Hurrah for George!

‘Fierce young lady, isn’t she, that Miss Georgina?’ he said. ‘Done this job pretty well.’

(With thanks to Enid Blyton)

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About a month ago I had to pop in to school for something during the day. As I walked up Pakington Street I heard the kids laughing and carrying-on over the other side of the fence. As I got closer, I realised the sound was coming from the new sand-pit and when I looked through the fence I saw the entire area was covered in blue. You could not see the sand for the kids!

Later that week the Grade Fives launched a petition to demand a bigger slice of time in the sand-pit. They got a lot of signatures (including one that looked suspiciously like ‘Mr Archibald’) and submitted their petition to Assistant Principal, Ms Grace. Ms Grace, recognising the depth of feeling about the new sand-pit, duly changed the roster to ensure the older kids got more time.

About a week after this I was with George Radcliffe-Smith – the President of the Parent Teacher Association – helping set up the new Prep parents’ welcome evening. I took George aside for a moment and led her to the classroom window that looked out onto the sand-pit. It was after school, but once again the sand-pit was full of kids having a blast. ‘Nice job, George,’ I said.

George growled and grumbled at me under her breath in a way that’s instantly recognisable to anyone who knows her. She doesn’t like taking credit, and she doesn’t like people making a fuss. Oh well, George. Yah boo sucks to that!

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George became involved with the PTA as soon as she arrived at Kew Primary back in 2008 and became President at the start of 2011. She would say we got the sand-pit because dozens of different people – over many months – gave up their time and worked really hard to raise enough money to fund it, and she would be right. A huge team of enthusiastic parents cooked sausages, wrapped presents, poured drinks, made salads, sold tickets, advertised events and cleaned up afterwards to make it happen. But all that needs someone to coordinate, organise and agitate, and that someone was George.

In her time as President, George presided over three major fund-raisers: the Bush Dance, Trivia Night and RockKew, as well as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day stalls and Father’s day breakfasts, Peppercorn BBQs, Prep parents’ welcome drinks, an Abba World Record attempt, a Kew Festival BBQ stall, a Zumba night, a movie afternoon and sunscreen and hot-cross bun fundraisers.

She oversaw the selling of (approximately) 1200 icy poles, 500 hamburgers, 400 bacon and egg rolls and almost 2000 sausages, and the PTA raised closed to $45,000.

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So George, on behalf of the Kew Primary School community, thank-you for the fantastic contribution you have made to our school; for your time and effort and enthusiasm and your unique style of leadership. We wish you all the best with your move to Tassie and look forward to your dropping by for a catch up now and again. (No blubbing, George – you’re from the country, remember – and no rude words – you’re the wife of a Principal now!).

‘Hurrah for George and thanks awfully!’

 Jacqui Tomlins

Have you got five minutes, Barry?

I had always planned to write a blog about our Acting Principal, Barry Archibald, when he left our school. I hadn’t thought I’d be writing it under the circumstance in which we now find ourselves – in dispute with DEECD about the future of our school – but it strikes me there is even more reason now to record Barry’s legacy to Kew Primary School.

Some of you know Barry well and will be familiar with the work he’s done in the six terms he’s been with us, but I suspect many parents out there have little idea of what he’s accomplished in that time. So I’m going to tell you.

Our school was not in a good place when Barry arrived in 2011; we were down on our enrolments and funding, morale was low and the reputation of the school had taken a bit of a battering. It was not an easy time to step in and Barry put his retirement on hold to do so.

Barry made a deliberate choice not to create a high profile for himself within the school community; he was always going to be only a temporary caretaker, and the face of the school belonged to our Assistant Principal, Robin Grace and to the staff.

He gave Robin the opportunity to grow and develop into her role and to be an Assistant Principal for the whole school. Barry encouraged and mentored other staff, too. I’m told he’d wander into the staff room at lunch time and recess, sit down with a group of staff and listen and talk. He quickly gained their trust and they felt able to share their concerns and their ideas for the school.

He encouraged people to step up and made them feel as if they could achieve. His style of leadership has always been consultative; he would gather groups together and encourage people to work as a team. He engaged all staff in discussions about the school’s strategic plan and encouraged them to become involved in determining the direction of the school over the next four years.

One of the consequences of the fall in enrolment and funding is that we had to lose staff. Barry held onto to them as long as possible and made it very clear that the school did not want to lose them. When their contracts finally expired, he and Robin did everything they could to ensure those staff secured new positions; they worked with departing staff on their CVs, gave them guidance on filling out job applications, helped them prepare for interviews and acted as referees. All of them got new jobs.

Barry was instrumental in getting the school review process set up and ensuring the establishment of a new leadership structure for the school. We now have two Leader Teachers (Andrew Wood and Sally Marsh) plus four experienced teachers who are Curriculum Leaders responsible for ICT, Literacy, Numeracy and Student Well-Being and Engagement.

He also fixed up staff contracts so, where possible, they were no longer short term, and he worked with the school’s Business Manger to sort out the finances.

I think it’s important to note as well that Barry was not engaged for six terms at the start of all this, but only on a term-by-term basis with DEECD often telling him in the last few days of one term that he was required for the next. He has put his work as a senior music examiner, and a PhD on hold to stay with the school.

Barry has done much to improve the overall management and daily functioning of the school and I’m quite sure there are other things that we parents are not privy to that have been fixed up as well. But, for me, Barry’s lasting legacy is the way he gave our community the opportunity and the means to heal; he was the catalyst for change.

As many people can attest, the school is in a much better place right now; our enrolments are back up and this year we had the highest number of Prep enrolments we’ve ever had. The staff feel listened to and supported, the parent community is engaged and involved and – the most important thing of all – our kids are happy and thriving.

I think Barry can take a lot of credit for all this; for creating an environment in which the staff felt confident and empowered and able to achieve their potential and do their job effectively. I think he’s helped create an atmosphere that’s friendly and positive which has, in turn, encouraged parents to become more involved in the school community.

As a parent, what I loved was the fact that Barry’s door was always open – literally and metaphorically. Many a time I would wander down the corridor, poke my head around his door and say: Have you got five minutes, Barry? The answer was always, ‘yes’ and half an hour later I’d leave with a question answered, a problem solved, an idea for a blog to write.

So, Barry, I’m quite sure there is a letter addressed to you from DEECD on its way right now, thanking you for all your hard work in turning the school around, and expressing their considerable gratitude. But, just in case that gets lost in the mail, I would like to say, on behalf of the parents of Kew Primary School: Thank-you.

Good luck with whatever you do next and, when you’ve finished your PhD, send us a copy and I’ll make sure everyone reads it!

Cheers.

Jacqui Tomlins

A day in the life of a School Councillor, Emma Rush

School Council…that mysterious body that has something to do with the running of our school. So what is it? Who’s on it? What does it do? And how can you find out more?

These are all very good questions which, I must confess, I didn’t really know the answer to prior to becoming involved last year. Now that I’ve been a council member for a year, I’m going to try to provide some answers in this blog!

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What is a School Council?

Well, it shouldn’t be such a mystery because all government schools in Victoria have a school council. School councils are legal entities, and operate under specific legislation which sets out its functions. These include:

  • Establishing the broad direction of the school
  • Participating in the development and monitoring of the school’s strategic plan
  • Approving the annual budget and monitoring how much money the school is spending
  • Developing, reviewing and updating school policies
  • Maintaining the school’s grounds and facilities
  • Reporting to the school community and Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) every year
  • Finding out what the school community thinks and taking into account those views

A school council may also be involved in the selection process for a new Principal, in conjunction with DEECD, and there are also some things that it is not authorised to do; for example, buy land or buildings, or employ permanent teachers.

 What does the KPS School Council do?

Well, the whole council meets regularly, on the third Wednesday of each month during the school term. The business covered during meetings can be broad and varied. For example, items discussed at the most recent meeting included:

  • The development of a school uniform policy, or dress code
  • The removal of the old sandpit, now that the fantastic new sandpit has been installed
  • The amount of money available from DEECD for 2013 and the setting of voluntary fees for 2013
  • The continuing lack of information available from DEECD in regards to a permanent principal at KPS
  • Some of the things that the school needs that could be bought with money raised by the PTA
  • The state of the school oval in this dry summer and what is going to be done about it

The school council also has several sub-committees that work alongside the main council. For example, Building and Grounds organises maintenance and a working bee each term to tidy up the school. There’s also a sub-committee for Finance, OSH, Education, Policy and Communications. Each school council member is expected to sit on one sub-committee.

Who is on our School Council?

Each school council in Victoria is made up of parent members, like me, and DEECD employees, the teachers. Legally, there has to be more parents than DEECD employees.

Nominations have just closed for new positions and the council currently has eight parent members, and five teachers.

  • Nikki Schwarz
  • Dominica Zentner
  • Alison Clayton
  • Efstathia Alonso
  • Jeremy Whelen
  • Julie Coleman
  • Amanda Aitken
  • Emma Rush
  • Barry Archibald (Acting Principal)
  • Robin Grace (Vice Principal)
  • Sally Marsh
  • Chelsea Carmichael
  • Andrew Wood.

At the next council meeting, the office-bearers (President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer) for 2013 will be chosen. Members of the school community are welcome to attend meetings: just let the office know beforehand, and head to the staff room on the appropriate day!

People often ask me why I became a member of the School Council and it does make me stop and think about why I got involved. It’s a great way to discover how a state school is actually run: to find out how much money the government provides and, consequently, why we can’t afford to do all the things we’d love to do!

I’ve also learned a lot about the many things that need to be done to make KPS the great school it is, and I find it really interesting to be involved in that process and contribute in whatever way I can.

Regular updates from the President (most recently Nikki Schwartz) are included in the school newsletter and you can email Nikki directly at nikki@sraccountants.com.au if you have a question or concern.

Emma Rush

The DEECD website has additional information about school councils in Victoria.

http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/governance/Pages/schoolcouncil.aspx

A school-trip to Lapland?

This weeks’ blog is written by Libby Senyard who has three children at KPS, Bella, Phoebe and Tom in Grades 5, 3 and 1. Libby is long-term friends with one of our new Prep teachers, Sophie Apperly. Libby’s husband worked with Sophie back in the days before she became a teacher and they’ve hung out together ever since. Libby and Sophie attended each other’s weddings (Sophie in a gorgeous aqua dress, apparently!) and they celebrated the birth of their children together. So it made sense for Libby to write this blog…

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Hi Sophie, thanks for agreeing to do this interview so students and their families can get to know a little more about you.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I grew up in Melbourne and am married to Richard and we have two gorgeous children, Jemima who is eleven and Charlie who is nine. We have a dog called Ziggy and a cat called Butch. I barrack for Carlton and my second team is Geelong.

On weekends I like to go for a run with my dog, watch my kids play sport and visit my parents at my favourite spot, Point Leo. I love to keep a clean house, but life is too short for tiresome housework!!

Sophie Apperly

What was your school experience like and did you have a teacher that inspired you?

I LOVED primary school and Miss Evans was my Grade 5 teacher. She inspired me to my love of learning and said I would make a great teacher! In Grade 6 I was school captain which was a memorable way to finish primary school.

What did you do before you become a teacher?

When I left school I went to University and completed a double degree in Business and worked in various management roles. After nine years I rediscovered my joy in education through my volunteer experiences in pre and primary schools. My next adventure was to study integration and I worked as an integration aid.

My love for children and education inspired me to complete my Graduate Diploma in Education and here I am at Kew Primary in my first year as a teacher!

How have you found Kew PS so far?

The children are so happy and enthusiastic and I just love being around them. The teachers and staff are amazingly supportive and share the same passion for education and children as I do.

The best thing so far is being surrounded by energetic, creative, enthusiastic and spirited children, and the most challenging thing is finding time to go to the toilet!!!

What do you consider to be the most important thing a teacher can do?

I think the most important thing is to inspire students to love to learn, explore, take chances and be proud of who they are and of their achievements, no matter how big or small. I want them to leave each day with a smile on their face.

Lastly, if you could take your class on a fantasy all expenses trip, where would you go?

My class loves colour so we would begin our fantasy holiday in Lapland seeing all the colours of the Northern Lights. We would then spend a few days making snowmen and sledding with reindeer.

Our love for animals would take us from Lapland to Africa for a wild safari tour where we will experience a guided tour of the lands. We will get so close to the animals we will be able to hear them breathe.

We would continue our fantasy journey with a food trip through Asia and Italy as all the children in Prep 015 love food, with noodles and pasta being top favourites.

Our love for water and swimming will lead us to holidaying with turtles and swimming right back to Australia on the backs of the turtles. We would all have magical underwater swimming powers so we could travel all the way to the Great Barrier Reef and down to Melbourne with the turtles.

Our fantasy trip would end with a really long sleep in the most comfortable bed ever made.

That’s a great fantasy, Sophie. Thanks so much.

Libby Senyard

Sally and Andrew – our Leading Teachers

Last year two new important positions were established at Kew Primary. Most primary schools of our size have some form of leadership team which normally includes the Principal, VP and some senior teachers with specific roles.  Sally Marsh and Andrew Wood were appointed Leading Teachers.

So I thought it would be good to meet our two new Leading Teachers and find out exactly what their roles entail. Sally Marsh comes to Kew from Alphington Primary where she worked for the last twelve years. Sally has her own Grade 2 class, is Coordinator of the Prep-Grade 2 Team and a member of the school’s Leadership Team.

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Welcome to KPS, Sally. How have you found your first few weeks?

Ive had a really enjoyable time. I was at my last school for a long time so I was a little apprehensive about moving, but everyone has been really supportive and friendly which has made the move very easy.

Can you tell me a little about what you did at Alphington?

During my time at Alphington I worked with children from every year level apart from Grade 6, and I was a Learning Leader. I was lucky enough to be involved in a project set up by the Northern Metro Region to bring about improvements in literacy and numeracy. I worked with a number of senior academics from here and the UK who are leaders in this field. I developed skills and expertise through working with them, and then my job as a Learning Leader was to pass on that knowledge to other staff. The ultimate aim was to improve outcomes for our students in these two very important areas.

So you bring that expertise to Kew?

My job here is to work with staff to develop consistent curriculum across the entire school. I want to create a detailed document that covers everything the students learn from Prep to Grade 6 and beyond including Grades 7 and 8.  It wont be a description of what they learn day-to-day, but more an outline of what will be covered in the curriculum; its almost like building blocks. So if a Grade 5 teacher has a student who is operating at Grade 7 level in literacy, that teacher can look at what is appropriate learning for that student or, similarly, if the student is operating at Grade 4 level in numeracy.

My sense is that theres a lot of great work being done here the school is above average in reading, for example and it would be really good to bring all that together, to make everything very consistent.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for a school like ours?

I think catering for difference is a huge challenge, especially for kids operating at a higher academic level.

What are you looking forward to?

Im really looking forward to getting stuck into all this; I have one day a week specifically for this work which is fantastic. And Im also looking forward to getting to know the kids and staff so it all feels more familiar, and that takes a little time.

Thanks Sally. Were very happy to have you and I hope it doesnt take too long for you to feel completed settled at KPS.

 Andrew Wood first came to KPS in 2010 as an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) teacher and last year taught Grade 4 so will be familiar to many of you. This year, Andrew has a Grade 6 class and is our other Leading Teacher, specialising in Teaching and Learning.

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Andrew came to Melbourne from New Zealand where he taught at both primary and secondary level, as well as at University. In 2009 he graduated with a Masters of Education with a thesis that focused on indigenous educational leadership.

So what does being a Leading Teacher, Teaching and Learning involve exactly?

In my role as Leading Teacher Ill be working alongside the fantastic and very knowledgeable staff of Kew Primary School to ensure that the teaching practice in each class is informed by the most up-to-date research. Most importantly, I want to ensure it is a teaching practice that maximizes the learning capacity of all our students.

So okayhow do you do that?

Well it will involve staff undertaking a range of professional learning opportunities to increase our own teaching knowledge and capabilities especially in literacy and numeracy. Well be encouraging staff to share their own knowledge and expertise in a mentoring/coaching role with other staff at KPS.

And were hoping to develop guiding principles for teaching at KPS in collaboration with our Professional Learning Team (PLT) Leaders. This year our PLT leaders are Sonia Hocking for Literacy, Clare Connor for Student Engagement and Well-being, Clio Williams for ICT and Jaclin McCombe for Numeracy.

While there are many examples of great teaching practice already happening here at KPS, I believe that great teaching practice recognises and caters for the different learning styles, strengths and needs of children in the class. The teaching needs to be student centered and differentiated, that is, the teacher ensures he or she provides different resources, support and materials as and when needed, therefore maximizing the learning of each child: ‘There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals.

Thanks Andrew, and good luck with all that.

Jacqui Tomlins