Nambour Special School profile
- Located on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane
- Enrols 120 students from Preparatory to Year 12
- Selects students through a referral process
- Supports parent participation
In 2013 Nambour Special School began exploring KidsMatter Primary as a way to strengthen mental health support for parents and students, many of whom have experienced grief and trauma. Having heard positive things about the framework from other schools, they began by registering some staff in a Getting Started session.
Why KidsMatter Primary?
Michelle Stockton, Acting Head of Curriculum, says that when staff were deciding whether KidsMatter Primary would be suitable for their needs, they saw that they could differentiate the resources. This was significant because the students from Prep to Year 12 have cognitive impairment as well as other disabilities, and they require additional and different levels of support in the classroom.
Our staff thought that the materials were appropriate for our students and the focus on mental health was right for our school community including parents. We wanted to build onto what we’re already doing and cater for all of our students.
Michelle Stockton, Acting Head of Curriculum
Beginning with KidsMatter Primary
At the beginning of 2014 the school conducted the KidsMatter survey which showed that some parents were concerned about mental health issues. They wanted more involvement in the school. At the same time, there was evidence of some low staff morale due to a range of factors including health and safety issues. The school formed an Action Team to explore the implementation of KidsMatter.
Members represent parents, staff and students and they meet formally twice a term as well as for other informal discussions. Staff selected ‘You can do it!’ as the social and emotional learning program for Component 2. All classes focus on a competency and these can be differentiated for the learning needs of students. The resources boxes for each competency are used widely across the school.
Using the Portal
Staff professional learning has been another significant focus. The school was involved in the trial of the KidsMatter Portal in 2014. Michelle enjoys the opportunities to use it to facilitate engaging and challenging professional learning sessions for staff.
She says that it is easy to prepare sessions using the structure of the component sessions. She adds: The Portal is the best thing … it allows me to have all the resources in one place and I can select and adapt them and make them relevant for our context. The videos generate professional dialogue and we reflect on situations that might be applicable to our students and families.
What has the school achieved so far?
Through engagement in Component 1: Positive school community, Michelle says that staff now place a higher value on the meaning of mental health. They now use consistent language about mental health and wellbeing. The integrated approaches assist with a coherent understanding which is applied to students with disabilities.
Staff wellbeing is a strong feature at Nambour Special School. A number of strategies have been put in place to support staff. For example, the Action Team recommended and developed ‘stress kits’ with posters, referrals for professional support, research, positive affirmations, chocolates and a campaign for random acts of kindness. The school has also developed resource boxes for each of the “You can do it” competencies with recommended texts for different levels. There are videos, puppets, visual aids and other materials that enable core language and skills to be explicitly taught across the school.
Inviting parent participation
Overall Nambour's community partnership approach has resulted in improved parent satisfaction data. Because students come from a wide catchment area, it has not always been easy for parents to feel connected. However, with the strategies put in place to address issues raised in the survey, parents say that they feel significantly more welcomed at the school. They appreciate opportunities to network with and support each other.
Parents can attend a participation day for junior, middle and senior cohorts as well as a whole-school day once a term. Parents have been particularly interested to attend information sessions such as on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Year 11 and 12 hospitality students have been involved by providing delicious catering for the parent sessions.
A parent library with resources on a wide range of topics has been another successful initiative. Although change can be challenging at times, Michelle believes that Nambour has travelled a long way in a short space of time. Our school now has a more positive culture with less stigmatisation associated with mental health. The school will focus next on Component 2.
Although there is more work ahead, Michelle believes that KidsMatter Primary has already made a big difference. It's enabled our school to adopt more consistent rights-based approaches to social-emotional teaching and learning. It brings together everything we do in a structured coherent way.
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