Glen Huon Primary School profile
- Is located about 50 kilometres south of Hobart, Tasmania on the Huon River.
- Enrols 135 students from Kindergarten to Year 6
- Engages 55 families in the Launch into Learning program
- Works closely with parents
Getting started with KidsMatter
The KidsMatter Primary journey at Glen Huon Primary School began in 2009 when the Principal brought the initiative to the attention of staff. After a teacher attended a briefing with a parent in 2010, the first steps were taken to introduce it. Denise Foggo, KidsMatter Coordinator, recalls her response at that time, ‘we learned that it was not just another program. We saw that we could incorporate it into everything we do.’
Early support for the school’s focus on mental health and wellbeing was evident when teachers and parents became members of a strong Action Team. An interested parent co-facilitated the first half day training session on Component 1 and the staff took on the commitment to work with KidsMatter across the school. They saw that it was possible to use it as framework, and build new ways to address some student behaviours which had emerged as a concern in a parent survey.
Implementing social-emotional learning
Denise says that the strong commitment to student wellbeing is based on the belief that ‘you have to get kids in a good place to learn’. While the school has used the ‘Stop Think Do’ program, the staff are reviewing the approach to social and emotional learning (SEL).
A SEL lesson is held at a common time across the school. The ‘Glen Huon Grinners’ program has developed from this context and emphasises positive behaviour. The program enables student to earn vouchers for demonstrating school values. Students can use the vouchers to select activities and interact with staff across the school and participate in simple fun activities (cooking, art, reading, playing games). These ‘rewards’ attached to people strengthen relationships with every adult in the school.
Exploring the school values
With the goal of enabling students to have a deeper understanding of values, the school has developed an explicit and interconnected approach to learning about the school values. A curriculum approach to teaching and exploring the values is being developed with a Kinder to Year 6 scope and sequence. Teachers and students reflect and act on questions such as, ‘what does it mean to show "respect"?’ ‘What does it mean to be "honest"?’
Students, parents and teachers participated in a survey to rank the values which they believe are most important for the school. This collaborative process reflects the school’s inclusive community approach.
Initiatives of the Action Team
The Action Team meets fortnightly and report backs regularly to the Principal. Members include Denise and another teacher and three parents who are committed to increasing the focus on mental health and wellbeing of students and families. Parent members attend the KidsMatter local support meetings.
The Action Team finds ways to support families and include them in the school community. An example of one initiative is a comfortable drop-in space in the main building. It was set up with toys and books so parents can meet informally while their young children play. The parents have run a taster group for parents of early years education. Through the Action Team, the school has implemented a whole-school approach to the home reading program.
After completing Component 3 the Action Team decided to wait before moving onto Component 4 to allow new staff time to fully understand the first three modules. The Portal will enable all staff to focus on ways to assist children who experience mental health difficulties, and relate it to the context of their local community.
Using the Portal
Apart from its general use, the Portal provides new staff at Glen Huon with ready access to information about KidsMatter.
We use the Portal to ‘catch up’ new staff. We can select the most significant parts from each component and direct staff to specific slides from the three components we covered and they interact with the Portal. They can learn at their own pace and do this as part of their induction.
Denise Foggo, Coordinator, KidsMatter
Scanning the school’s Facebook page, it is obvious that KidsMatter is a strong feature of weekly activities. The school community sees evidence of the impact of wellbeing from the KidsMatter Primary assemblies, to information provided about KidsMatter Primary Early Childhood, items on KidsMatter for Families photos and tips on looking after mental health in children extracted from the website information sheets.
Reflections and future goals
Reflecting on key achievements, Denise believes that the school has built a very effective parent partnership approach. She has been at the school for 10 years and sees many changes as a result of the investment of time and energy in KidsMatter. It has galvanised and built the collective commitment of staff and parents to learn about and promote positive mental health.
Her advice to any school starting KidsMatter is to get parents involved as early as possible to build a strong sense of ownership. This will ensure the sustainability of a strong focus on mental health in the school community.
See all school stories from Tasmania
See all school stories across Australia