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