It was with a refreshed set of eyes that I returned to Westminster at the start of last week after being fortunate enough to take some long service leave. I used the time away from school to attend three different conferences representing the Independent Primary School Heads Association of Australia (IPSHA). The first was in Wellington NZ, the second in London and the third in Nashville. All three conferences afforded me the opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of the educational sector challenges being faced by schools in their respective settings. The political situation in the United Kingdom where the leader of the opposition has committed to abolishing all independent schools and is running a media campaign to that effect was causing considerable concern in those school communities. Similarly, the threat of presidential impeachment was a constant topic during my time in Nashville.
I am greatly indebted to Danny Page who willingly undertook the role as acting Head of Preparatory School and did a wonderful job of managing the myriad of tasks that fall at this time of year. In order to release Danny, Kristy Moody and then Meg Fitzgerald each had a turn stepping in to the Deputy role. Both ladies are deeply committed to the children in their respective tasks so I greatly appreciate them allowing us to prise them out of their classrooms for a few weeks.
As you are probably aware, Westminster School has been undergoing some considerable changes currently. Some are obvious, such as the new Innovation and Inquiry Hub starting to become a reality and road works on Alison Avenue. Some are behind the scenes such as the learning management system powering much of the communication patterns for the school community.
Another considerable change that has required a great deal of planning is the merging of the 2020 Year 7 cohort into the Senior School. We are on track to make that change a positive and hopefully seamless one for the students involved. The relocation of the 2020 Year 7 cohort has created the opportunity for us to make an adjustment to the management team within the Preparatory School.
The School Council and our Principal, Simon Shepherd have supported a restructure of the Deputy roles that will see an increased focus on supporting the teaching and learning across the Preparatory School. This will bring us into line with recent developments in the Senior School, where our Pedagogy Coach, Angela Phillips has been making significant inroads. Our current Deputy of Middle Primary, Sharyn Darrell will bring her considerable expertise into the new role of Deputy – Teaching and Learning, with a sole focus on the pedagogy and curriculum delivery across the Preparatory School. Sharyn will be leading the staff in analysing data from our testing regimes, with a view to ascertaining the academic growth of students and to help inform teachers and pedagogical strategies.
The school wide areas of focus for professional learning in 2020 will be differentiation of curriculum delivery, increasing student engagement in class, and the provision of meaningful feedback that promotes growth. Having Sharyn in this new role will support all Preparatory School staff to focus on the development of these areas, as well as leading STRETCH and specialist teachers.
Stuart Burns will take on the expanded role of supporting the staff and students in classes from Year 3 to Year 6 as Deputy of Primary, and Danny Page will continue his outstanding work as Deputy of Junior Primary. We must also recognise that our deputies not only have the responsibility of helping to lead growth within the Prep School, but they also have a teaching role, spending half their time in a variety of classes, across different year levels and subject areas to support our teaching staff. We are fortunate to have qualified staff taking on these roles who can manage both their teaching load as well as their academic and pastoral responsibilities.
I believe that this adjustment to our management staffing will have a very positive impact on both students and staff as we look forward into 2020.
It is that time of year again! Last year the people at UnitingCare were overwhelmed by the huge amount of food and gifts generously donated by our wonderful Westminster community during our Christmas Appeal. The donations covered at least half of the step at the front of the Chapel. This year I have challenged our students to see if we can fill the space at the front of the Chapel!
In Chapel services over the past week we have been focusing on what sorts of things we can do to help those in our community who are not as fortunate as we are. Some of the statistics I shared are sobering.
The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and UNSW research showed in 2014:
Our social service agencies say that the numbers have greatly increased over the past five years. A single mum living in regional Victoria stated, “I hate that I can’t cook proper meals and sit and eat with my child. She always asks why I don’t sit and eat with her, but we don’t always have enough for the both of us to eat. I’d rather miss out so that she doesn’t have to.”
When people in our own community have to choose between feeding their children or eating themselves then we need to be motivated to do something to help those people. Christmas, in particular, is a very difficult time for those living in poverty. Foodbank’s South Australian depots report that each month 134,620 South Australians currently access food relief. The impact of this is multi-faceted, but just one statistic shows that food insecure people are five times more likely to suffer psychological distress than the average Australian.
So, I am humbly asking our community to think about purchasing a few extra things in the next shop so that those in our community might enjoy some joy this Christmas. Luke 14:14 states;
“Then Jesus said to his host . . . When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.”
It is important that the food we bring in is food that we, too, might like to eat at Christmas. The dignity of the people who are struggling is important. Here are some suggestions:
Food: Canned fruit and vegetables, pasta & pasta sauce, rice, spreads (jam, vegemite, honey), cereal, long life milk, coffee, tea, biscuits, Christmas cakes and puddings.
Gifts: Books, toys, giftpacks, skincare, new clothes and shoes, tins of biscuits, chocolates.
Please don’t wrap the presents as UnitingCare will need to see what they are so that they can be distributed accordingly.
Please think about making a donation to our Christmas Appeal. Goods can be placed directly under the Christmas Tree in the Chapel. Westminster is an amazingly generous community. I know we’ll be able to fill that space again this year with wonderful gifts and food.
Children’s Week was celebrated recently to celebrate the achievements of children around Australia. The Minister for Education Awards were held in Adelaide and Westminster student, Hudson Linke (Year 4 Mace), was honoured at the ceremony. Hudson won his award for the involvement he displayed in the lead up to Reconciliation Week. His participation in song and dance throughout the Assemblies, and for the speeches he delivered at both the Preparatory and Senior School Assemblies were outstanding. His speech shared his journey as an Indigenous person and brought awareness of the need to reconcile to our community and educate people to live harmoniously. Hudson spoke passionately about what reconciliation means to him, his family and his school community. His hopes for reconciliation are: That Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to live a happy life free from racism, discrimination and disadvantage. That we can achieve equality between Australia’s first people and those that came after, and that all Australians understand and accept the wrongs of the past and the impact this has had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We are very proud of Hudson’s achievement.
We have had a number of students recently representing the South West District in the state cricket and tennis carnivals. Students trialled along with the best from other schools in our region, and Westminster has been very well represented.
In the cricket team we had Ethan Williams (Year 6 Abbey), Lachlan Douglass (Year 6 Mace), Lucas Doe (Year 6 Wesley), Daniel Turnbull (Year 7 Wyvern) and William Young ( Year 7 Wyvern). On the tennis courts we were well represented by Charlotte Burt (Year 7 Wyvern), Nic Damato (Year 7 Wyvern), Seb Ireland (Year 7 Crown), Seven Ding (Year 6 Wyvern) and Georgie Burt (Year 5 Wyvern).
In addition, I am delighted to advise that Lucas Doe, after trialling since March, has been selected in the State U12 Cricket Team. The championship tournament is being held here in Adelaide from Sunday 17 to Sunday 24 November. Lucas has secured a place as a top order batsman. He is looking forward to a big schedule of cricket this month.
Penny He (Year 3 Wesley) will take part in the Figure Skating National Competition, which will be held in Melbourne, as a team member representing SA. This is an amazing achievement for one so young, and comes about after a lot of training and many early morning starts. Congratulations Penny and good luck in Melbourne!
After a somewhat long haul to finalise, we expect to distribute the 2018 edition of our annual year book, Reflections, in the latter half of November, and we thank you for your patience in this matter. Generally, this is distributed through a family’s youngest child at the School if the family was also here in 2018. Families here last year but since left are also entitled to a collect a copy or have one posted to them if distance is an issue. More information will be sent to these families to outline these arrangements.
We have been working closely with the City of Marion’s Stormwater Project team to have Alison Avenue reopened whenever possible during morning drop off and afternoon pick up. We understand the inconvenience to anyone regularly in that section, but the City of Marion team is doing its best to accommodate the School’s traffic peaks. It may not be possible for the roadway to always be reopened at these times so please continue working with the prevailing detours/arrangements and how it might also affect bus movements around you. The Council team is now working across the intersection of Orkney and Alison Avenues to meet an end goal of early December. Again, we highlight that most of this section is a long school zone, which means speed should not exceed 25 km/hr when children are present. Many students are in this area before and after school so please note the signage to clearly define the school zone and speed limit.
Thank you to our families for observing the ‘no parking’ zone between the ELC playground and rail line on the Gate 1 roadway. At the moment we are using cones as a temporary control measure but expect permanent signage and line marking to replace these later in the term. Thank you again for helping us to make this a safer zone for our young ELC and JP students.
Head of Preparatory School