A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Senior School - Edition 3 - 2020


Much of what we do in the Senior School is built around giving students strategies for navigating their way through times when not everything is going according to their plan. Sometimes the stress they feel is because they do not have a plan. If there is one character strength that I believe students need to develop to thrive in life, it is Resilience - the ability to cope when things go wrong.

Our Camps Program in Years 7 to 10 is designed to provide experiences that are not common for many of our students and for them to work through how they can overcome the challenges they are faced with, understanding that in most cases they are not alone and there will be others there to support them through such times. I see this every time I visit the Year 10 students at Westventure when they complete the 17 km group run. The feelings that each individual student experiences before the run will be varied, from thinking “it’s just another challenge to embrace and overcome” to feelings of uncertainty about how they will get through the activity. The change in the mindset over the next two to three hours is dramatic and the feeling at the end of the run is an overwhelming sense of achievement - and I’m sure for some, relief! There is no doubt that the support of each member of the group by the other members is a key factor in the group being successful. The amazing thing is that four days later. the students are asked if they want to do an individual 17km and the response is generally 100% yes! This is a lesson that can and should be transferred into other situations when a student is facing difficulties. It is not about avoiding the tough times, but problem solving through the tough times and, if needed, seeking help and support.

Our Wellbeing@West course, which runs across the school, centres on building resilience in students and is based on the work of The Resilience Project. The key element of the program is to help students develop Gratitude, Empathy, Mindfulness and Emotional Literacy. Research is suggesting that the development of these character strengths will help build resilience. Very briefly, The Resilience Project defines each of these areas as follows:

  • Gratitude as ‘the act of being thankful and appreciating what you have in life. Rather than focussing on what you don’t have or what you want, the focus shifts to all that you have’;
  • Empathy is ‘the capacity to understand and feel what another person is feeling’. Every time you do something kind for someone else, your brain releases oxytocin;
  • Mindfulness is ‘the practise of attention regulation’; and
  • Emotional Literacy involves giving students opportunities to develop their ability to understand and express emotions and practise recognising their own feelings and how to manage them.

Many of the activities at the Year 12 Retreat held at the end of Week 4 focussed on these elements as well and I am aware that many of the older students do practise developing them on a daily basis.

On Wednesday 29 April, the founder of The Resilience Project, Hugh van Cuylenburg will be visiting Westminster to present a seminar to parents and then one to students the next day. I would encourage all parents to put this date in their diary and come along to hear Hugh speak so you can then engage in a conversation with your children to help them to be challenged by tough times rather than look for ways to avoid them. To book your free tickets to the parent seminar and to find out further details, please RSVP via TryBooking.

Additionally, you may like to go The Resilience Project website to learn more about their philosophy and approach to building resilience.


Senior School Events that have happened since the last eNews include the Swimming Carnival, which involved many outstanding performances from students across all year levels, as well as the enthusiastic competition between the Houses. A very big thank you to Mr Darren McLachlan for his organisation leading up to the event and his expertise over the two days to ensure that it all went smoothly.

The annual Year 12 Retreat was held from Saturday 22 to Monday 24 February at Normanville. As mentioned previously, this involved a number of sessions which students rotated through to help them succeed in their Year 12 journey. I would like to thank the parents who came down and helped with lunch and dinner on the Sunday – it was greatly appreciated. Head of Senior Students, Mr Tony Ritson ('93), put in a lot of energy to ensure the Retreat provided opportunities for students to reflect on their plans for successfully completing Year 12.

The Year 7 and 8 BBQ for students and families was very well attended and I thank all who attended and contributed to the salads and sweets. The efforts of our Head of Year 7, Mrs Jane Edwards and Head of Year 8, Mrs Kate Johns, ensured the afternoon and evening was enjoyable. The interaction between the Year 7/8 students and the School and House Leaders who arranged activities was a highlight and positive role modelling of quality student leadership.

Term Dates

Please note there has been a minor change to the 2021 Term Dates. The updated dates can be found on our Term Dates page.

David Wallage
Head of Senior School