During 2023, we embarked on a journey with Curtin University to introduce a speech therapy programme into the school. It has been very successful, and I’m happy to announce that this partnership will continue into 2024. Over the course of the year, around 30 of our junior primary students, most in need, received extra support from Katy Forest and her students who were in their third and fourth year of studying to be speech therapists. On top of that, we are about to realise a dream of mine and employ our very own speech therapist. From the start of next year, Alana Portacio, who is a fully qualified and experienced Speech Therapist, will work with our students who are most in need, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week. In fact, we are the first Catholic school to go down this path. Other schools make space for therapists to work on-site, however, they still charge parents the full-service fee. As Alana will be a member of staff, there is no extra cost to our families. Alana will also be doing the Kindergarten screening at the start of the year, which is a wonderful thing as she will be able to follow up with the students who most need an intervention programme. I think with both Alana and Katy (and her students), we will be well-placed to offer extra support to our students. This is a very exciting initiative. I just ask parents to be patient as it is a new programme, and it may take a while to get to all students. However, in the long term, I believe this will be a wonderful benefit for our community.
Welcome back to the final term of the year. It will be a very busy term for sure, but still a great one in our beautiful community. It is nice to be back after the leave I took at the end of last term, when I went on a pilgrimage following the footsteps of St Paul throughout Malta, Greece and Turkey. I would like to extend my gratitude and thanks to Lisa Liebregts, who was the Short Term Principal in my absence. I know Lisa and Tim Maxwell did a great job holding the fort.
Throughout this week Mr Maxwell and myself have been talking to the children in their classes about our Student Code of Conduct statement at Mary MacKillop and how we can live out these actions:
- Thinking about the feelings of others and showing kindness to others
- Treating everyone with respect
- Using our manners and speaking politely to each other and the staff
The challenge put forward to the children this week was to BE that person who makes a difference to someone through their words and actions and to remember that doing a kind deed for someone can make a world of difference to them.
I often reflect upon the best characteristics of our school and I always come back to two major points. They both relate to our strength through our diversity. Firstly, we have a number of students who access our St Joseph Centre because they have a diverse range of educational and environmental needs. The second point is that we are a culturally diverse community where around fifty per cent of our students come from families who don’t have English as their first language. I firmly believe that this diversity brings with it a greater level of acceptance, tolerance, compassion and welcoming. I always say that once our students put on a Mary Mac uniform, they are Mary Mac kids and nothing else matters. They are a part of our family where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Like all schools, we are not perfect, but our increased levels of acceptance and welcoming make us a special place to be.
I often get asked what I think the biggest issue in education today is, and unfortunately, it seems to be issues linking mental health to social media. Over the past few years, I have noticed a trend where a group of students start off with a conversation in some sort of online chat platform. It usually takes place outside of school hours and in the home. The conversations start off being ok, but then one student makes an inappropriate comment, and then it goes bang! Within a short time frame, there are friendship issues and it then finds its way into our school community where it can cause real problems. Whilst social media can be a powerful platform which can be used to achieve many good things, it also has the potential to cause a lot of harm. I strongly urge all parents to either keep your children off social media, or at least to monitor it very carefully. I also recommend that all parents log onto the website of the eSafety Commissioner. The link is https://www.esafety.gov.au Please click onto the ‘Parents’ tab and spend some time looking through the resources available to support you and your children. Please remember that children are not legally meant to be using most social media platforms until they are 13 years old. By being vigilant, parents can make a real difference to their children’s safety, happiness and wellbeing.
Please note that Monday 7 August is our annual Catholic Day and it is a student free day for everyone at Mary Mac. Our staff also get to have a day of rest in recognition of the extra work we do outside of hours with our faith commitment. I’m sure that everyone will appreciate the long weekend.