Creating a positive learning culture ranks as a top priority for Hillarys Primary School in WA. The school has expanded its student wellbeing and pastoral care program by using KidsMatter Primary as a foundation and is now on track for recognition.
Hillarys Primary School had a comprehensive pastoral care program but still decided to join KidsMatter. According to Fran Fallows, Pastoral Care Coordinator at Hillarys, staff members at the school saw the need to learn how to better support students experiencing mental health difficulties. “KidsMatter Primary has given us a framework and scaffold to ensure all areas of pastoral care are being addressed. Our Pastoral Care school documentation has been overhauled using KidsMatter as a foundation. The school Business Plan has a heavy emphasis on pastoral care and targets and milestones have been based on KidsMatter.”
Fran said that their school started implementing KidsMatter Primary after “several members of our Action Team attended a Getting Started session delivered by a Project Officer from the Principals Australia Institute (PAI). From there, we went back to our school staff to ask them to survey what we were already doing under the four components.” The surveys showed that staff members were having difficulty in dealing with mental health issues amongst the students. “We then adapted the Behaviour-Emotions-Thoughts-Learning-Social relationships (BELTS) observation tool to assist staff members and developed a social and emotional (SEL) program for the whole-school community,” Fran added.
As a result, staff members are now more confident in identifying and addressing mental health difficulties. Fran said that “the clear process for identifying and dealing with children with mental health issues has created a readily used pathway to ensure help is accessed as early as possible.”
Hillarys Primary also implemented additional initiatives to make the school more welcoming. Fran said that there is now a dedicated space for parents and carers where they “can meet and have a coffee with other parents.” She added that “small meetings and instructional sessions take place in this area. Resources relevant to parenting are available for borrowing and a Directory of Outside Agencies is available on the school website and in our Parent Corner.”
Diversity is also further celebrated and promoted in the school. According to Fran, “students from other cultures are being acknowledged and included through displays of international flags, international food days, and anthems from their countries being played.” Last year, the school focused on strengthening its SEL initiatives. “We now have a whole school approach to SEL with learning programs embedded into the whole-school timetable,” stated Fran.
Fran stated that the KidsMatter professional learning and support sessions delivered by PAI Project Officers were very helpful as “many practical ideas were shared.” The school’s KidsMatter Action Team also found the KidsMatter Primary website very useful. “We use the website frequently and all our professional development has been conducted using the portal.”