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As a principal, the hate-fuelled response to the Herald Sun's reporting of Woodleigh's and other community organisations' plans to celebrate IDAHOBIT has left me sad and tired. IDAHOBIT is the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. The Woodleigh community has celebrated IDAHOBIT since 2018, and it was also a special day at my previous school.
IDAHOBIT is the anniversary of May 17, 1990. On that day, just 33 years ago, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases. Now celebrated in over 130 countries around the world, IDAHOBIT exists to help lessen the stigma and discrimination LGBTQIA+ people still face. In Australia today, two in three LGBTQIA+ youth experience abuse due to their identity, 35% of LGBTQIA+ Australians have experienced verbal abuse in the past 12 months, and 58% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Australia report that they had been treated unfairly to some degree because of their sexual identity in the past 12 months.
Each year, IDAHOBIT reminds me of a meeting I had with a student from my previous school. Two years after graduating, this student contacted me to speak about their time at school, and since I had lost touch with them, I was curious to hear what they would say. When we met, I was surprised to find myself shaking hands with a young man. Throughout his time as my student, he was still identifying as female.
My initial curiosity quickly turned to heartache as he told me of his time at our school. He spoke of an adolescence filled with fear, of being forced to wear our girls' uniform and how he had hidden his identity for his entire school career. Being unable to live as his true self took an enormous toll, manifesting as significant mental health issues.
Our school had let him down.
In hindsight, while we celebrated IDAHOBIT and difference whenever possible, the culture at that school was not ready to fully embrace a transgender student. For him to be his true self would have been too difficult within that culture. Our gestures, whilst admirable, were not enough to create a space where students felt safe and comfortable being themselves within their peer group.
As a school leader, I wanted to work at Woodleigh for a long time. I believed that this school and this community were more progressive and able to create safe spaces for students.
I was not wrong.
I have joined a supportive, positive community that celebrates the individual and embraces difference whenever possible.
This recognition and celebration of one's unique traits and character begins the moment a new student walks into our school. From an early age, students are exposed to difference, and become comfortable with people who may be different to themselves. As a staff and community, we work hard to create a safe school culture where everyone feels welcome and included.
For our students, this is not a big deal. They see it as quite normal. In fact, I would wager that the majority of Woodleigh students are currently somewhat bemused by the conversations occurring among the adults. Conversations that, for whatever misguided reason, try desperately to spread hate and fear.
Have those determined to spread misinformation and hate ever walked in someone else's shoes? Have they taken the time to get to know people different to themselves and developed an understanding of their perspectives? Such an experience would no doubt surprise and surely develop a more balanced and informed worldview.
As a school, Woodleigh will always encourage students to consider multiple perspectives and to respect minorities and differing views. But to achieve this, you must first create a welcoming space where inclusion is the norm. We can do this at Woodleigh and, with it, spread such wisdom wider into the world.
Please help Woodleigh support IDAHOBIT 2023. You can do this by celebrating the difference in your homes, discussing the need for young people to feel safe and accepted at our school, and, on the 17th, bringing some colour into your own lives.
Picture this: golden autumn light filtering over a group of Senior Campus students creating a rainbow serpent* in chalk on the pavement outside the Science Block. The shape of the serpent enclosed each student’s drawing, each as individual as their creators, with students slowly talking and working collaboratively to enable each section to make sense.
A drawing like this is challenging as you work with a messy chalk material that can spike anxiety if you like to have clean hands and challenge you as you need to accept the drawing styles and ideas of others. This was our aim. Through the process of drawing this serpent, students had a taster of inclusivity and diversity, in the form of an artwork.
Thanks to the fabulous Ms Cleine for coordinating this collaboration, and to the Homestead staff for helping to make it happen.
*The Rainbow Serpent is a childhood favourite storybook, written by Dick Roughsey in 1975, around the time Woodleigh started. Roughsey or Goobalathaldin, was from Langu-narnji country, close by Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Goobalathaldin was a consultant to the council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in the 70’s and the first chairman of the Aboriginal Arts Board in 1972.
With mixed feelings, I write to announce that I am stepping down as Chair of the Woodleigh Board. My eight years as Chair have been both rewarding and challenging. I have learnt a huge amount about education, human nature and governance, always aiming to lead with compassion and care for everyone in our community - particularly during COVID times.
I want to formally thank my fellow Board members for their support over the last nine years. Woodleigh is incredibly fortunate to have a Board that is passionate about the School, that give up their time freely, and never question when we need to spend more time discussing matters. They have all gone above and beyond during Covid and have sacrificed so much of their own time to ensure the School made its way through, all while working full-time jobs. As a School, we should be very proud of the dedicated team that put their hand up to lead.
Woodleigh’s staff, too, are an incredibly dedicated group. As I said to them on Monday, they are where the magic happens. Without them and their enthusiasm, Woodleigh would not be the School it is today, and our decisions and plans would not come to fruition.
I also want to thank the School leadership Team. A School Board normally meets with the Principal and the Business Manager at Board Meetings. During the appointment of a new Principal and the pandemic years, the Board made a conscious decision to include the SLT in our decision-making to understand the School better. This has proved to be invaluable. It has shaped our decision-making and led to better outcomes for the School, particularly over the last two years. That took a lot of extra work on their part, on top of what was already a huge load, and I am extremely grateful to them.
I have been privileged to have worked with three principals during my time on the Board. Vivienne before the merger with Penbank, Jonathan Walter and now David. Before taking on a Director’s role, I definitely underestimated or possibly had not given much thought to the complexity of a Principal’s role. Over the years, I have witnessed this complexity up close and wondered what it is about schools that make this “CEO” role so unique. There are so many stakeholders in a school, and in a strange way, they have both competing interests and, at the same time, a shared goal of educating young people. There is also emotion involved when managing young people and their needs; I think that is the nuance that makes a Principal’s role so unique.
To David, I have such admiration for the way you handled stepping into a brand new role and then managing a school without students or staff on site for nearly two years. You managed to connect despite the challenges, which was an enormous task. It has been lovely to see you settle into the role now that we are back at full tilt. I have appreciated your calm approach, your strategic thinking and your ability to sit back and just listen - not only to what people are saying but how they are feeling. I also admire your bravery in pausing when it is required. It is easy to keep rolling along; it takes courage sometimes to pause, lift our foot off the accelerator and reassess before moving forward again. One of my roles as Chair is to support the Principal, and I hope I have fulfilled this role, as being a Principal can be incredibly isolating at times.
While I intend to stay on the Board, it is important that we succession plan and regenerate. I have been on Woodleigh’s Board for nine years, with an additional four years on Penbank’s Board before the merger of our schools, so I understand the delicate balance in maintaining a group that offers both longevity, while offering new perspectives and opinions.
Gerry’s three children were educated at Woodleigh, and his wife Peta was one of the original Woodleigh students. He knows the School very well. Gerry has been on the Board for eight years and has been Deputy Chair for most of that time. Over this time, Gerry has very much acted as a co-chair. He has been closely involved in the many extra meetings I have with David to discuss the many issues that need to be managed. He is calm, logical and a strategic thinker, and I do not doubt that he will step seamlessly into the role of Chair.
I am indebted to Gerry for his support, particularly in the last three years. There were times when I was not sure I would manage to lead the Board, make decisions in uncertain times, manage my role as a pediatrician and care for my family. Gerry was instrumental in helping me cope.
Caroline Jacoby is stepping into the Deputy role. Caroline is also one of the original Woodleigh students and was described by Michael Norman as the epitome of a Woodleigh student, which does not surprise me. Caroline is an educator and has worked as a teacher and Principal. She has a deep understanding of IB, and having spent most of her working life overseas, she also has a global perspective on education and the challenges our young people face. Caroline has worked closely with Gerry and me in the last year, allowing her to step into the Deputy role easily. I know that Gerry and Caroline will continue to lead the Board and the School with a focus on our Strategic Plan and its projects, strong Governance and compassion for our community.
Finally, I want to thank the community for supporting the School and choosing this incredible place to educate your children. As I take a sideways step, I look forward to having a little bit more time on my hands for my family.
CHAIR OF THE WOODLEIGH BOARD
The Homestead Athletics Carnival occurred at Casey Fields Athletics Track on Monday, 27 March. The sky may have been grey, but our Senior Campus students brought big colour vibes for the Junior Homestead Athletics Carnival.
The noise of support was loud as students ran, threw, and jumped for glory in a hotly contested competition that saw Homestead 2 make it back-to-back victories, with a narrow 5-point win over the gallant Homestead 3 crew. The novelty events saw some great battles take place, with an epic Tug-of-War battle seeing Homestead 4 out-muscle Homestead 7 in the final. The Sack races were evenly contested, with those demonstrating the best changeover technique having the most success. The mixed hurdle relays had it all this year, with great athleticism - and some falls - as the competitors pushed themselves to the limit.
Congratulations to the following students who set new Homestead Athletics Carnival records:
· Owen Clark (HS 2) broke the Year 8 Boys Shot Put record with a throw of 13.23 meters.
· Owen Clark (HS 2) also set a new record in the Year 8 Boys Discus with a throw of 29.41 meters.
· Issy Hammock (HS 2) eclipsed the Year 9 Girls Long Jump record, which had stood since 2005, with a jump of 4.70 meters.
100m Invitational Sprint Championship
These races pit the fastest two male and female sprinters from each year level against each other to determine our fastest Junior Homestead runner. Students qualified for the finals based on their times in the 100m age group races earlier in the day. Making the final of this race is an achievement in itself. The boys’ race was won by Harry Holder (Year 10), followed by Zahn David (Year 9) and Bailey Medlin (Year 9) in third. Issy Hammock (Year 9) was victorious in the girls’ race, with Juliette Whinney (Year 8) and Luda Hobby Hughes (Year 8) running great races to fill the minor placings.
1500m Middle Distance Championship
Well done to all athletes who put their hands up to compete in this event. This race determines the best middle-distance runners on the day. The boys’ race was won by Orlando Clark (Year 9) ahead of Harvey Bedford (Year 9), with Miller Virtanen (Year 10) finishing in 3rd place. The girls’ 1500m race was won by Daisy Black (Year 9), with Moriah Elphinstone (Year 8) in second and Isla Goding (Year 9) in third.
Homestead 2 was victorious overall, and also took home the Year 7 award. Homestead 3 won the Year 8 and Year 9 awards and finished second overall. Homestead 4 won the Year 10 award.
Year Level Awards
Director of Sport
We are excited to announce the Term 2 launch of Woodleigh's new School Stream app, which will improve how we communicate with families and keep you updated with all the latest news and events at our school.
Please download the app before Term 2 starts on Wednesday 26 April, as we will be starting the new term using the app as our primary parent communication tool.
Up to Date and In the Know
The new app has been designed with modern families in mind. You will receive notifications about important events, school news, and updates directly to your mobile. School Stream integrates with our Tass student database, meaning you will only receive the news and information relevant to your children and family. This means you will never miss an important announcement, whether it's news about an event, a change in the school schedule, or upcoming parent-student-teacher interviews.
The app enables easy access to our Learning Management platforms – SEQTA and Seesaw – where you can check on your child's timetable, progress, assignments and teacher feedback.
To get started, please download the School Stream app from the App Store or Google Play, search for Woodleigh School in the app and sign up using the mobile number you have registered with our school database. Once you are signed up, you can explore the app's features.
We understand your time is valuable, and by keeping you informed and connected to the school, we hope to foster a stronger sense of community and support for your child's education.
Please download the app and start exploring its features today. If you have any questions or need assistance, please don't hesitate to contact the comms team via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgAPP STORE DOWNLOADGOOGLE PLAY DOWNLOAD
It feels like our tents have only just been aired, and we are still knocking the sand out of our shoes following a thrilling Camp Week – so it’s a stark contrast having NAPLAN testing occurring across the school this week.
Students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are navigating the compulsory testing over the coming days, so I thought it was a good opportunity to provide some advice to you all as we navigate this time as a community.
Context is key
The purpose of NAPLAN testing, and the reason it was developed, is for the government and for schools to get information that can inform their practice. On a larger scale, it impacts the allocation of resources. It is only one form of data, taken as a snapshot in time. Although families will also receive individual information on their child’s performance, it is up to the family to discuss and decide what they may like to do with this information. Have this conversation with your child to help them contextualise the testing experience and be empowered through the process.
NAPLAN is a narrow measure
Although NAPLAN receives a great deal of attention in the media through the production of leagues tables and comparisons, it is a very narrow measure of student learning and performance. You can support your child in helping them understand that NAPLAN is only one indication of learning progress. It cannot measure the many and varied other indicators of strength and success that your child exhibits in their schooling and broader life. We see this every day, as I know you do. This includes performance in the many subject areas that are not assessed by NAPLAN, co-curricular and camp involvements and interpersonal, social and emotional capabilities. Having this conversation with your child can help to build self-esteem and place NAPLAN in context with all the other measures of achievement and progress relevant to them.
Teachers as experts
If you have any queries about NAPLAN, results or the testing regime itself, please talk to your child’s teacher. They will be able to give you more holistic information on their progress and will also be able to assist you in interpreting the results when they arrive. They have a deep and compassionate understanding of your child as a learner that can’t be measured through NAPLAN.
What does it all mean?
It is crucial to understand and explore with your child where NAPLAN sits in relation to their overall schooling experience. It is a narrow snapshot in time and has no bearing on what they are capable of learning and achieving in the future. This year’s NAPLAN is particularly so following the many and unpredictable impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns on student learning. Regardless of your child’s performance it is crucial that we remain calm and place it in context for our children. Overactions can lead to misplaced beliefs and pressure in the future, whether results are ‘high’ or ‘low’. It will be the overall development of a student that will define their pathway into the world, not NAPLAN.
Director of Wellbeing
Late Wednesday night, I received the news that Michael Norman, the Founding Principal of Woodleigh School, had passed away.
Michael led the development, establishment, and early years of Woodleigh School from 1974 to 1980, as it expanded from a thriving, small co-educational primary school (now known as Minimbah) into secondary education. Leading a passionate and involved community of parents and educators, he set the school on this new adventure with vision, energy, and purpose. He took what he saw in the Minimbah learning community - a community not bound by tradition, open to the future – and transplanted those values, ideals, and philosophy into the Woodleigh flower farm here on Golf Links Road.
Every choice made in the design and building of Woodleigh was informed by a deep understanding of the difference between ‘education’ and ‘schooling’. His move away from institutionalised, post-industrial ‘schooling’ allowed adolescents to develop, find their passions and grow – as learners and human beings – gaining an education that was both academic and personal. In their six years of growth at Woodleigh, students would leave this place knowing themselves and the world, and understanding their place in it.
Fifty years have passed since Woodleigh was a dream in the minds of the Minimbah community. What exists today is as much Michael’s legacy as it is a school that continues to strive to meet the contemporary needs of young people. His big-picture thinking – grounded in research, community engagement and a deep-thinking, philosophical approach - saw him guide generations of young people to find balance – balance between personal development, social responsibility, academic achievement, and practical competence. His development of cross-age learning opportunities are legendary. Perhaps his biggest legacy is the Homestead system, where students co-habit with younger and older students, learning to be responsible for and respectful of themselves, each other and the environment.
Professionally, he has inspired generations of teachers to put the needs of students and young people ahead of the needs of ‘the institution’.
To Woodleigh, the most enduring legacy is the impact he has made on generations of young people who have received their education under him or since him. His oft-quoted, “We ought never to do for young people what they, with a struggle, could be expected to be doing for themselves”, remains at the forefront of what we do in 2023 and will continue to do in years to come.
Michael leaves us, a community of educators and parents, with a question, a challenge:
Long may we continue to struggle and approach education as an adventure.
Our thoughts, love and support go out to Michael’s children, Claire, Mark and Brett, and his extended family and friends.
Serious waves were made at the Pines Pool today, as our Senior Campus students hit the water for the Woodleigh Homestead Swimming Carnival.
There were some epic performances, in and out of the pool, as students of all ages stroked, kicked, cheered, and frocked up, all in the name of Homestead pride.
Homestead 3 came up trumps on the day, taking out overall first place for the second year in a row, followed by Homesteads 2 and 4 in second and third place. Will Homestead 3 get the hat-trick in 2024?!
No academic year is officially off the ground until Homestead Night. It’s the moment when the Senior Campus is in full flight, landing gear tucked away and its wings trim, set for its destination.
Cue the drinks and food service. Last night was the perfect night for the Woodleigh community to come together and bring in the new year. In a school built on relationships, Homestead Night is an opportunity to meet other parents in a social setting, chat to staff and get up to speed on everything, from extra-curriculars to camps. Massive thanks to all the folks who managed to get on down to Golf Links Road, and to the many staff working behind the scenes to get this bird off the ground.