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Coronavirus Live News Feed

Mark Yin

April 1, 2020

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New developments


1 May 2020, 12:05pm

In Victoria, VCAA are starting to update us on which SACs (particularly practical tasks) need to be completed on-site. No English subjects are really affected by this, mostly subjects with folios or labs, as well as environmental sciences—check here for details (under ‘School-based Assessments’ > ‘Unit 3 Practical Assessments’). The general advice for any of these is that they “must be completed in the school environment that adheres to current social-distancing advice.”

Study designs have also been adjusted for English Language, as well as Biology and all streams of Maths—same link, with info under ‘2020 Adjusted Study Designs’.

In Victoria, schools remain closed, and current distancing restrictions will remain in place until May/11 for certain, even as other states begin lifting their restrictions. This is ahead of a national cabinet meeting on May/8 which will make a call on whether or not to keep going with shutdown. It’ll also take into consideration how many people have downloaded the CovidSafe app, which has spawned its own set of controversies about privacy and government access to our data. It might seem invasive, but consider:


In Victoria, three new cases were recorded overnight. Around the country, even better—for example, SA and WA are reporting zero new cases, and the ACT currently has no active cases at all.

I wouldn’t necessarily say this means the end is in sight—just a shift into the next phase, which seems to revolve around the app. What a cheery thought, I know.

One last controversy to leave you with—the Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr. Annaliese van Diemen made a tweet on her day off which compared COVID-19 to the British colonisation of Australia:


Conservative politicians have been champing at the bit to jump in with “well, actually…” comments (e.g. “well, actually Cook only charted the East Coast”) and call for her resignation, while the Labor state government has defended her right to make this tweet and express her opinion. Premier Andrews has said: “I've got no comment to make on any member of the public health team other than thank you for the work you are doing because it is making a massive difference.” And so it is.

Maybe this tweet is relevant to the current pandemic, maybe not, but let’s not be defensive about it. Instead, let’s just keep in mind that most of us are in fact not the first Australians who’ve faced something scary and foreign which has completely changed how we live, because most of us aren’t First Australians. Definitely at least food for thought.

NSW also back to school this week

1 May 2020, 11:20am

And a very similar kind of chaos happened there as well, with some degree of conflicting state and federal advice; NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has implemented complete remote learning until at least May 11 in spite of the federal government’s insistence on reopening.

That said, their start of term 2 has also seen some new issues arise—now, more so than a fortnight ago, people are starting to feel the situation stabilise. The number of new COVID-19 cases is falling and the humdrum of home schooling is starting to get old, which is tempting parents to send kids (especially younger kids) back to school earlier.

This is also complicated by the federal government, which has since adjusted its approach based on initial tensions with Victoria. They are now simply offering private and Catholic schools financial incentives to reopen—in particular a 25% advance on next year’s funding if they have half their students back in classrooms by June 1. There are thousands of eligible schools around the country.

Those who are more adamant about distance learning—including Premier Berejiklian, Premier Palaszczuk of Queensland and Premier Andrews of Victoria—suggest that schools will struggle to cope with more students at the moment. Teachers will be more at risk, and the delivery of at-home learning may be compromised. Also, it would be much harder to shut schools again once reopened, than to just keep them closed until we’re sure.

NSW schools are contemplating staggered returns to school, based on things like alphabets, postcodes, year groups etc. or with limited days of the week delivered in person.

At home, VCAA is running webinars to provide advice for teachers and principals, which ran on April 30 and May 1. As April comes to a close (already—it honestly felt so short), the possibility of reopening schools as well as other sectors soon is feeling within reach, though not without some element of risk.

Key changes to Units 3 and 4

24 April 2020, 7:40pm

VCAA has spelled out some of the changes that will be happening to Unit 3 of the VCE. Firstly, it has recommended schools delay the end of Unit 3 until Jun/26. This should give more time for everyone to figure out exactly how SACs will be administered or modified, and whether any must be completed on-site. The deadline for schools to submit Unit 3 results has also been pushed back to Oct/12.

As for Unit 4, there is currently a review of whether or not SACs can be reduced.

VCAL dates are also set to change so that it takes place in parallel with VCE, though there won’t be changes to content or assessment.

VCAA has also changed the last day for official enrolment in or withdrawal from VCE Units 3–4 to Jun/8, and from VCE Units 1–2 to Nov/9. This means that Year 11 students will have more flexibility to pick up and change subjects in Semester 2.

In terms of technological support, the Victorian government will be lending out computers and SIM cards via schools, so speaking to school administration is the first port of call. You can also seek assistance from State Schools’ Relief.

Finally, VCAA is also trying to support teachers by opening up new communication channels where they can seek more focused and detailed information from experts. I’m not too clear what information is being made available, but this is what they’ve written about it:

“F–10 and senior secondary teachers may access two new interactive communication channels from 27 April 2020. These will enable teachers to ask questions and receive answers in real time from our subject matter experts across the organisation.”

What Term 2 looks like so far

23 April 2020, 10:51am

At this stage, Victorian schools do seem to be operating remotely by default. There was some confusion earlier in the week among teachers and parents, but things seem to be settling down for now. Bearing in mind that many teachers spent the holidays adjusting and reworking lessons for online learning, their frustration is probably understandable in this light.

There still isn’t a consistent national framework for how schools should operate in the medium- to long-term though. For example, Queensland schools are only mandating 5 weeks of remote learning for now, though also making sure that essential workers’ kids can still attend school in-person and making SIM cards and laptops available for students who need them.

The Victorian Department of Education has provided learning from home advice for students and parents, translated into a number of languages. One new tidbit in there is that small groups of students who need to gather and complete learning requirements on-site will be permitted to do so. I can’t imagine a lot of requirements falling under this umbrella, but this will be up to individual schools to provide.

Hear from 47 English and Literature 40 scoring tutor, Sarah about her experiences tutoring

17 April 2020, 10:12am

If you're curious about what tutoring with LSG entails, and would like to get to know a tutor a little bit better, this video is for you! Lisa recently sat down with Sarah, one of LSG's amazing tutors, and they spoke about the life of a tutor, various tutoring experiences, and even what it's like to conduct tutoring online.

Conflicting advice from the federal education minister

11 April 2020, 10:41am

There’s been a bit of conflicting advice from higher up, unfortunately. While state government has indicated that government schools will shift to remote learning in Term 2, the federal (national) government has other ideas.

On Apr/9, education minister Dan Tehan asked that independent and Catholic schools keep classroom learning available at the risk of losing federal funding. This is especially confusing for Victorians, as the state government has been decisive in implementing a remote Term 2 for government schools.

It’s a tricky scenario because the federal government funds independent and Catholic schools, while the state government runs government schools.

It’s definitely ok to feel frustrated by this—Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green has described this as an “impossible situation…caught between conflicting advice from state and federal authorities.”

The federal government reasons that children of essential frontline workers need a classroom option, and they may not have any other choice because of their parents’ employment. However, the Prime Minister has also said that it is up to states and territories to make those decisions about what exactly will happen in schools.

We expect more clarification on this over the long weekend and the days to follow.

Latest changes to VCE

10 April 2020, 8:50pm

So what exactly is going on with this right now?

Schools are reopening after Easter but they will operate remotely for Term 2. It will be announced later if this extends to Term 3 or not.

Year 12 students will receive an ATAR for work completed in 2020. The GAT will be held in October or November instead of June; exams are postponed to December at the earliest. Exams may be modified or shortened, but nothing has been announced for certain yet. There are Plan-Bs to either delay exams further if needed, or derive ATARs from your GAT.

However, entry to tertiary study shouldn’t be affected—there’s usually a big window between VCE exams and the start of uni anyway, and government is in dialogue with universities about pushing back the start of 2021 if needed. Admissions processes may look different depending on the extent to which exams are affected, but universities are committed to being fair, consistent and transparent. There may also be catch-up, foundation or bridging classes in your first year.

If you don’t have the technology to learn remotely, the government will be loaning out 4,000 SIM cards and 6,000 laptops. They will also be working with Food Bank to make sure students who need breakfast clubs and lunches get it. Transportation services (school buses, disability transport and metro) will run as usual.

I’m feeling really iffy about some of this…

You’re not alone. Many people, students among them, are encountering all kinds of challenges with the changes that have been happening, and there is no shame in feeling powerless or in need of some extra resources in this time.

If you or your family are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for Youth Allowance or JobKeeper payments. There are also support grants for artists and creatives, as well as rental protections if you or your family are renters.

If you are experiencing family issues, Legal Aid Victoria has resources available.

If your mental health has been affected, you can contact:

Beyondblue:

1300 224 636

Headspace:

1800 650 890

Kids Helpline:

1800 551 800

If you need any support for VCE or schoolwork, we’ll have plenty of content on our blog and YouTube channel to help you address any concerns. We also have a team of experienced tutors available for online tutoring.

Maybe that covers all the bases, but chances are it doesn’t—individual circumstances are really different right now, and circumstances across society are constantly in flux.

Beyond your personal circumstances, you might also be feeling a little iffy about the increased policing, or the exclusion of migrant workers from wage protection.

Could there be any alternatives to policing, maybe some sort of community-based delivery service to ensure that society’s most vulnerable remain well-resourced? And is the government obliged to protect the wages of not only Australian citizens, but Australian taxpayers as well (anybody who lives in Australia is an Australian taxpayer).

A lot to think about if you haven’t done your Oral Presentation yet…

Learning remotely is difficult – how can you ensure that you keep up your marks?

10 April 2020, 11:20am

Across the state, students and teachers are transitioning to learning remotely — and it hasn't been exactly easy. There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your education isn't compromised and remains at a high standard. To hear more about these strategies, check out the blog post created by my fellow tutor, Angie, here.

Learning remotely means that many students of all ages are worried about how they'll be able to access tailored support from teachers busy with adapting their teaching methods and lesson plans who are often unable to give students the one-on-one attention they deserve due to this pandemic. Well, Lisa's Study Guides' online private tutoring service connects students with experienced tutors who scored in the top 9% or better in their recent completion of VCE. To learn more about how we can work with you to empower you to take control of your learning, head over to our information page here.

Lisa has also created a video talking about what online tutoring entails. Be sure to check it out below to learn more!


What’s the federal government doing?

10 April 2020, 9:26am

You might’ve heard the term ‘economic stimulus package’ being tossed around. This refers to when the government borrows money (i.e. increases government debt) and essentially gives it to people so that ‘business as usual’ isn’t disrupted, even when our jobs and our social lives might be. Even if you no longer have a source of income, government payments can now be spent on supplies which keep you alive, keep those businesses afloat, and keep their workers employed. Without any stimulus, the economic consequences of COVID-19 would be far more widespread.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put in place a range of economic stimuli which play a big part in flattening the curve. This has included wage guarantees (JobSeeker/JobKeeper payments) that look a lot like universal basic income—everyone* who is now out of work receives an equal, regular payment from the government that covers their basic needs.

Policies like this allow everyone*, no matter their income level beforehand, to get by and stay at home without needing to find a new job while it’s dangerous (and illegal) to go outside.

Australia has adopted similar policies before—the then-Labor government introduced economic stimuli during the financial crisis of 2009—but Scott Morrison was a vocal critic back then.

Finally, even though Australia’s response to COVID-19 appears to be working well, there are two big challenges coming up. One is Easter, a long weekend where people traditionally go out. This time, they’re being warned to stay home.

Another is the start of Term 2, when over a million Victorian students would usually be on the move. The transition to remote learning will prevent this in a bid to continue flattening the COVID-19 curve.

*everyone who is eligible—which currently doesn’t include temporary visa holders, many casual workers, people in arts and entertainment, charities etc.

By the numbers: the state of the virus

8 April 2020, 1:45pm

As of Wednesday April 8, we’ve seen 5,844 cases of COVID-19 across the country, with 1,212 of those in Victoria, where 60,000 tests have been administered. Among these:

• 12 have passed away

• 45 are in hospital, including 12 in intensive care

• 101 seem to be the result of community transmission

• 736 have recovered

In order to control the rate of the outbreak, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has introduced a range of regulations which promote social distancing. These have been increasingly restrictive, from closing down non-essential businesses and limiting the size of public gatherings to stay-at-home rules that are now enforceable—you might’ve heard of these as “stage 3 restrictions”.

As part of these restrictions, you may only legally leave the house for four reasons:

• Getting food and supplies

• Seeking medical care

• Exercise (that doesn’t involve groups of more than 2 people)

• Work and study (where remote options are unavailable)

There are also on-the-spot fines of $1,652 for anyone caught in breach of these restrictions, and as many as 114 such fines have been issued in a single day. Since March 21, Victorian police have conducted 16,039 spot checks in homes and non-essential businesses. People have been fined for having mates over for dinner parties, a cheeky video game sesh, even hanging out in the park.

At this stage though, there are signs that these restrictions may be paying off, and that Australia is ‘flattening the curve’ compared to other countries, especially other Western democracies such as the US (which now leads the world in COVID-19 cases) and the UK (where the Prime Minister has contracted the virus). ‘Flattening the curve’ basically means new cases are growing at a slower rate (a ‘flat’ increase) rather than at an exponential rate (a sharper increase).

What the coronavirus means for VCE

7 April 2020, 5:35pm

Right now, there's so much uncertainty and everyone has the right to be anxious. For the VCE, this is no different – it's ok for us to be unsure and worried about what'll happen with our study scores and ATARs. So, to put your minds at ease, Lisa (the founder of Lisa's Study Guides) recently created a video talking about what the coronavirus means for the VCE in 2020. Check it out below...

‘Will I finish VCE?’ and other COVID-19 questions, answered

7 April 2020, 12:00pm

You’ve heard of Love in the Time of Cholera; now get ready for VCE in the time of coronavirus. As far as we know, the VCE is indeed still on, and if you’re currently in Year 12, it looks like you’ll be on track to graduate at the end of 2020 as per usual.

So we’ll still have to do SACs and exams?

Yep. VCAA has allowed schools to administer SACs either remotely, or delay them to whenever in-person classes resume. Your school will make its own decisions on how you’ll actually be taking SACs—if you have personal access requirements or need for special provisions, speaking to them would be the best avenue. Same goes for how schools actually deliver the content—it’s all pretty flexible at the moment.

What if I’m afraid I’ll do worse on an online SAC?

On the one hand, VCAA seems to be raising the option of delaying SACs until school resumes pretty strongly. On the other, they’re suggesting that online SACs should be delivered as normally as possible if schools can’t accommodate a delay. This means that, just like on a real SAC, there’ll be limited time and potentially limited access to resources as well.

They’re also reminding us that even if SACs go online, your actual, numerical results are less important than your “correct ranking”. To determine this, individual schools are being advised to ‘validate’ remote SAC results with classroom-based assessments when they return. You may well get the best of both worlds.

In general though, everyone is in the same boat for now, and concerns around this are widespread (and valid!). Do the best you can, and your effort will be reflected in your ranking at the end of it all. Don’t forget that SAC scores also get moderated by VCAA at the end of the year.

Will I still get an ATAR?

Yes, and they’ll still be calculated the same way (from assessments, statistical moderation, and study scores). Remember that study scores and ATARs are also rankings, and everyone is going through this together; everyone is doing/can only do the best they can under the circumstances.

As things change, VCAA will also keep everyone updated on whether or not key dates change. This may include things like:

  • The start of Term 2 (Apr/15)
  • The deadline to enrol in/withdraw from the VCE (Apr/27)
  • The General Achievement Test (Jun/10)

They will also be “provid[ing] advice for schools every Monday from the start of Term 2”, so everyone will move at the same pace in these strange and difficult times.

COVID-19 is certainly unprecedented. The necessity of social distancing brings its fair share of challenges, and we’re all adapting as much as we can. At Lisa’s Study Guides, we’re doing our part by moving all our lessons online; it’s been an option that our tutors have worked with for years, and it’s just become a necessity now to minimise risk across the community.

There’ll still be online resources available though, both with your teachers and with us—please reach out if you need anything.

And there’ll be other challenges too, like having your co-curriculars and general social life going under for a little while. Make time for your hobbies where you can, and keep in touch with your friends as much as possible.

But where will all of this leave me when I graduate?

That’s a really great question—2020 is barely happening as it is, so it’s definitely normal to be anxious about the future, and whether or not you’ll feel prepared to return to life again in 2021 while also navigating the whole new world of university.

To be honest, we think you’ll be more prepared than most. University challenges most students to be more independent and self-reliant than they’ve ever been before—it’s a place where you have to choose to turn up, and actively stay on top of everything with less contact and support. You’ll come out of 2020 already having faced many of these challenges (and this’ll prepare you for life beyond uni too!).

And who knows how this will shape education going forward! It’s given everyone—not just you, but also your teachers, parents and principals—a bit of an awakening with regard to technology. Classrooms may never look the same again, even when we do go back.

For now, take it one day at a time. Stay at home when required, build routine in when possible, and do the best you can. If you need to access support services, try the following:

BEYOND BLUE

HELPLINE: 1300 22 4636

HEADSPACE

HELPLINE: 1800 650 890

KIDS HELPLINE

HELPLINE: 1800 551 800

More information on VCAA and how VCE will proceed can be found at these links. Expect them to be updated periodically.

VCAA - latest news on Novel Coronavirus

VCAA - Continuity of Learning

Education Department - Coronavirus

Welcome to the LSG COVID-19 Newsfeed

6 April 2020, 12:40pm

Hello! My name’s Mark, and I’ve been a tutor and content creator with LSG for about 3 years now. Because of the highly volatile nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a couple of changes to how we operate. One of those is this newsfeed, which I’ll be using to provide regular updates on any changes to VCE, education or the state of the virus more broadly.

We’ll also be implementing a chatbot on Facebook Messenger where you can ask for help more directly. This follows a broader movement across the education sector towards remote learning, which all of our tutors are currently practicing.

The coronavirus has undoubtedly impacted VCE and secondary education. What we know so far:

• The VCE is going ahead this year, though not without major changes. Year 12 students will receive an ATAR for study undertaken in 2020.

• Schools are free to either delay SACs until in-person classes resume, or administer them remotely in the meantime. VCAA’s official advice either way has been that SACs should be administered as ‘normally’ as possible, with restrictions on time and access to resources even if you get to do the SAC at home. Schools are encouraged to keep up regular assessments even if delays are being considered.

• Schools also have the option of ‘validating’ SACs conducted remotely with more in-person assessments when classes resume.

• The commencement of term 2 for government schools has been pushed back to April 15.

• However, all of term 2 will be administered remotely (unless this is absolutely not possible).

• The General Achievement Test (GAT) will be delayed until October or November. Year 12 exams will also be delayed, most likely to December.

Watch this space for more details on these changes, as well as any new updates as they develop. In the meantime, if you’re feeling stressed and want some tips on how to manage remote learning, check out our earlier blog post here, or video here.

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