It is easy to feel the inviting and comforting vibe at Saint David’s Parish School. A big “Every face has a place” sign displayed prominently at the entrance welcomes students and members of the school community. Inside, colourful displays and welcoming messages vividly convey a warm and inclusive atmosphere.
 
More importantly, Saint David’s Parish School has fully embedded inclusiveness and social and emotional learning into its strategic plan, policies and curriculum. The school was presented with a KidsMatter Primary Recognition Award for achieving excellent outcomes in promoting inclusiveness and improving the social and emotional wellbeing of its students.
 

Adapting the restorative approach

Saint David’s Parish School started with KidsMatter Primary in 2011. According to Wellbeing Coordinator Michelle Dinning, KidsMatter Primary has helped the school gradually move towards a restorative, whole-school approach that supports all students in their social and emotional development. 
 
Over the past six years, the school has transitioned away from a punitive-based approach of behaviour management, “gradually moving towards a restorative whole-school approach. This is a work in progress but our students now have the opportunity to work towards restoring their relationships that is fitting to their individual circumstances, promoting a positive outcome. Overall, our students seem much happier with this approach and are more likely to accept responsibility for their actions,” said Michelle. Jayden Hawkins, a Year 5 student at Saint David’s, agrees.  He noticed that students are, “saying nicer things, becoming even nicer.”  Another positive outcome of these changes is the closure of the ‘Time Out’ room - it has now become obsolete.
 
KidsMatter Primary has also helped the school develop data-informed strategies in promoting mental health and wellbeing. Michelle said that, “since using the restorative approach, students are more likely to accept responsibility for their behaviour and this has led us to having more accurate data about our student behaviour and the causes of the behaviour. This knowledge empowers us to make appropriate changes to procedures in our curriculum or to support individual students in appropriate ways.” 

 

Building stronger relationships

KidsMatter Primary has assisted the school in building stronger relationships with parents, carers and support organisations. Michelle said that “KidsMatter training and resources are giving us the confidence and language to better dialogue with parents and mental health care providers. We are able to identify students with mental health difficulties and these skills will continue to broaden our network with outside agencies and make us become more publicly aware of mental health development in the wider community.”
 
Michelle added that the school has implemented measures to engage parents and carers. “It is important for us to ensure that parents and friends feel that they have a place in our school and that each person has something worthwhile to contribute. In 2015, we were excited to be able to dedicate a space for parents, the Mary Mackillop Parent Room,” she stated. The room also houses parenting and KidsMatter resources as well as serving as a meeting place. 
 
Saint David’s Parish School’s commitment to student wellbeing is also evident in its emphasis on continual professional learning for staff and parents. The school regularly invites education consultants and external speakers to enhance its wellbeing strategies. The Action Team has also scheduled, revisit and continue their professional learning in Component 2: Social and emotional learning for students, to further support students in their social, emotional and academic learning. 
 
When asked what advice she could give schools that are just starting with KidsMatter Primary, Michelle says that staff members should, “not be afraid to begin the process as it is supported by resources readily available.” She added that Principals Australia Institute provides schools with extensive support and professional learning in implementing all components of the framework.
 
Saint David Parish School has been awarded KidsMatter Primary recognition for its exemplary gains in improving the social and emotional wellbeing of its whole-school community. Photo shows students (from left to right) Joel Collise, Abby MacIntyre and Jayden Hawkins with Wellbeing Coordinator Michelle Dinning. Photo credit: Gia Kroker.  
 
Colourful displays and welcoming messages inside Saint David’s Parish School vividly convey a warm and inclusive atmosphere to students, parents and carers, and visitors. Photo credit: Gia Kroker.  

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