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

The year in review

year-in-review-1Hi Kew,

Here is a condensed version of my review and evaluation for our school this year. The full version includes a more detailed outline of our goals that were a part of our Annual Implementation Plan (AIP) and a statement of performance for each of these areas. This is available on our school website and hard copies can also be collected from our school office.

INTRODUCTION

As I reflect on the year, I am very proud of what our whole school community has achieved. This year it has been frequently commented on by students, parents and staff that we have a renewed sense of optimism and positivity around the future direction of our school. I am also very excited about the future for Kew Primary. Over the course of this year we have been able to make some key decisions and implement some new processes that will enable and drive our future direction.

2014 has also been a very big year for our staff. We have embraced a very extensive professional learning program and implemented many changes to the way our staff functions. I thank all staff for their commitment and support and acknowledge their hard work and professionalism this year. Continue reading

You know the saying ‘Bigger than Ben Hur’? That.

bike-ed-1Ben Hur, the Royal Wedding, a Broadway production of The Lion King… putting on those shows is a cinch compared to the annual Kew Primary School Bike Education Celebration Ride. It’s a day of epic proportions – huge achievements, big hills, a massive barbeque lunch and loads of helpers – a lot of sweat, peddle-power, high-vis vests and sausages goes into making the day a success. Continue reading

The thrill of the Scholastic Book Club

the-lettering-book-1I was halfway through grade five when I realised that my carefully rendered ‘bubble writing’ was no longer going to cut it on school projects. My best friend had turned up with a project poster titled ‘Living in the Future’ and all of her headings were written in a very natty ‘computer’ font. Actually, I didn’t know the word ‘font’ at the time but it didn’t stop me from being immediately envious. And curious – how did she do such fancy writing?

It turns out my friend’s fabulous fonts came from The Lettering Book by Noelene Morris and obviously, I felt life could not continue until I had my own copy. But there was a catch. The Lettering Book was only available through the once-a-term Scholastic Book Club – would my mum let me choose a book from the next catalogue? I started saving my pocket-money as a back-up. Continue reading

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