaching during a crisis. It has led teachers and boys to imagine a new approach to school education in remote online environments,” Peter says.
An exit survey for the NC@home program found 92 per cent of families were very satisfied and 94 per cent felt confident of their son’s ability to learn online, while 94 per cent of teachers felt they were very supported. For the duration of the program, school attendance was above 9 per cent.
Congratulations Jason on being shortlisted for a TEACHX Innovation in Teaching Award.