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A warm focus on wellbeing in our Junior School


28 August 2020

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Penrhos College

By Wayne Revitt, Head of Junior School

A priority this year has been improving and developing our practice around wellbeing, for our whole Penrhos community. I would like to update you on our progress and plans in this key area. A key to our collective wellbeing is healthy and warm relationships. Our attachments to key people in our life are crucial in maintaining our collective mental health. Respectful, positive relationships are my focus and we have a range of initiatives planned that are reflective of this philosophy.

In Term 4, we will pilot our Dragon Quest across the Junior School. This is essentially a framework to promote positive interactions and develop sound character, based on a ladder of consequences. The central aim of this Dragon Quest is to identify and reward students for simply doing the right thing; being kind, persevering at a task, demonstrating a growth mindset and learning from mistakes, caring for others – all character strengths not necessarily based on being the best at sport, or academically, but being a good person and thinking beyond ourselves. In the pilot, the girls will receive Dragon stamps for these positive behaviours and work their way up through levels; from Bronze to Gold. Letters of commendation sent home to parents, a picnic with a favourite teacher and, ultimately, lunch with the Principal, will be some of the recognition the girls will experience. I will certainly provide opportunities for your feedback on this initiative as part of the pilot.

We are also developing a program that will also focus on character development, by providing a ‘big experience’ for the girls every year in each year group; with the aim of enhancing resilience and teamwork from Pre-Primary to Year 6 – and beyond into the secondary years. This program is likely to be known as the Penrhos Dragon Explorers and will have a definite Outdoor Education focus.  Kenrick Armitage has been working with secondary staff to develop this program and early planning includes such examples as Bush Dragons for Year 1, Water Dragons for Year 2 and Leaving the Nest in Year 4. More information on this will follow towards the end of the year and, again, your feedback will be valued.

In order to provide the base for the social and emotional skill development of our students we are also introducing key evidence based wellbeing programs in the Junior School. Next Term we will introduce the UR Strong program across Years 2 to 6. This program is all about empowering students with friendship skills, while providing the adults in their lives, both parents and teachers, with a common language to support them. Students learn what is normal in a friendship, how to resolve disagreements with friends, and how to stand up for themselves with practical, child-friendly strategies. Dr Katherine Russell-Smith will offer Parent Seminars on UR Strong early next term. Read more at this link.

We will also implement the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) program from Pre-Primary to Year 4 in 2021. This is a highly regarded, comprehensive socio-emotional program that emphasizes self regulation, empathy for others and social problem solving strategies. PATHS will complement the Kimochis (feelings) program in the Early Years. Our goal is for all students to embed the core components of emotional intelligence; the ability to regulate their own emotions, read the emotions of others and develop an emotional vocabulary. PATHS is the home of Twiggle, the turtle.

In 2021, we will also implement the Keeping Safe program across the Junior School. Keeping Safe was developed in South Australia, recommended in WA by the Independent Schools Association and I am a registered trainer for this program. This is, again, a comprehensive Protective Behaviours curriculum that also covers elements of cyber safety and issues like domestic violence. We will hold Parent Information Sessions on all of these initiatives to assist us to embed a common language in our college community. To continue the topic of student wellbeing,  I recently attended (to represent WA Independent Schools) a Working Group for a (State Government) Wellbeing and Mental Health Cross Sector Initiative. This group was formed at the request of the Premier and the three CEO’s of each education sector, to make recommendations about what we can implement in schools; to promote mental health during, and after, the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a great experience to have leaders from Catholic Education, Department of Education, the Health Department, Department of Communities and other agencies come together to discuss student wellbeing. Our intent is to keep this process going and develop partnerships across all agencies; to provide targeted, evidence based mental health training and materials for all educators. I will keep you up to date with the outcomes of this working group as I know we are all so invested in the wellbeing of our children.

I have also had some excellent ideas from key staff, like Morag Ritchie, for a specific Upper Primary (Year 5 and 6) program, bespoke to Penrhos, that will focus on the developmental needs of our students with regard to peer relationships and also focus on readiness for secondary school; with considerable contact with key staff in the Secondary School, such as the Heads of Department for key learning areas. The aim for this program will be to prepare our students as much as possible for the world of secondary education and take advantage of the wonderful staff in Secondary School to ignite a sense of excitement for the years ahead! Upper Junior School parents will be invited in to a forum for your feedback on this program; including the need for a catchy and appropriate title.

We are also looking at developing a new philosophy and approach in our Early Learning Centre, beginning next term. More information on this to follow soon! I can say we will focus on the key components of the Early Years Learning Framework; Belonging, Being and Becoming. In 2021 we will have a dedicated ELC Coordinator and we look forward to building on a wonderful Early Learning environment for your daughters.

Also for your information, I have had contact (due to my IPSHA role) with the office of David de Carvalho, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) recently. ACARA are conducting a review of the Australian Curriculum (with the intent of pruning what we know is an overcrowded space) and would like feedback from an Independent WA School. This is an opportunity for Penrhos to be part of what I would hope to be real change for all primary schools. David de Carvalho will be visiting Penrhos on Thursday, 24 September (the last Thursday of term) and I am proud that Penrhos will be part of this conversation.

Thank you all for your ongoing support. There is a lot going on and a lot to talk about! As always, please arrange to meet with me via Alishea Hughes at the Junior School Reception.

Wayne Revitt

Head of Junior School

+61 8 9368 9695