A smooth start to a new year

16 February 2024

Welcome to 2024!

The sound of a buzzing school ground on the first day of the year is always a welcome sound. It was lovely to witness children, parents and staff reconnect, sharing stories of a well earned summer break. Now in week 3, we are bearing witness to new friendships flourishing with new routines and environments becoming the new normal. We thank our parents for working with us to ensure each child feels supported in their transitions.

The ELC has welcomed lots of fresh little faces and they are beginning to become familiar in their new environments. The children have started to master their morning routines, including tagging a locker with their name, putting their drink bottle in the trolley and their hats in the pockets. These are all little routines which help them become independent and feel like the classroom is their space, along with their peers.

2024 marks St Peter’s Woodlands 25th birthday. It is truly amazing to reflect on how this school has grown, has evolved and how many wonderful children will hold this school in their memories for years to come. We look forward to a few celebrations with our community across the year.

Preparations for 2024 
Whilst our students joined us in Week 1, the staff gathered together in the week prior (Week 0), and enjoyed a week of collaborative learning and preparations for welcoming our students back to school.  Week 0 is a wonderful opportunity to connect over our shared vision and purpose as a school, a chance to welcome new staff members and plan for a wonderful year of learning ahead.

This year was no different; we learnt more about Wilbur our Wellbeing Dog and his role in the school, our Positive Behaviour for Learning policy and what this looks like in practice at St Peter’s Woodlands. We spent time with a consultant from NSW on PR1ME Mathematics (a Singaporean approach to teaching Mathematics), which will be rolled out more widely this year, and delved in deeper in learning about the Writing Revolution, which uses evidence-based strategies to ensure all students at all levels can produce clear, coherent, unified, and structured writing.

Of course safety training is always part of our Week 0 schedule and staff learned more about fire safety, enjoying a practical hands-on firefighting session as well as refreshing our skills in First Aid and CPR.

Nurturing smooth transitions
I particularly love the SPW tradition of having Getting to Know You Meetings prior to starting the school year. Whilst we had already conducted thorough handovers of the students from our 2023 teachers to our 2024 teachers, I believe the Getting To Know You Meetings are an important part of students building a relationship with their new teacher, and similarly parents and caregivers having the opportunity to be a part of that.

Speaking to colleagues from other schools, this is not common practice and I believe it is part of what makes SPW extraordinary and sets us up for a successful year together. Not surprisingly, students had a very settled and positive start to the term on Tuesday. It was wonderful to see not only the students reconnecting, but also parents and community members over a coffee in our beautiful grounds.

The first day of Reception is another favourite event in our calendar. We welcomed four Reception classes on Wednesday, again I was impressed with how happy and settled most children were and for those who felt a little unsure, I witnessed other children in the class offering comfort and encouragement.

Parent Welcome Evening
Friday night saw over 70 parents who are new to our ELC, are new to our primary school or have a child in Reception at SPW, gathering for our New Parents Welcome Evening. This is another wonderful opportunity to build relationships within the SPW community, which in turn enhances our students sense of belonging.

University Research Study
St Peter’s Woodlands already partners with a number of universities to provide opportunities for student teachers to do their practicum with us. Last week we welcomed back a familiar face for many, Ms Amanda Kelly. Amanda was a member of staff from 2009 to 2020, spending five years teaching Year 7 prior to a variety of leadership roles. She joins us for the 2024 school year, setting up a living lab within SPW as part of her Doctoral research. Her study is aimed at exploring communication between primary school classroom teachers, classroom assistants, and Reception to Year 4 students with autism spectrum disorders with the view to maximise learning outcomes for this often-marginalised group of students. Study participants will be engaged throughout the year in a range of activities to co-design and test a working prototype of a student-centred communication tool. SPW is so excited to be a part of this research as at the heart of it is Amanda’s desire to improve existing models of support for our neuro-diverse children.

Safe Road Crossing 
I would like to finish with a big thank you to families who have been flexible with the changes in the Partridge Street Carpark hours in the afternoon. Partridge Street is now a very busy arterial road with upwards of 9000 cars travelling on it daily. The volume of traffic means that to block off the street for more than a few seconds has a big impact on drivers in our local community and is unsafe. The staff manning the carpark each afternoon have noticed a huge reduction in cars queuing to enter the carpark which we attribute to parents and caregivers not arriving until after 3.15pm. By which time we have students on the chapel steps ready to place in cars in a timely manner. This has a duel effect of improving safety for students crossing Partridge Street, as the banking up of cars was greatly reducing visibility and distracting drivers who were often driving straight through the crossing without slowing down.  Despite these improvements we are still very grateful to Mayor Amanda Wilson and the Holdfast Council for approving a purpose built crossing for this area which is due to begin construction in April.

I would like to wish each and every one of our community a fantastic start to 2024!  I look forward to having many opportunities to connect with you and thank you for the privilege of entrusting your precious children into our care.


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