Have you thought about riding your bike to school?

You make me feel so guilty! called one of the Kew Primary mothers as we rode past her closing the door of her car! I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty, but perhaps just remind people there are different ways of getting around, including going to and from school on a bike.

My family tries to ride to and from school as often as possible. We got into the habit of riding while living overseas – but not in Europe as you might think. We lived in Boston and its public transport just doesn’t compare to Melbourne’s. So we ended up riding everywhere, even when the temperature was close to zero. Just watch out for that black ice and snow in the gutter!

kp3We are very fortunate to have two very active boys who have no concept of sleeping past 6.00 am – and that’s a good morning. So from a very young age we have had them out on bikes trying to exhaust them. Our trip to school is about 2 kilometres and takes about 20 minutes. Much faster than walking, especially with a prep!

There are definitely both positive and negative aspects to bike riding to school. Here are some ideas that we’ve come up with as a family.


  • Makes kids more self-sufficient, independent, responsible and confident.
  • Faster, easier and cheaper than driving: no time spent circling the streets for a park or leaving extra time to make sure you can get a park.
  • Incidental exercise: you are exercising while going somewhere – and it might not be high heart rate stuff while riding with the kids, but you can do that on your way home again or on your way to work, rather than driving from school to the gym after drop off!
  • Cheaper than taking public transport: while public transport is better for      everyone than driving, those Myki cards have a habit of sucking money out      without you even noticing – and how often is the bus on time anyway? We      don’t have a shelter at our bus stop so even if we don’t ride when it’s raining, we still get wet!
  • Fresh air, peace and quiet: we take the back streets, after a short stretch on      Studley Park Road and it’s just lovely riding past all those glorious homes along tree-lined streets – makes you feel very lucky to live in Kew!
  • Smiles from pedestrians and even car drivers: tell me, what is so amusing about two young boys on bikes with their mother trailing behind, loaded down with school bags?
  • Cars giving way to bicycles: so many times we have cars try to wave us across      streets we are about to cross (see negatives below for another perspective on this).
  • A short local ride means you can do it in civilian clothes: no need to get      changed or have special gear.kp9
  • The kids arrive at school energised and ready to learn – and apparently      research shows that they have higher concentration times than those who don’t ride.


  • Having to look out for cars in every driveway, even when you think you know most of the peak hour movements of the houses you pass – there’s always an      exception.kp4
  • Having car drivers wave you across the road when they cannot see cars coming from other directions – you come across as rude when you refuse to catch their      eye while your child says “But they want us to go!”
  • Bike chains falling off (always Oskar’s), brake cable breaking (always mine!)
  • Disciplining  young racing riders – there is a reason there is no Tour de Kew at 8.30am or 3.45pm on weekdays.
  • Dirty school clothes, especially when it’s drizzling or raining as kids’ bikes don’t often come fitted with mudguards.
  • Multiple stops in one outing to or from school are trickier: a bike basket (or two) is very useful for shopping after school drop off or pick up, but they probably won’t be enough for a big weekly shop.


  • Generally needing more gear: helmet (see next item!), gloves for those cold      mornings, rain jacket, socks into which to tuck your pants or a bike that will accommodate skirts, a bike lock, lights (I have dynamo lights – no more batteries!) – but you don’t have to have lycra!
  • Helmet hair.
  • Obstacles on the footpath: builders are clueless about gates, gravel and where they park their trucks but then all  that affects pedestrians too – as do rubbish bins so we take extra care on Fridays.


  • Being moving obstacles on footpaths: we have had a few pedestrians tell us to get off the footpath but until the boys are both 12, I will insist on following Vic Roads’ advice:


Every year, Erin Willett, our marvelous PE teacher, coordinates the Bike Education program for Year 3 and 4. This year Erin will run it early in Term 4 to take advantage of better weather (hopefully!). The program will run for four or five weeks on a Friday and will finish with a ride from KPS to Hays Paddock. Erin is looking forward to getting lots of parents to volunteer to help and she is about to get the 15 KPS bikes serviced for kids who don’t have their own two wheels.

Erin would like to get bike parking under the shed next to OSH so kids can come in from Peel St and park conveniently. We’ll be looking at that again on the Building and Grounds Subcommittee. The bike parking on the Pakington Street side of the school is looking beautiful after a clean-up at the recent working bee.

Then we have the annual National Ride2School Day which is usually in March. That’s a great opportunity to get out your bike even just for one day for getting to and from school.

And of course we all know that we must never ride our bikes or scooters in the school grounds.

Bicycle Network Victoria has lots of suggestions of things we could do as a school community to raise awareness of cycling and increase the number of children riding to school.

  • Increase our participation in National Ride2School Day in March each year.
  • Hold a Wheel-a-thon as an alternative fundraising idea: kids get sponsored by      family or friends to ride (or walk) to school for a day, a week or a month.
  • Ride to school during Walktober, on Walk to School Day and National Ride to      Work Day.
  • Give out frequent-rider passports.

And then we also are very lucky to have a parent at KPS who knows a lot about all of these issues: Mark Stevenson, father of Hugo in Grade 1, is director of the Accident Research Centre at Monash University. Mark says we should do more Ride2School Days as a school because his recent research shows that we need more groups of riders to encourage sharing of our roads – even if it is just crossing our local streets!

So maybe we should start with a Ride2School Day in Term 4 where we organise groups of riders to meet at specific places and ride to school together. We could even coordinate it with Erin’s Bike Ed program and encourage other year levels to join the Grade 3 and 4s. Let me know if you are interested (kath.phelan@gmail.com).

Kath Phelan

Student engagement and well-being

Bullying and cyber bullying, self-esteem and resilience, mental health and well-being are all hugely important issues that most parents worry about at one time or another. For this weeks’ blog I spoke to Clare Connor who teaches Grade 5 and is responsible for Student Engagement and Wellbeing at Kew Primary about how the school responds to some of these very difficult issues.P1060518

Jacqui: So what exactly is Student Engagement and Wellbeing about?

Clare: Very broadly it’s about looking after the emotional and social health of the children and encouraging and rewarding good behaviour. From my perspective it’s an exciting area to work in as it allows for a great deal of creativity in developing programs and working with different areas of the school. It’s challenging and very rewarding.

Jacqui: Can you tell me about some of the programs we run?

Clare: The most important is probably the CARE Program – Cooperation, Acceptance, Respect and Excellence. The program is planned by the whole staff and is delivered by the Grade 6 students. The CARE groups comprise kids from all grades who work together. The activities range from reading books, role plays, drawings and group discussions.

The activities incorporate elements of the Stop, Think, Do and Bounce Back programs which are designed to help kids develop problem solving skills and resilience.P1060532

This year we introduced the CARE tree which is just next to the office. When the kids do something good, they get a leaf with their name on it to put on the tree. It’s a way of rewarding students on an on-going basis.

We also introduced the dance at the end of assembly which the kids love. The students that are awarded a CARE leaf that week stand up and are clapped by the rest of the school. We then play a song for the whole school to dance to.

We’re also looking at the idea of CARE postcards that could be sent home to parents as another way of reinforcing the CARE values.

On Friday 20th September we are having a CARE celebration with tabloid sports (fun PE and drama games) and a BBQ. We’d love parents to come along and help us celebrate. It’ll be organised and run by the Grade 6 Leaders.P1060512

Jacqui: Recently the school organised a Reach workshop with the Grade 5s; Corin came home full of it. Can you tell me about that?

Clare: Reach is an independent organisation that was established by Jim Stynes OAM. The organisation runs workshops to help young people build self-esteem and resilience. The workshops help students to understand and develop their social and emotional skills and gives them some practical tools to encourage informed decision-making. bullying 1

Jacqui: I know bullying is always a concern for parents and it’s a difficult problem to manage. How do we deal with it at KPS?

Clare: Bullying is an issue in all schools unfortunately and preventing bullying at Kew Primary is an integral part of the Student Engagement Policy. The policy outlines prevention and intervention strategies designed to ensure our school is a safe and caring environment.

Examples of our preventative strategies include our CARE program and the teaching of conflict resolution skills. We also have Circle Time where we’ll discuss a problem or issue that’s arisen – maybe a playground incident. We try to work out exactly what happened, who was hurt, how we can best deal with it and stop it happening again. We do this as a preventative measure as well as responding to specific incidents.

This year we’re also running The Resilience Project with Hugh van Cuylenburg (Jacqui: which I am going to blog about very soon).

If parents do have any concerns about incidents of bullying they should talk to their child’s classroom teacher.bullying 5

Jacqui: And what about cyber bullying? That’s a huge issue these days. How does the school help teach the kids about responsible and safe internet use?

Clare: Cyber bullying is addressed the same way as traditional bullying. We educate the students about what cyber bullying is and how it can cause harm. Students in Grade 3-6 sign an agreement for Responsible Use of Mobile Devices and Technology at the start of the year which includes a section about being cybersafe and cybersmart.

The school has also arranged guest speakers for students, and parent information evenings on bullying. We’ve signed up to be an eSmart School. This process takes up to two years to implement and we are currently in the planning stage. The program is for the whole KPS community and is a proactive program addressing all aspects of bullying.

There are a couple of really good website that provide some great advice and resources on this subject.



 Jacqui: Thanks, Clare. I often hear my kids come out with things that they’ve clearly got from the CARE program so I think it’s getting through. Oh, and happy birthday!

I checked out the Beyond Blue website which has an excellent section on bullying and I thought this advice was worth reprinting:

  • Ignore the person who is bullying you (including contact with him/her via mobile phone or email) – bullies are looking for a reaction and often lose interest if they don’t get one.
  • Stay with others – stick to areas where you feel safe and hang out with people you trust. The person who is bullying you won’t pick on you as much when there are other people around.
  • Stay positive and be confident – think of all the things you do well and try not to let the bullying affect your confidence.
  • Keep out of the bully’s way – it might be possible for you to avoid the person who is bullying you, for example by travelling a different way to school, or avoiding the places that he/she hangs out.
  • Don’t reply to bullying messages – it’ll only get worse if you do. By replying, the bully gets what he or she wants. Often if you don’t reply, the person will leave you alone.
  • Ask for help – if the bullying doesn’t stop, you might find it helpful to ask someone else for advice. You should also report it to someone in charge – either at school or at work.

Jacqui Tomlins and Clare ConnorP1060527




Hearty, healthy and homemade!

If I had a dollar for every lunch box that has come home untouched – or barely touched – I could fund the school’s cooling solution. The lunch box – fished out of the bottom of the bag in its pristine condition and thrown onto the kitchen counter at the end of the day – drives me demented.

Ensuring the contents are healthy and varied and ‘nude’ in the first place – and catering to three different tastes (for ten weeks at a time) – is beyond me. So it will come as no surprise if I tell that I love Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: Canteen Days! Hallelujah kids! Take your pick! Lunch made by somebody else!


And the large numbers of orders received by Sally, our Canteen Manager, suggests I’m not the only one who looks forward to Canteen Days. So, I thought it was time to find out a little bit more about the life-saving Sally and her fabulous canteen.


Jacqui: Sally, how did you come to be running the KPS canteen?

Sally: I have always loved cooking – even before having my two kids – and have always been involved with my kids’ schools. I helped out at Liv’s school and gravitated towards their canteen. The manager there retired and, after years of volunteering, I was offered the job. After Liv left Camberwell, I decided to make a move. I wanted to get a job where I could really make a difference by offering healthier and varied options. I applied to Kew Primary and was very happy to been chosen as the Canteen Manager. I’ve loved the journey we have all taken so far and there’s more to come, I hope.

Jacqui: From the outside it all seems to run pretty smoothly. How does it work?

Sally: There is a lot involved with running the canteen, far more than people realise, and a lot of paper work for Boroondara Council. There’s a lot of ordering to do behind the scenes and I am at the supermarket at 7.00 am each morning. As soon as I finish the shopping, I’m straight back here and I start the baking and preparations for the day. By the time my volunteers arrive I am ready for them to really get working on the day’s menu. I have a group of fantastic volunteers and I couldn’t run the canteen without them. (Thank goodness for the volunteers xx.)IMG_6628

Jacqui: How do you decide what to cook?

Sally: Having fed a lot of children over the years, I’ve got a good idea of what they like and what they don’t; it’s experience, I suppose. I try new things and if they don’t work, I try something else. I only put out two menus a year as we all know children are creatures of habit. It also is quite a big job to produce a new menu – I have to cost the new items, work out the amounts, think about packaging and keeping it hot or cold. The aim, of course, is to produce a menu that is healthy and homemade. That’s what I do.IMG_36781

Jacqui: How many meals and snacks are you making each day? And how do you get that balance right between not wasting too much food, and having enough to go around?

Sally: This is also down to experience and I pride myself on having very little wastage. Morning tea is huge at the moment; I’m producing approximately 180 items of food – ANZAC biscuits, crumpets, cheese toasties etc. Providing I get enough volunteers each day, I can provide enough food so the children don’t miss out.


It’s a little easier for lunch because of the paper bag ordering system, but I’ve had a significant increase in orders at lunch too. I was making about 35 pasta bakes, for example, and now that’s closer to 55. (So keep brining your orders in before school as that helps me to be organised so no one misses out.)

Jacqui: What’s your most popular dish and are you happy to divulge your recipes?

Sally: I am more than happy to share recipes and have already given out dozens. My most popular dish this season would have to be the pasta bake (the hardest to produce) which is kind of funny as last year it was the least favourite. I decided to keep it on as it has always been a favourite in our family and now it’s taken off.

Jacqui: What do you enjoy cooking?

Sally: At the moment I am a big fan of Thai cooking (I have phases). I am slowly going through the Spirit House cook books after spending a very pleasant day doing a cooking class with them last holidays.


Jacqui: After a day running the canteen, I hope you don’t have to go home and make dinner. Does your husband cook?!

Sally: Kevin is a good cook (not as good as me, ha ha!) but does not have a lot of time. He will often cook on a Sunday night. I try to do easy meals on the days I am working or pull something out of the freezer. Other than that I really like trying new recipes.

Jacqui: Thanks Sally. Your pasta bake is my kids’ favourite too. (They wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole if I’d made it, but because it’s from the canteen…)

Sally Brown’s Famous Pasta Bake

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
300g button mushrooms
500g minced beef
440g can tomato soup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup tomato sauce
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon marjoram
Dash of Tabasco
150g spiral pasta
1 cup grated cheddar

• Heat oil in pan, add onion and garlic, cook until onion is soft
• Add celery, carrot and mushroom, cook for further three minutes
• Add mince, cook, stirring until well browned
• Add undiluted soup, paste, sauce, herbs and tobacco
• Simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
• Cook pasta and combine with mince mixture
• Transfer to 2 litre dish , top with cheese
• Bake in moderate oven for about 15 minutes
• Serve and enjoy!

Jacqui Tomlins and Sally Brown

Wise up…at Via Verona

Irene Kemeridis has a long history with Kew Primary School which began in 1974 when she started as a little Preppie in room 019 of the junior school hall. After KPS she went on to Kew High School and has lived in the area her whole life. Now, her own two children attend the school, Nicholas in Grade 2 and Keira in Prep.


Irene is co-owner of a local business, Persé, (named after Persephone, the Greek goddess of spring and the harvest) which produces and markets organic, 100% natural Australian made skincare products. I caught up with Irene recently to talk about Kew, the community, and an important event she’s organising.

Jacqui: There aren’t many current parents who went to Kew Primary themselves. How do you remember it?

Irene: My overall memories of KPS are happy ones. I was very involved in sport and I remember playing the recorder for the last few years I was there. I remember every Monday morning we would play God Save the Queen and then Advance Australia Fair in front of the whole school at assembly. I was a good kid, but a little chatty, which wouldn’t surprise the mums who know me now.

Jacqui: You support a number of local causes and charities through your business?

Irene: Yes, we’ve supported all the schools and kindergartens in the local area for many years. Persé is an on-going supporter of the Learning for Life Autism Centre, the Warwick Cancer Foundation and Child Wise.

Last year, Sophie Freestone, (another KPS mum) and I were part of the Ride to Conquer Cancer for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. We had to raise $2,500 each and ride 200km over two days. It was hilly and very gruelling and I’d started training too early and ended up with an injury, so I did most of the ride on pain-killers!

It was an emotional ride because I had lost my dad to cancer and Peter McCallum were wonderful to my dad. We reached our target and more. Sophie, Stella (another friend in the team) and I raised $10,000 for the cause which we were very proud of. Sophie and Stella had both lost loved ones to cancer so it was pretty emotional all round.

We will do the ride again next year, and this year we are raising money for the Smith Family on the Around the Bay in a Day ride in October.

Jacqui: You also have an on-going commitment to Child Wise. Can you tell me about them?

Irene: Child Wise is Australia’s leading international child protection charity and we became aware of them from one of our regular customers who was also a supporter. Child Wise work in Australia, Asia and the Pacific and their main objective is to stop child abuse before it occurs.

They work with organisations, with parents and teachers, to raise awareness of child abuse – and particularly of child sexual abuse. They educate the community and empower adults and kids to tackle what is a very difficult issue.

Jacqui: Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, is still quite a difficult subject for people to talk about, almost taboo even?

Irene: Yes, absolutely. We want to bring awareness to as many people as we can and to encourage people to start talking about the problem and not burying their heads in the sand. It is a very important cause, especially with the rates of child abuse currently at 1 in 5 and the consequences lasting a life-time.

I understand it is a very difficult subject, but I think that prevention is so important rather than a life time of pain. I have recently been to a free seminar run by Child Wise about how we can keep our kids safe. As a parent, I walked away with more awareness and knowledge about how to protect my kids.

Jacqui: So tell me about this event you are organising?

Irene: We are holding a fun, light-hearted evening fundraiser for Child Wise at the gorgeous Via Verona on High Street, Kew on Friday 6th September at 7.30 pm.  It will be a relaxed evening of drinks and chat, with a silent auction, some prizes, wine tasting and finger food.

We’ll have a guest speaker from Child Wise on the night and a portion of the entry fee will go directly to Child Wise.

In the past, we’ve found that it was really easy to get people to fund-raisers for cancer or other charities, but it’s always much more difficult to fund-raise around this issue. We’re hoping that lots of people from the broader KPS community will come, have a drink, catch up with friends and support a really good cause.


Tickets are $35.00 and you can book by phone: 03 9818 8700 or by email: info@perse.com.au

It will be great to see lots of KPS mums and dads there. Thank you.

Jacqui Tomlins and Irene Kemeridis

You can check out Child Wise at: www.childwise.net

They have a confidential and anonymous toll free National Child Abuse Helpline on 1800 991099 or email at: helpline@childwise.net, or by direct bank deposit  at: Westpac BSB 033050 Acct 264777.

Irene’s business is at: www.perse.com.au