As Collarenebri teacher Sarah Thomas says in the recent Education issue of the UNE Alumni Newsletter – schools, and educators, really are at the heart of our communities. This has never been more apparent than during the past two years.

COVID-19 outbreaks, lockdowns and disruptions have challenged our school leaders in profound ways, and irrevocably changed education around the world. With efficiency and grace, educators have migrated teaching to the digital realm, and sustained online lessons sometimes for months on end. Circumstances have necessitated rapid changes to pedagogy, curricula and student engagement.

The School of Education and education itself should be celebrated as the year comes to a close. For many years UNE educators have been making a difference, at the local, national and international levels. Some recent examples include those who have undertaken higher degree research at UNE and are now contributing to tertiary education in Bhutan and Papua New Guinea, as well as London-based innovator Anne Bamford, a former UNESCO world scholar. Closer to home, in western NSW, the Bray sisters – and Sarah – are committed to overcoming disadvantages associated with learning in more remote Australian communities.

Within UNE, our educators and researchers have also had enormous impact this year. In collaboration with UNE Partnerships and the Victorian Department of Education and Training, members of the School of Education have been providing professional learning to school leadership teams to enable them to embrace new practices with the shift to distance learning. Also in Victoria, we have developed a suite of online resources and professional development to help teachers meet the needs of high-ability students, which will soon be available nationally. 

A few of the School of Education’s other key highlights for 2021 include:

  • The continuation of multiple education and development projects in the Pacific Region, specifically in Nauru and Tavalu;
  • Participation in the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association for Northern NSW online series;
  • Hosting a successful virtual symposium – Art in Early Childhood – which attracted 1,000 participants from 22 countries;
  • The UNE-led Early Childhood Defence Programproject – research-based resources for those who support young children from Australian military families;
  • A UNE-led research project, involving Aahus University (Denmark) and Thompson Rivers University (Canada), that is exploring how governments can improve the systems governing early childhood educators;
  • Giving voice to early childhood educators from UNE, Southern Cross University and Macquarie University;
  • The 10th anniversary of the Asia ConneXions program, which brings Australian and Asian schools together (via videoconferencing) for global education and cultural exchanges; and
  • Hosting the global 2021 ASCILITE (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education) Conference, which drew delegates from across the globe both virtually and face-to-face.  

Within our immediate neighbourhood, our teams continue to encourage social inclusion through sport and physical activity, and to promote tertiary success within Armidale’s Ezidi community. More than 500 children and adults to date have participated in everything from swimming lessons and twilight volleyball to Inclusive Football Coaching workshops and youth leadership programs. We also cater to each level of aspiration for tertiary study, right from beginner’s English classes through to supporting those enrolled at UNE. 

UNE, its academic staff and graduates near and far, have responded practically, creatively and compassionately in 2021. It’s a wonderful time to give thanks for their inspiring contributions.