As I write this we should have just concluded our 2020 International Boarding Conference in Fremantle, and, as for so many of us, we are actually stuck in our home States thanks to border closures and quarantine requirements. So I thought it would be useful to ponder what ABSA has had to do, and where it might end up in the next few years.
Who would have predicted that we would have transformed every ABSA event into an online offering, ranging over more than 100 different topics?
The ABSA Strategic Plan under B: Learning, number 7, states: Online professional learning – Review the current approaches to professional development offered by ABSA and where feasible set up online formats to improve efficiencies and accessibility of programs. What was expected to be a second semester project for us became a task for one week in March, and we are very proud of how far we have come.
Who would have predicted that we would produce the first of our online training courses and that over 400 people would have completed it?
We always knew that online training would be a worthwhile addition to our offerings, but the original lockdown faced by us all in Australia gave us time to research worthwhile platforms and develop our first course in Active Duty. Work is already underway to develop two additional courses - one a generic induction course for boarding school staff joining the profession, and the second a course aimed at more established boarding staff entitled ‘Ten Tips to be a Successful Boarding House Supervisor’.
Who would have predicted that 3557 people would have been online for our events?
It is so exciting to see just how many people have joined in to one of our webinars, the online boarding conference and/or courses. Our Strategic Plan challenges us to have the critical outcome of having the status among boarding schools as the number one provider of knowledge and information relevant to their needs - and we are getting there!
Who would have predicted that we could provide such great service to our remote and rural members?
The professional learning opportunities we have now opened up to every boarding staff member in Australia, from Broome in Northern Western Australia to Hobart in Tasmania, from Weipa in Far North Queensland to St Joseph’s School in Port Lincoln, South Australia, and everywhere in between, have been not only exciting to do, but really well received.
Who would have predicted that so many International Schools would reach out and take part in our webinar series?
Our New Zealand and Singapore members have continued to be well connected and attended many of our meetings and events. However, we have had many schools from China, Malaysia, India and more recently Armenia and Bosnia take part in our webinar series - again a key part of our Strategic Plan Under A: Engagement, number 2: International membership – To add a global perspective to the Association, explore opportunities to gain overseas membership of ABSA, expand professional learning for boarding staff, and provide cross-cultural networking for ABSA members.
Who would have predicted that our relationships with the media and Government Ministers would grow so strong?
One learning for me has been that it takes an issue to find out who needs information and who needs support. The issues surrounding COVID have really highlighted this, and so Section C: Influence, Numbers 2 and 3 from the Strategic Plan - 2. Government and corporate relationships – Establish an authority position such that ABSA is recognised as the peak body regarding all matters relating to boarding and, as a result, to ensure support and access to government funding options and a voice at the table on policy and related matters and 3. Media relationships – Develop stronger relationships across all elements of the media to ensure ABSA is the number one recognised authority in the sector and to communicate all positive aspects of boarding have both been outcomes of this challenging six months. The issue at hand is how to keep this going, as the positive relationships both with government and the media are ones we are keen to continue and strengthen.
Who would have predicted that we could run Virtual Duty of Care Workshops?
What more can I say - those who have attended one of our workshops have really enjoyed the chance to share stories, learn from and complete the workbooks, and all for a fraction of the cost of having to run these workshops face-to-face. We will endeavour to offer both options in the future, depending on Government regulation.
Who would have predicted that up to 90 of our Heads of Boarding would come together, firstly weekly, and more recently fortnightly, and that each of our State groups of Heads of Boarding has also grabbed the virtual world to share stories, successes and challenges so often?
This speaks for itself - the opportunity to discuss current and relevant topics across a broad range of different schools from all State is something we had never worked out how to do - but were forced to and have really enjoyed. These virtual gatherings will continue for Head of Boarding, and will expand to cater for our boarding school nurses, general boarding staff, and other if a need arises.
And who would have predicted that we could do all that without getting on a plane - something I did 137 times last year!
So, overall, there have been so many good things to come out of the COVID-19 situation which we have all faced. Let’s all look forward, enjoy the wonderful opportunities offered through our online webinars, virtual Duty of Care workshops and get togethers, until we can (hopefully) come together in Fremantle, or possibly somewhere else this time next year.