A new year (for parents as well as students)

helloIt was strange walking through the gates on the first day of school this year. For the first time in all the years my kids have been at Kew Primary, it seemed there were more new faces than familiar ones. And babies – lots of babies in prams and toddlers tearing around the playground, no doubt wondering when it’s their turn to go to school.

It’s a natural changing-of-the-guard. At one point, I had kids in the junior, middle and senior school – over their four classes and eight years (my first child started at KPS in 2008), I got to meet lots of families – chatting at pick-up time, helping with classroom activities and at school social events. Continue reading

You make me feel like dancing!

kids-dancing-1You make me feel like dancing… wanna dance the afternoon away….”

Okay, that’s not quite how the song goes but when you’re six-years-old, you’re not exactly hitting the tiles at 2am. Instead, KPS students converged on the hall last Friday night for the annual school disco.

A lot may have changed over the years but school dances stay the same – the excitement, the energy (brought about by loud music and red cordial) and kids showing off the moves they’ve been practicing in the privacy of their bedroom.

My earliest memories of dancing begin when I was in Prep – my carefully planned sixth birthday party was destroyed when I came down with the mumps. I was devastated but cheered up when I was presented with a copy of ABBA’s Arrival. While I may have lost points on the Prep social scene by cancelling my party, I made up ground by inviting people over after school to listen to Arrival. Within weeks, we had carefully choreographed routines to Money, Money, Money; Knowing Me Knowing You; and, of course, Dancing Queen. Continue reading

And they’re racing!

We could not have asked for a better day for last week’s House Cross Country meet. While Mr Penson and Kerry limbered up ahead of their participation in every race, Clare made sure the competitors were physically and psychologically ready to run. I took careful note of her words of wisdom at the start of the U11 Boys race – “I want you to push out of your comfort zone. I’m not asking you to vomit but work hard.” (Excellent advice – I’ll remember this next time I go out for yum cha).

Over to Clare Connor for the results –

cross-country-2016-1What a sensational sunny day for our Cross Country at Hays Paddock on Tuesday 19th April. As the year 3, 4, 5 and 6 students entered the main entrance, the oval was soon filled with colour and excited cheers. Continue reading

Our Kewmunity buzz

CT1I love helping out at school swimming because it’s an opportunity for a solid half hour of chatting to other parents – it’s great to catch-up but as Alex St.Claire reveals, there are more ‘formal’ (and informal) social events for parents at KPS – and they’re all good fun.

There’s no doubting our passion for community at Kew Primary School. We even have our own brand for it – Kewmunity. Continue reading

Healthy and thriving: Our KPS Canteen

This week, Alex St Claire shares some thoughts on the school canteen (and how lucky Kew Primary is to have one).


Despite many Australian schools shutting down canteens – and even outsourcing to local fast food outlets – due to a lack of volunteers, Kew Primary’s canteen is a thriving hub of parent helpers.

Current government policy sets nutritional standards for school canteens, which have proven too expensive for many schools to maintain without parent support. At KPS, we are lucky enough to have the parent support to offer a range of healthy and wholesome food Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Continue reading

A welcome and a farewell…

Welcome to the last blog of 2013.

Principal Penson

First up, a big welcome to our new Principal, James Penson. We’ve had a few ups and downs on the Principal front in recent years so it’s great to finally have someone permanently in the role. I know staff and parents alike are very enthusiastic about James’ appointment and are looking forward to working with him next year.James_Penson

A big thank-you to Robin Grace for steering us through some very troubled waters during that time, and to Steven Donohue, our current acting Assistant Principal who’s been a breath of fresh air; we wish we could keep you.

Yesterday I checked in with James and asked if I could interview him for the KPS blog next year, so now’s your chance.  If you have any questions you’d like to ask him, email me. Nothing too scary though; we’d really like to keep this one.

And, in case you haven’t heard, James was the recipient of the Outstanding Primary Teacher Award for Victoria in 2008 which is pretty cool.JP

No pressure or anything, James…

Fees and Funding

And Big Ups too for Julie Coleman, Chair, Funding, Communication and Marketing sub-committee for her awesome efforts in procuring grants for the school this year. KPS received a $11,000 grant from the Bendigo Bank towards the running track, $1000 from the Local Leader for the kitchen garden, $1,200 from the Telstra Foundation for lighting the CARE Chairs and $1,500 from IBM for apple TVs.BB

And great job on the Lap-a-thon which raised $7,300, and Nikki McConnon who’s raised $3,500 from the second-hand uniform shop.

You may recall I wrote two blogs earlier in the year about fees. I was pretty shocked to learn that the government only provide 33% of our operational budget and that the rest has to be made up by our voluntary fees. At the time I wrote that blog we had collected 36% of the fees. I checked this week and our total for the year is 55%, so no Outstanding Award for us. Effectively this means the school is operating on just over half its required budget. Let’s hope we can do better next year.

A farewell: Emma Rush

By the time you read this Emma Rush will be heading back home to New Zealand after four years with us and there will be an empty space in the shelter sheds.  Emma has made a huge contribution to the school in that time. She’s been on School Council and worked as PTA liaison and been a class rep. She’s been a permanent feature of the second-hand uniform shop and a regular helper in the canteen.  She’s helped out with reading and literacy in classes, been on numerous excursions and helped with cross country, bike ed. and athletics carnivals, and been a guest blogger.P1050767

But more than that, Emma has made many, many friends in her time at KPS and will be greatly missed. Chin-up, Emma. No tears. We’ll see you in February. It’s been lovely having you around.

The Stats of Prep

Now to finish I am going to pass you over to Katrina Whelan who provided the blog’s funniest joke for the year (Make sure your kid can put on undies standing up…Prep Swimming)

Katrina has collated some interesting statistics on this year’s Preps:IMG_2599

1. Number of lunches made: 192

2. Number of days that kids didn’t have time to eat fruit but did have time to eat biscuits: 191

3. Number of kilograms of sand brought home from sandpit in school shoes: 54

4. Number of times preppies accidentally called their teacher ‘mum’: 782

5. Number of preppies that, at the beginning of the year, couldn’t do any maths but could count out the exact money for a slushy at the canteen: 61

6. Number of blisters on little hands after intense sessions on the monkey-bars: eleventy billion

7. Number of nit notices: eleventy billion

8. Number of lunchtimes spent in the shelter shed because hat was forgotten: 1 (you don’t make that mistake twice)

9. Number of days that preppies told their parents that they were ‘allowed’ to take football cards/ jewellery/ toys/ Lego to school because their teacher had said it was okay: 192

10. Number of days teachers said to preppies it was a good idea to bring football cards/ jewellery/ toys/ Lego to school: zero.

And one final note: since our humble beginnings twelve months ago, the KPS blog has had close to 10,000 views. Thanks for checking in each week.

See you all tomorrow night at the World Food and Music Peppercorn BBQ.

Have a great holiday.

Jacqui Tomlins

Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world. Vale Nelson Mandela.


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

Hurrah for George!

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

(With thanks to Enid Blyton)


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!


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.


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

Canteen, concerts and class reps…

When you do a selfless deed or an act of good your body releases endorphins. This is why volunteering makes us happy! *

You can smell them half way across the playground, the homemade ANZAC biscuits, or is it the apple muffins, or the sausage rolls? Whichever, I always like to linger a moment at the canteen to check out what the kids will be enjoying at lunch and recess.

Last Friday when I dropped by, the seemingly unflappable Sally was in a bit of tizz; all three of her volunteers for that day were at the doctors with sick kids.  She had close to 120 lunch orders to prepare, as well as half a dozen different homemade snacks for recess, and was a little concerned about how she was going to manage.

Fortunately, two volunteering stalwarts, Nikki and Emma, stepped in at no notice and saved the day, and the lamb moneybags, tacos and cheese toasties were all duly delivered.

Now, this got me thinking: what percentage of the population do you reckon volunteer on a regular basis? 10 per cent? 15? 20 even? Well, according the Australian Bureau of Statistics it’s around 36% and, interestingly, the biggest cohort of volunteers – around 55% – is couples with dependent children aged 5 – 17. That’s us. The most commonly cited reason for why people volunteer is because it increases their sense of community belonging. So how does this all relate to Kew Primary School I wondered? Do half of us volunteer? And what is our motivation if we do?

‘I like to know what’s going on around school,’ Nikki tells me, ‘and I like to keep my finger on the pulse. I volunteered to help with the athletics carnival and I got to talk to lots of staff – Barry and Robin and Xavier and Michelle – and it was very enlightening! Plus, I’m a control freak. You see things that need improvement and often there aren’t the resources to fix it and you can’t always expect people who are really busy to pick it up.’

‘Volunteering in class means I get to know my kid’s teacher really well,’ she says, ‘and my children love seeing me there. You get to know the other kids too which means they feel more comfortable about approaching you, or asking you for help outside the classroom.’

Emma likes to know what her kids are doing during the day, too, especially, she says, as it’s really hard to get any information out of them. ‘But I came from overseas,’ she adds, ‘and I didn’t know anyone. I needed to meet as many people as I could and if I hadn’t volunteered I think I would have stayed at home and got lonely and depressed. I don’t have to work and I’ve got the time and means to volunteer and a lot of people don’t have that luxury. Plus…well…I’m just really nosy.’

The head honcho of volunteers in any school is generally the president of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), in our case the indefatigable George. The PTA organises a range of events throughout the year aimed at raising money or fostering a sense of community and, in most cases, both.

‘I’m a very impatient person,’ George tells me. ‘I see a problem and I want to fix it. I feel obligated to help. But there are many, many people in our school who volunteer regularly and quietly – whether it’s reading in class, going on excursions, walking the kids to swimming – and, to be honest, the place would fall in a heap without them.  These people make a really big difference.’

I asked George why some people who are interested in volunteering might be reluctant to put their hand up; I know, for example, people sometimes feel they don’t have the particular skills, or that they can’t make a whole-term commitment.

‘Not everyone wants to be on school council,’ George says, ‘or is suitable for it, but there are dozens of ways that people can help for say, 45 minutes a week, or with a one-off contribution to an event. Sometimes parents can be a bit nervous about volunteering, but they don’t need to be; it’s a good way to become involved in your school and I think it’s a fantastic example to our kids.’

So who knows whether 55% of us volunteer – it doesn’t actually matter – and people clearly get involved for all sorts of reasons.  We do know that many people regularly give up their time to help support our school community in many different ways, and that the day to day experience of our kids is all the better because of it. As George says: ‘If there are no volunteers, it doesn’t happen.’

So, a big thank-you to everyone who has volunteered this year; to the quiet contributors and the nosy, impatient, control freaks!

Thanks for listening,

Jacqui Tomlins

Volunteers are involved with all of the following at KPS:

Canteen, excursions and incursions, classroom reading, swimming, class reps., book club, uniform shop, school banking, fruit duty, working bees, school council, mothers’ day, fathers’ day, peppercorn barbeque, chess club, bush dance, concerts and performances, sporting activities, and more…

If you would like to volunteer please contact:

Your class teacher

George (PTA)     georgerad71@gmail.com

Sally (Canteen)   0431 213289

School office      9853 8325

*One million acts of kindness: www.1millionacts.com.au