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Wyndham District High School profile

  • The school is located beside the Cambridge Gulf, 100 kilometres north-west of Kununurra in the north-east corner of Western Australia, 
  • Students come from the township of Wyndham and surrounding areas.
  • The school has approximately 160 students from Kindergarten to Year 12 with the majority in the primary years. 
  • Almost three quarters of students are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait islander. 
Wyndham District High School (DHS) is geographically isolated, making the relationship between the school and its community critically important. The school employs five Aboriginal and Islander Education Offi cers (AIEOs) who contribute to community connectedness and pastoral care of students. 

Why did your school implement KidsMatter Primary?

Wyndham District High School parents and studentKidsMatter is an excellent fi t with the values program already in place at Wyndham DHS. After different staff members attended KidsMatter professional development in 2013 they shared their knowledge with others at the school.
 
The consensus was that KidsMatter strengthened what the school was already striving to achieve in turns of developing the whole child. 
 
“It is an awareness of how important it is to think about children’s social and emotional wellbeing as well as the academic side of what we try to do here. We have a fi rm belief that if children are emotionally stressed out they are not going to be able to function and not in the right mindset to learn.”
Carolyn Williams, Deputy Principal

 

The Wyndham Way

A whole-school approach to engagement and behaviour is used, called ‘The Wyndham Way’. (The mascot is Snappy the crocodile.) It is based on ‘Six Kinds of Best’, a Values Education program devised by Western Australian educator David Koutsoukis. The touchstones are: Kind to yourself; Kind to others; the learning Kind; Kind to the environment; Community Kind; Achieving Kind.
 
The Six Kinds of Best has a logo which is the Boab tree with six branches. Children work towards ‘earning their colours’. Achieving a set number of things in one Kind entitles the child to a badge of the related colour. The Wyndham Way was introduced five years ago after extensive parent meetings and establishing community partnerships, a process led by the AIEOs. This connection is maintained through community breakfasts held once per term and regular classroom-based parent morning teas. 

What are students’ needs regarding social and emotional wellbeing? 

Wyndham District High School students and teachersWhen Carolyn started at Wyndham DHS fi ve years ago, behavioural issues were extreme and the school was ‘in some ways dysfunctional’. 
 
“We sat down one day and listed a whole pile of issues that needed to be addressed. We needed something radical for us to create opportunities for learning to happen.”
Carolyn Williams, Deputy Principal
 
David Koustoukis worked with the school to ‘Wyndhamise’ his program. The school has also worked with the Stronger Smarter Institute, and is now a KidsMatter school as well. Different strategies have been adopted from these and other initiatives. The terminology used within the school is around social and emotional wellbeing. ‘Mental health’ is viewed as a term with a lot of negative connotations.
 
We’ve tried to educate the students and community about this so they understand it’s okay to get help if you’re not thinking or feeling right,’ Ms Williams says. While the school regards KidsMatter very positively, the point is made that actions matter more than words. 
 
“You can explain KidsMatter over and over and the KidsMatter staff can empower us, but if we don’t do it, we don’t do it.”
Kirsty Jacobs, Teacher

What do your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students need?

Carolyn describes the needs of the school’s Aboriginal students as ‘varied and vast’. She says they need a lot of support around feeling safe, and that they can take risks with their learning sense and feel valued.
 
“Lots of our children come with lots of trauma from their lives at home. There is domestic and alcohol abuse, and poverty contributing to social issues. Often kids who come from those environments are very troubled, have diffi culty settling and following school rules. It is a matter of not dismissing what the children are feeling, acknowledge what they’re feeling and giving them the skills to be able to process their emotions without displaying poor or disruptive behaviour, a new way of being.”
Carolyn Williams, Deputy Principal

How is KidsMatter used in staff settings? 

Wyndham District High School studentsKirsty Jacobs shared a lot of the professional learning she had undertaken with KidsMatter with staff. This focused on how Wyndham DHS can incorporate social and emotional learning into the curriculum, so it becomes part of classroom Health teaching and learning. Each staff meeting now begins with a short activity drawn from KidsMatter resources.
 
These can be get to know you activities, building activities, something a bit funny, or things that can be used as lesson starters,’ Carolyn Williams says. ‘They are usually fi ve-minute activities which get everyone in the right frame of mind for our staff meetings. I don’t think they’ll ever stop happening now. People love doing them and they are very successful and help staff to think about their own emotional wellbeing.’ 
 
The pictures throughout show students and community members giving the students giving the ‘Wyndham Winner’ sign. Wyndham winners, have a positive attitude (thumbs up) and high expectations (index fingers up). Put them together and you’re a WW. 
 
 
See all school stories from Western Australia