Tech inequities will still impact students despite today's return

By Jessica Tyson

More than 800,000 students are back in the classroom today and even though the lockdown is over, there are still challenges that lay ahead for them and their teachers.

The principal of St Catholic’s Catholic College in West Auckland, Anna Swann, says ensuring students don’t fall behind due to a lack of technology and devices will remain a challenge.

During the lockdown, the Ministry of Education provided devices for students in need, and St Catholic’s Catholic College sent out some to their own students.

“But for some students, a device is no good because there’s no wifi," explains Swann.

“So knowing that those kids actually need extra special tender love and care because they’re not going to just have fallen behind, for lack of a better word, but also feeling bad about that. So it’s about making sure that they don’t.”

Swann says, fortunately, staff will be able to adapt the NCEA programme into their curriculum.

“We can move it around for the individual needs for each girl to make sure that they can do the very, very best for the best of the year.”

Financial impact on the school

Swann says there will also be a major financial impact on the school which will affect the ability for girls to take part in extra-curricular activities.

“There’s going to be an impact even on the donations and contributions that we collect. I’ve had parents who’ve contacted me asking if they’re better off taking their girl out of our school and I said ‘Absolutely not. These girls are part of our family. This is part of our college whānau and we are here to support you’.”

Swann says there is a lot of fear felt in the community.

“There is a lot of fear in the community in everything in life. Life has changed so we need to make this a safe place for our girls to return to and somewhere where our families feel supported by.”

Mental wellbeing of students

Since the students have spent almost eight weeks in lockdown, Swann and her staff are focusing most on caring for the mental and emotional state of their students as they return to school.

Teachers have also stayed in touch with students online during the lockdown.

“Our teachers are so flexible, so patient, so adaptive, and they’re just getting on with getting on.”

Overall Swann says the teachers are, “just really excited to get the girls back so they can reconnect with them and focus on them with what’s important for them to move forward.”