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Letter Home – March 2021

It has been a massive term returning to the routines of school while re-defining what it means to be a positive, supportive and respectful member of the school community. Following last year's isolated learning experiences as a result of COVID, we are now working closely together to ensure all children understand the expectations and values that are at the heart of our school. Woodleigh's 3Rs are paramount – Respect for Self, Respect for Others, Respect for the Environment.

We have just completed Cultural Diversity Week – a most important time for actioning the theme in a big way… Everybody Belongs!

'Who We Are' is the PYP Unit of Inquiry that most groups have been working on this term. Central to this inquiry is the family; relationships, beliefs, connections, the broader community, our similarities and differences, where we are from, and our nation's cultural diversity. Teachers have been working with children exploring this concept of family, community and cultural diversity. 

Our country, workplaces, schools and communities are enriched by the contribution of multi-cultural groups, languages, new ways of thinking, new knowledge and different experiences that reflect who we are. Our 'Pesta Day' (meaning party day in Indonesian) was an example of learning through language, food and games. It was a pleasure seeing the Year 9 students leading the sessions throughout the day with the Penbank children. It was a great day. Thanks, Ibu Prue!

Cultural Diversity Week is an ideal week to celebrate community. I encourage you to ask your children about the conversations and activities that took place at our campus. Of course, these values don't belong to one week – it is every day that we show respect for others through our interactions with friends and families, learning about different traditions and customs, by reading books, watching movies, travelling and celebrating together.

Our school celebration was the Penbank Harmony Day Twilight Picnic. We were delighted with the involvement of various artists throughout the day and were incredibly pleased to be able to bring our school together. With many new families and children at Penbank this year, we are all still getting to know each other. I thank you sincerely for your involvement and support.

Events such as The Harmony Day Twilight Picnic require a huge amount of organisation and work. I especially thank Andrea Khoza for her coordination of this event, including the excellent support from Sharren Dredge, Linsey Veale and Marc Schneider (Property Management) and the PFG (Parents and Friends Group). Wonderful to have you back!

Camps

At Penbank, camps are an integral part of the curriculum. Research and experience indicate that camps lead to significant positive outcomes for children, and in a structured and supportive environment, create the opportunity for children to expand their perspective and bring about positive changes in attitudes, skills, and social behaviour.

Woodleigh School firmly believes that camps provide a powerful medium to address children's need to live and learn in peace and harmony with the environment. Camps provide opportunities that are very different from school, home and the local community. Camps show children alternative ways of living and support them in their own personal change and growth. Camps demonstrate the notion of community on a human scale, teaching children about human values and human will. They encourage children to take initiative for themselves and others, as well as broadening their horizons.

Children in Year 3 to Year 5 have experienced great success on their camps to Wilsons Promontory (Year 5) and Golden Valleys Lodge, Flinders. For some students, it was their first time away from home, other than being with extended family. Throughout both camps, children participated in challenging activities and hikes within the beautiful surrounds of the bush, beach and rivers. They all experienced being in unfamiliar environments, learning about the importance of safety, working together as a team while extending their relationships with each other. With the support of teachers, the children were encouraged to try new things - the sense of accomplishment for all was so palpable as they enthusiastically hopped on buses and approached these new experiences with anticipation and excitement.

I thank Peter McGettigan (Co-ordinator - PE and Outdoor Programs) and the group teachers and support staff for their amazing work throughout these weeks. 

Headline News – Behaviour

In all walks of life, we are hearing about the deplorable treatment of people. Citizens, especially women across the country, are presently taking a stand to address issues of violence concerning physical, sexual, emotional and racial exploits that threaten women and minority groups on a daily basis. We are seeing that "This community violence has spilt over into schools, and if there's violence in your community, then there is violence in your schools." Australian Secondary Principals' Association (ASPA) president, Andrew Pierpoint.

Issues of violence are being reported daily through the media. The Australian Principal Occupational, Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2020, released last week, found more than 40% of Australian school leaders reported being exposed to untoward verbal abuse, threats of violence or being a victim of physical violence – nine times greater than the general population. Alarming!

We are all transitioning back from a year predominantly spent in isolation. It has had its ramifications. Reliance on the internet to live our lives has contributed to an environment of 'working for self.' Sadly, some children have been exposed to unsuitable adult conversations, websites and modes of communication that are totally inappropriate. It is time to readjust. At all campuses, we are working very closely with children and families to re-establish boundaries and reinforce our school's culture of respect.

Pierpoint said, "ASPA (Australian Secondary Principal's Association) is appealing to parents and the community to remain calm and supportive as schools' transition back to life after COVID.

At Woodleigh, the responsibility of educating students in all areas of intellectual and social/emotional growth is undertaken with absolute seriousness and commitment. We accept our responsibility, working together with parents, to do what is right for all citizens.

At Woodleigh, to support the community values of our school, a Parent Charter is agreed upon. Successful education is a partnership between home and school, positively engaging parents and teachers in every child's education and growth. This term, we have highly valued the communication with parents through individual meetings, Parent/Teacher Interviews, the Information Night and recently, a meeting of the PFG, a wonderful outdoor School Meeting of students and our latest community event, the Harmony Day Twilight Picnic.

As a reminder, I urge parents to contact the school for any concerns. I also draw your attention to the Parent Charter understanding:

  • The school's commitment to developing independence, initiative, and a sense of responsibility for one's actions
  • Respect for the individual's rights, including confidentiality
  • Attendance at key events, i.e. P/T Interviews, Information Nights and celebrations
  • The harmful damage that gossip can do within a school community
  • The importance of avoiding uninformed speculation
  • The priority for children to attend school, participate in all activities, and be punctual
  • The importance of providing the school with timely information specific to your child
  • The school's restorative approach to conflict resolution regarding disciplinary situations, respecting confidential and supportive discussions with parents
  • The importance of modelling calm and rational discussion avoiding any degree of hostile or intimidating interaction
  • Appropriate ways to raise issues, face to face where possible, with appropriate notice

We shortly head into an Easter break. With only one minor COVID interruption this term, we have been most grateful that our children have been able to learn and grow in the environment of the beautiful Penbank Campus. Their teachers have worked incredibly hard, providing the quality of learning and experience that positively contribute to their lives. I thank all staff for the commitment and expertise that is willingly shared each and every day.

Take care and celebrate with joy and friendship. 

VIVIENNE WEARNE
Deputy Principal – Head of Penbank Campus