Engadine Public School: championing inclusiveness and wellbeing

Inclusiveness and wellbeing are deeply woven into the social fabric of Engadine Public School. So much so that students strongly feel its genuinely positive climate and attest that “the best thing about our school is how inclusive we are." Engadine Public School has been awarded a KidsMatter Primary recognition for its exemplary initiatives that promote inclusiveness and wellbeing.

The school first started to implement KidsMatter Primary in 2013 after all staff members underwent professional learning in Component 1. According to Learning and Support Teacher Belinda Emmerson-Franke, KidsMatter provided the stimulus for them to review existing student wellbeing strategies. After undergoing the professional learning sessions, the entire school staff had “rigorous discussions, reflection and idea generation to make our school more positive and inclusive” Belinda stated. The school then implemented strategies that targeted increasing the participation and wellbeing of students, parent and community members. The school’s Buddy Program, where students undergo peer support training to help incoming students, was expanded. Interactions with parents and carers were systematically reviewed to identify new areas for improvement. As a result, parents and carers are now regularly updated and consulted on their children’s learning and behaviour as well as school plans and decisions.

Engadine Public School also worked to expand its ties to its community. Meetings were held to develop a collaborative series of value statements with staff, students and representatives of the parent body. This led to values which use the acronym “Show I Care”. To further promote inclusiveness, whole-school celebrations for International Day of Disability, World Autism Awareness Day, Harmony Day and National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee Week are held annually. Its Student Representative Council also collectively surveys students to negotiate two charities who will receive the benefit of donations through special days throughout the year. The school also implemented innovative ways to ensure that children experiencing mental health difficulties are fully supported.

The school was successful in gaining a grant to establish the role of a school chaplain in 2016, who supports students and families with their wellbeing concerns. Aside from establishing partnerships with community health and referral service organisations, additional school clubs were set up. The Drama, Chess, Film by the Sea, Code and Robotics Clubs run by staff members outside school hours see many students who are not typically engaged in the classroom discover and actively share their new interests with the wider school community.

Staff members also go the extra mile to provide food for families experiencing crisis. According to school Principal Hendrika Green, KidsMatter Primary has helped their school with “a valuable umbrella framework to encapsulate welfare and mental health issues. Increasingly, powerful and positive partnerships are being initiated and established throughout the school and its local community.” Principals Australia Institute has been supporting Engadine Public School to implement KidsMatter Primary since 2013.