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




…it makes life more pleasurable

Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up. Pablo Picasso

I love looking at the self-portraits in the junior school hall and seeing how the kids see themselves, and the painting of Julia Gillard by the older kids in the admin area – all so different, but somehow capturing something of her. And then there are the fabulous starry night paintings after Vincent Gogh and now the Monets!022

At the Trivia Night last term I was struck by the lovely pieces of our kids’ art work that had been put together by Bit McLean and Madame Temple. I would have been very happy to have hung any one of them on my wall at home, but was outbid at every turn; everybody loved them and it was not difficult to see why. So for this week’s blog, I thought I would find out a little more about art, and our art teacher, Bit McLean.P1060584

Jacqui: Where are you from originally and where did you study art?

Bit: I was born a Melbournian, but began primary school at Burbank Elementary in Boston, Massachusetts, and finished it at Deepdene Primary. At 16 I was whisked down to Hobart by my mum and dad. I completed my Bachelor of Arts (Visual Art Teaching) Degree from the University of Tasmania at their campus on top of beautiful Mount Nelson.

I then moved back to Melbourne and taught art in secondary schools until I left to raise my four kids. After having children of my own, I decided to give primary art education a try and eventually I was lucky enough to find myself as a part of our wonderful Kew Primary community.

Jacqui: Did you have a teacher who was particularly influential?

Bit: I loved school. My two favourite teachers at Deepdene were both men, Mr Gosling in Grade 3 and Mr Harding in Grade 4. I loved doing projects in Mr Gosling’s class. Maths tables competitions were fun in Mr Harding’s class and he had a great sense of humour.

My art teacher at Fintona, Kate Bêchet, encouraged my love of art history. She was a very dedicated, inspiring teacher and I really enjoyed her art classes.020

Jacqui: Why is art important, and why is it important for kids?

Bit: Art is important as a means of communication, as an aesthetic tool and as a therapeutic aid. It was the first form of communication and, just like the cavemen, kids can use art to tell their stories. Learning about the power of design and ways of manipulating media improves their abilities to get their messages across to an audience.

Art often helps us to clarify our personal and emotional ideas and thoughts as well. Arts learning helps students to become motivated and confident and to work well in teams. I love watching Kew kids producing artworks. When they create something that they’re really proud of, or when they master a tricky skill or technique, I can tell that they get a real kick out of it …and so do I! Art generally makes you feel good; it makes life more pleasurable.


Jacqui: Can you tell us about the type of art – and artists – you like?

Bit: I love modern art. Bright, glossy, popular imagery seen in the work of successful artists such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst makes me feel good. The comical irony of their work appeals to me as well.

A more local artist who I think is brilliant is Kerry Lomas. I can’t wait to see her achieve success in the art field. She illustrated a wooden stool with gorgeous characters for me and I will always treasure it.

Claude Monet is another favourite of mine. I loved seeing his works on the NGVI excursion with the Year 3s and 4s.

I also love the ‘art’ you find in nature, such as beautiful butterfly wings, shells or reflections.023

Jacqui: Do you still enjoy doing you own art?

Bit: I try to write a lot during the holidays; that’s my main creative outlet. Just for fun I’ll doodle, take photographs, sketch or paint but I haven’t attempted something ’serious’ for a very long

Jacqui: Who are the ‘Smarty Arties’ and what do they do?

The Smarty Arties are a fabulous bunch of Year 6 students with a love for the Arts. Last term they visited the Art Room to help all the junior classes produce scarecrows for the Kew garden. The Preps made Scarecrow Jack, the Kew Primary school boy, and the Year 1s made Rose, the Kew Primary school girl. Coral is the Year 2s mermaid scarecrow and Sir Crow Fighter is the brave knight guarding the Year 3 garden plot. They also taught a class on collage to the junior classes. Recycled materials were used to create ‘recycled robots’.

I am very lucky to share the art programme with Madame T. She is such a positive, happy, creative person. The main reason I love teaching art at Kew is that Kew kids are always eager to experiment with materials, media and techniques. They are thirsty for learning and, therefore, a pleasure to teach. I love their visual stories, their intriguing ways of seeing, their wild ideas, their logical explanations and their colourful imaginations!

Jacqui: Thanks Bit. Love ya work!

Jacqui Tomlins and Bit McLean

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. Pablo Picasso


He never raised his voice, but he was heard

Hands up anyone who can tell me what NAIDOC stands for? Hmm…that’s what I thought!


National Aborigines and Islanders Day of Observance Committee.

NAIDOC week is coming up and I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk with KPS teacher, Shelley Ware. Shelley used to run our library and now teaches the Literacy Intervention program two days a week, and Grade 6, one day a week.

What many of you probably don’t know is that Shelley is a proud Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu Aboriginal woman from South

Shelley, what is NAIDOC week?

NAIDOC week is a week to celebrate the history and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of our nation. This year NAIDOC week is celebrated from the 7-14th July and there are activities all around Australia and all Australians are encouraged to get involved.

The theme this year is: We Value the Vision: the Yirrkala Bark Petitions, 1963. Can you tell us about that?

It’s the 50th anniversary since the Yolngu people of Yirrkala in north east Arnhem Land sent two bark petitions framed by traditional ochre paintings of clan designs to the Australian House of Representatives. They were protesting the granting of mining rights and sought recognition by the Australian Parliament of the Yolngu people’s traditional rights and ownership of their lands.

And why was this so important?

So much has come from these Yirrkala Bark Petitions. They were the catalyst for advancing changes to the Constitution in the 1967 referendum, for land rights granted by the Commonwealth in 1976, the High Court Mabo case in 1992 and, most recently, the drive to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recognised in the Constitution.


What does NAIDOC week mean to you and your family?

NAIDOC week has always been special and important to me and my family as it’s a time to stop in this busy world we live in and really celebrate being Aboriginal and all the beauty of my people. Now with my gorgeous six year old son Taj, I love to pass on my pride and all our stories. He is literally bursting at the seams with love and pride for his culture and that makes me confident about the future of our people.

How can people celebrate NAIDOC week with kids?

There are lots of fun things you can do with kids to celebrate NAIDOC week: read a dreamtime story, create your own Aboriginal Art, visit a local Indigenous sites, find out about traditional owners of your local area or listen to some Indigenous music.

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A fun thing my son and I do every year is the free Collingwood Children’s Farm NAIDOC week celebration. It’s on Thursday 11th July and goes for the whole day: there’s boomerang making, traditional dancers and stories and damper making around the fire.

photoThese posters were used to advertise National Aborigines Week in 1982. Can you tell us about them?

photophotoMy father Bob Ware (deceased) was a very prominent leader and well respected Wirangu Elder. He was a professional runner who at one stage was the fastest man in Australia. My dad was asked to be on the poster and so were my brother Aaron and I the following year.

My dad was instrumental in many Aboriginal land rights issues. He was hands on, going to Parliament and changing laws, visiting the Queen to ask her personally to clean up Maralinga, photographing and documenting our stories.

My dad was also the first Aboriginal police officer; actually the list of ‘firsts’ he achieved is long. He was a quiet achiever, only spoke when words needed to be said. He never raised his voice but he was heard.

When he passed away, people of all walks of life, from the Premier of South Australia, to the secretary he taught to read and write on the job, spoke at his service to say how happy and thankful they were to know him.

He was a father to admire and love and he had a laugh that made you giggle for hours. What my father achieved for Aboriginal people in his short 50 years is a whole other blog.

My dad is who I look up to, and I hope that one day I will do for my people what he did for us.

Thanks for sharing those great stories.

Shelley Ware and Jacqui Tomlins

You can check out the internet for other activities during NAIDOC week or look at the official NAIDOC site:

Flower Power comes to KPS: Trivia Night kicks off!

Wow! I’m having a flashback! Bright orange floral prints, macramé headbands and peace signs everywhere. I was a little young for flower power, but my older sister was a teenager bang in the middle of it and this is all very familiar. The school gym has undergone a remarkable transformation since I left it full of kids at assembly on Friday. Psychedelic lighting, retro artwork, fabulous flowers and Shagaholic Cocktails lined up on the bar!

Twenty-six tables, 250 people, and enough big hair and round sunglasses to re-recreate Woodstock: welcome to the KPS Flower Power Trivia Night.

P1060544I’m rubbish at Trivia Nights: sport, movies, popular culture, haven’t got a clue, but I’m on a good table and I reckon we might be in with a chance for the top spot.

Round 1…Ugh!…Sport. Zero out of ten for me, but the guys on my table look like they know what they’re talking about.

Round 2…TV and Movies. Ditto, but Nikki McC next to me is frantically writing so I’m optimistic.

At the break everyone has the chance to bid on the silent auction and there are a number of highly-prized offerings: weekends away, dinners out, beauty treatments, books and chocolate.P1060561

My favourite without a doubt is the kids’ artwork. Bit McLean and Carla Temple have done a fantastic job of putting together each kid’s individual painting on a broad class canvas. They look great and the bidding is fierce.P1060559P1060549

I have a moment of existential angst: the kids would be so chuffed if I came with these, but I’m not sure about buying all three and if I go home with just one…that’s not going to work. I see another mum next to me clearly grappling with the same issue; she’s got bids on two and is hovering close to make sure she’s not gazumped.P1060584

Back to business at the tables and Round 3 is…Geography. Phew! Thank God for that. DFIU we’re advised from over the table (and I’ll leave you to work that one out) and Emma R and I DFIU and manage to redeem ourselves with a swag of correct answers.

Round 4: Music. A good team effort on this one and an especially confident contribution from some of our more mature members. I think we’re doing okay, but before they announce the scores, it’s time to award the prize for Best Dressed Female and Male. Check them out :P1060606


Karen and Tony Brown win and Matt Mullins gets a special mention.

More bidding on the silent auction – some of the art works are at $200/300+ – then it’s back to the tables for the big announcement.P1060550

Our table is…second last (out of 26) which is not quite as good as I’d hoped and I’m really not sure there’s enough time left  for us to make a dash to the finish. Oh well, pour us another glass of bubbly instead…

The prize for the Best Decorated Table is awarded to the clear and well-deserved winner, Burn the bra! P1060567P1060591

Personally, I thought the corner table up the back with glow sticks and lanterns was a fantastic effort too. (Not sure if that was Yeah Baby!, Psychedelic Shagaholics, RESPECT, or High Kew IQs!)P1060562

Round 7 is Medical Science and while we pull out all the stops on this one (thanks Libby), we’re outclassed by the table of doctors next to us. Last round is School Questions and I’m embarrassed to say we do really well on this; our best effort so far. I think, maybe, we need to get out more.

Our table finishes very close to the bottom. The teachers’ table, To Sir with Love (was there ever a movie more beloved by teachers?) comes in at a very respectable third and… The Winner is…the aptly named, Woodstock Heroes!

Class 220 win the Cones prize (vast quantities of ice-cream) for the most parents present on the night (33).

After the formalities are over it’s drinking and dancing and kicking on until a visit from the friendly neighbourhood boys in blue around 1.00 am who ask us – as they would a bunch of rowdy teenagers – to turn the music down!  Oops!P1060621

The night was stupendously well organised and a huge amount of fun was had by all who attended. It was great to see the organisers’ enormous efforts rewarded by so many families turning up on the night to show support for the school. These evenings are primarily about raising money, but they are enormously important for the engagement, confidence and morale of the school community as well.

Congratulation to Claire Tanner and her huge team of helpers. Great job. Great fun. Great night. Well done!

And the big news… as we go to press money is still being counted, but it looks like the target of $20,000 was reached.

Jacqui Tomlins




You’ve just got to give it a try…

I have another confession to make; it’s not quite as big as not paying my voluntary fees, but it’s up there. It leaves me and the kids with time on our hands at the weekends and at a bit of a loss when the conversation takes a particular turn. But to be honest, I don’t lose much sleep over it and secretly I’m quite please – but I don’t say that out loud very often.

We don’t like sport in our family, watching it or playing it. There you go; I said it! It’s not that I’ve got anything against it particularly – I think it’s actually a good thing, especially for the kids – it’s just not our thing.

So it came as a surprise recently when I was watching my kids in the back yard to discover that they had some sporting skills! They could throw – in a number of different ways – and catch and bowl and bat and even dribble and pass a soccer ball. Aah, I thought, that must be Erin’s fault! And as it’s been a while since I’ve blogged about a member of staff I thought I’d catch up with our very own PE teacher, Erin Willett.

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How did you end up with us at Kew Primary, Erin?

Many people don’t remember but I started at Kew Primary School as an emergency teacher in 2009. I’d just moved to Melbourne after living in Geelong for eight years where I’d studied and gone on to teach at Leopold Primary School. I’d been a Year 5 and Year 3 teacher, as well as Year Level Coordinator and Whole School Events Coordinator.

I started doing some emergency teaching while I found my feet in Melbourne and Kew PS was a nearby school. I got many days as Kew as well as other local schools. I found I was really starting to think about switching my teaching focus from the classroom to my other passion and major at university, Health and Physical Education. A part time PE role at Richmond West Primary School was followed by my current job, PE teacher at Kew PS.


Can you tell us a little about what your job entails?

There are many parts to the job of a PE teacher. There is the day to day teaching and planning of classes across all the year levels (just as well I’m good at remembering names!), planning clinics and excursions, maintaining the school equipment, organising Interschool Sport for the senior students, overseeing the Bike Ed program and running our major carnivals, Athletics and Cross Country. It is exhausting and very fulfilling! Skills that are very important are organisation, patience and remaining calm when things don’t always go to plan. I’ve got the first two sorted and continue to work on the third!

So what’s the most important part of your job?

Encouraging participation and sportsmanship are the main focuses of my role. There are many different approaches to being a PE teacher; I choose to work hard on encouraging everyone to give their best effort always, no matter what their best is and support one another to do so.

Students need to feel emotionally safe when playing sport as well as physically. My feedback is important, but just as important is the feedback students give one another. These can both affect their self-esteem and belief about their capabilities for years to come. Adapting lessons to ensure everyone participates and experiences success is key to a meaningful physical education program.


Do you think male and female PE teachers can approach things quite differently?

I remember my PE teachers throughout my schooling and I remember having a few female high school PE teachers, but overall they were predominantly men. I don’t think there are any advantages or disadvantages either way, however I think it can be very powerful for our girls to see female roles models in positions that require a real ‘have-a-go’ approach and stepping outside the square.

I love shooting a basketball or whacking a cricket ball just as much as anyone, and often get my hands dirty! I believe if the students see that it helps show them they can do anything they want; you’ve just got to give it a try.

If you spend all day, all week, doing sport do you ever actually feel like doing any yourself?

I need to know a little bit about a lot of sports and skills, but I’m not a professional at any of them! I played tennis right through primary and high school, took up basketball at uni and then triathlon when I started teaching. I now run regularly and enjoy going to the gym when I have some energy left at the end of a school day! I’m not the best at controlling a soccer ball, and I definitely can’t always kick a footy straight, but I have a go at everything.

At school I’m not afraid to make mistakes or show the kids I’m not perfect. I hope this encourages them to try everything and not be scared if it doesn’t work the first, second or third time. Winning is one thing, but to have a healthy attitude and understanding for life is far more important in my book!

Thanks Erin, and thanks for teaching my girls how to throw and catch properly!

Jacqui Tomlins


The new kid on the block….

If you wander past the school office you will see a fresh face sitting in the office of the Assistant Principal (AP).


Andrew Searle has joined us from Mont Albert Primary School as acting AP, while Robin Grace has moved up the corridor to the Principal’s office. Both will be in their acting positions for Term 2, and who knows after that? DEECD will let us know.

This week I popped in to see Andrew to find out a little more about him, and thought it might be a good idea to introduce him to the school community via the blog.

Jacqui: Welcome Andrew, we’re very pleased to have you at KPS. I’m told you were ‘hand-picked’ to come over and help us out and I’m wondering what you were ‘hand-picked’ for?

Andrew: (laughing) Well I got a call from the regional coordinator at DEECD who explained the situation here and asked if I’d be available to act as Assistant Principal for the next term. I asked him why he’d called me and he said he knew about my ability to connect with the community – with parents and staff – and thought that was really important for Kew right now. I thought it would be a great opportunity and challenge for me and I was very happy to agree. I’ve only been here a day, but everyone’s been really friendly and welcoming.

Jacqui: We’ve had a few ups and downs here in the last eighteen months…

Andrew: Yes, I know, but I have no history with the school – or with anyone involved in that which I think is good – I’m a new face. Mont Albert has a similar demographic to Kew Primary so I’m familiar with some of the challenges of a school like this.

Jacqui: So what is the role of the Assistant Principal exactly and what will you be doing here?

Andrew: A large part of the AP’s job is to look after the welfare of the students; that includes discipline, but it’s much broader than that. I work with students with disabilities and special needs and their parents, and the aides who support them. I also look after professional development for staff and work on the curriculum.

Jacqui: It’s hard to step into a role when you’re only here for a term…

Andrew: Yes, it is, but I’ve already had a few conversations with Robin about what I can most effectively do while I’m here. Firstly, I need to make sure I fulfil the AP role and keep everything under control and running smoothly, but I’m also hoping to look around and see if there are other areas where I can make a contribution. I really just want to identify the real need of the school right now and see what’s the best way I can help.

At Mont Albert, I’m very involved with a number of committees – Education, Buildings and Grounds and the Fare – and I also run our classroom helpers course and information evenings on literacy. I don’t want to tread on any toes here, but I’ll just be looking for areas that might need some development and maybe I can get a few things started.

I’ll be meeting with the Leadership Team this week and see what ideas they have. I’ll also be supporting Robin as she finds her feet in her new role.

My first big challenge is to get to know everyone and learn some names.

Jacqui: So are you from Melbourne?

Andrew: I was born in Cohuna up on the Murray River, but we left there after a year. My father was a Uniting Church Minister so we moved a lot for his work in the early days. We lived in South Australia and different parts of Victoria, but I’ve lived in Melbourne for about thirty years now.

I trained at Deakin University and did Professional Development to become an Early Years Literacy Coordinator. I’ve been at Mont Albert for six years, three as Assistant Principal.

My fiancée is also a teacher – at Chatham Primary in Surrey Hills. Oh and I barrack for Hawthorn!

Jacqui: Thanks, Andrew. It’s great to have you here and we hope you enjoy your time at KPS.

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!


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!


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 if you have a question or concern.

Emma Rush

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

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…


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.


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.


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