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

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