Saturday 17th March 2018

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

For this week’s prompt I am having a trip down a long, winding memory lane of kids (and teachers!) starting school from this retired teacher, deputy principal, principal, mother and grandmother! There are more than a few stories let me tell you but I shall add the few.

For those readers who have just had a child start school, daycare or pre-school this is my annual letter for you…to send to the teacher.

Me as the School Starter.

Back in 1954 I started school after the September holidays. I was 4 years and 9 months. Yes, there were 3 terms for a long, long time in NSW schools. We lived in the same street as the school so I certainly knew where it was. Mum took me on Day 1 and I looked around me at the kids that were crying. “Why” I thought. Anyway, once we got into the classroom I was in love. Up the back was a white full-size rocking horse. I so wanted a ride. I do not remember if I got one, but I do remember liking school a lot and this was fun.

Off to Gwynneville PS. Our Tunic was Brown (I think!)

Our Daughter as a School Starter.

When your parents are both teachers and they are appointed to a very isolated school in NSW with Dad as the (teaching) principal and Mum as the teacher and it’s time to go to school this is what you do. There is no uniform, so you dress in your fave outfit, add a cool bag because you LOVE Abba…and off you trot across the space between home and school called The Playground. You know this place so well but right now there are around 20 different kids you haven’t yet met but eventually you join in their games, called your parents “Sir” like the other kids do and thrive on the independent learning in a small school.

Born in August and turning 5 that year, MIss K was able to start ‘school’ in February as we had a pre-school class too.

The school is on the right of this pic. The tractor is picking up kids from the local Aboriginal community to bring them to school in Term 1 1976 when we had major floods.

Our Son as a School Starter.

In complete contrast to his sister’s enrolment at her parents’ school, he was enrolled to start at the local (now we were in Sydney) large primary school. Having already been to the orientations and pre-school the previous year he was used to the ‘leaving his parents thing’. On the day he began, I was at my school where I was an Assistant Principal but wanted to be part of his start, so I returned to his (soon-to-be) school, met his Dad holding his hand, and down to the classroom we went. Without a backward glance, his nametag already on after Orientation the year before, he entered the classroom, the teacher said “goodbye” to us. That was it. Anti-climactic but at least I was there.

Student Starts School With Entourage.

As the Deputy Principal in a large Western Sydney school it was my role to meet each new starter (not everyone came to Orientation the year before) and their parent(s) to ensure all the relevant details about the child were current and to ask if there were any questions, and welcome the child and family to the school. I allowed around 10 minutes per child and it usually went well.

On one memorable occasion more than the parents entered my office with the child. I saw siblings and I guessed grandparents giving this one small person an overwhelming sense of “woah”. I could see this and asked the family to please stop the photography of me and the filming of the child being enrolled. They did.

But it set a precedent for me as I certainly understood the reason to mark the occasion but with the stressors placed upon a young child beginning school it was enough. No more photos or filming as enrolment took place. Far more important for the child and family to feel welcomed and at ease with this NEW event.


Underage Child Found To Have Started School.

At the above-mentioned school before I became the Deputy Principal there had been some lapses in viewing and noting the various documents that needed sighting before a child can start school. There is a requirement that a child cannot start school in NSW Public Schools IF they have not turned 5 after 31 July.

So in the year of my appointment to the school here’s how we (the Kindergarten teachers and I) found we had an underage child at school. One little girl seemed, according to her observant K teacher not able to do some of the gross motor activities which included how to walk upstairs (the school was two-storey) and she had little language and seemed “young”. I made a phone call some weeks into the term to the contact number and her mum answered. I asked outright what the child’s birthday was and the age worked out to be that she was 3. She would not be 4 until later in the year. I explained kindly but firmly that she would have to come and get her child now and that she could start the next year. The mother said sheepishly when she came to pick her up “I hoped you wouldn’t notice her and I didn’t want to find more childcare where I have to pay”. Sad but true.

We had much tightened arrangements for enrolment from then and that little girl did come back the following year and started school successfully.

Today’s School Starters.

For the past few years, the Australian government requires all students to undergo an initial assessment upon enrolling at the school where they will enter… Kindergarten, Prep, Year One (we still have different names for the first year of formal schooling in Australia. Sigh).

In NSW Public Schools it is called Best Start. It is a snapshot on one day of the enrolling student’s capabilities/readiness/knowledge/skills PRIOR to starting formal education. This is a good thing! The students’ baseline is a measurement that is used by the schools and the parents in terms of ‘where is my child at’ and lends itself to support if required or extension or that the child’s progress will grow accordingly in the first year of school.

When ‘Best Start’ happens is up to each school but more and more a child is given a Best Start Assessment in the week before he or she starts school. In fact I have seen this occur for three of my younger grandchildren. Best Start is done with a K teacher (usually) and parents may or may not observe but probably will wait elsewhere for the 40 minutes or so for the assessment. Then the child starts school on a date and at a specific time within the next week. This little one was pleased as punch to have her new school shoes when she came to see us. I sure hope she enjoys wearing them for 5 days a week from Monday 5 February.


Handwriting help.

An added bonus to this post. This is an example of the first handwriting children will see and copy in NSW schools. It is NSW Foundation Style. This is the early years’ printing. I used to do this handout when speaking to parents’ groups at pre-schools so they could ‘practise’ themselves. Children learn that capital letters are for names and so on. That is why all capitals is discouraged in early writing.

I wrote this 3 years ago and the message still stands!

What Do You Remember About Starting School?


Joining here with Alicia for Open Slather.

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Next Week is the optional prompt’: 7/52.  “Who’s a Worrier? 12/2/18.



What Works Best For You? 2017.26.

What Works Best For You? 2017.26.

Everyone has some ideas for that work best for them.

In terms of being a school parent and being organised for what school terms bring I wondered what works best for you!

This is the Morning Routine version of what worked for me. Back in the 1980s and 90s.

I was a school parent well before the internet and daily access to schools and newsletters and the like. However, I always had a fridge calendar and a space for notes there too. I kept our family calendar updated with school and extra curricular items such as sport and group events listed.

I added meeting days where I would be late home, necessitating other arrangements for school pick up and when there were to be meetings at the kids’ schools such as ‘meet the teacher.’

I would love to have readers share.

My list that worked best for me included:

  • I made sure I was up before the kids…just for my sanity…and I could get in some breakfast too before waking the darlings.
  • kids did not get dressed until they ate their breakfast and there were limited choices: cereal and toast.
  • TV never went on in the mornings. Ever. It was hard enough getting kids to stay on track. At least there were no electronic devices back then.
  • school clothes (including mine, because I was a teacher going off to school too!) ready the night before and laid out, with socks & shoes so there were no delays in finding said items!
  • checking of the weather report the night before (and the morning) so that we were prepared for rain/heat whatever Australia’s changing weather systems had on offer.
  • school bags emptied the night before (or on the weekend, the Friday for preference!) so that filling was easy in the mornings. Actually not fully emptied. I was the person who made her kids always have a folded up raincoat lying in the bottom of the school bag.
  • lunches were made in advance and in my case, kids and mine were made in batches and frozen.Boring same ingredients and sometimes not eaten but they were ready to pop into lunch boxes.
  • a snack self-selection area in the pantry with a guide for how many and from which group to add to lunchbox.
  • frozen water bottles grabbed from the freezer and wrapped in a towel – it helped with insulation and a cooling thing on the very hot days anyway.

  • library bag at the ready if it was library day.
  • school hat either next to the bag OR kept in the car as the kids would be dropped off from the car.
  • homework folders/books ready to be returned on the day as requested by the teacher.
  • notes signed, money added (if needed) and put in a plastic zip bag because for sure, these items get messed up in kids’ bags.
  • everyone in the car, buckled up allowing for the school drop offs and for me to be at school on time!

So, I used to look forward to getting to school….for the break and a coffee after all that above..and then up to my classroom to be ready for teaching everyone else’s kids!

What works for you in the mornings before school?

Do tell me in the comments!


Joining new school mum, Kylie Purtell here with my other blogging friends for I Blog On Tuesdays.



Back To Routines. #LifeThisWeek 5/52. 2017.17.

Back To Routines. #LifeThisWeek 5/52. 2017.17.


Str- e- tch!

Oh, here we go, back to routines!

Is this how it is for you right now?

I chose this prompt for this week as it is, for most of us, back to whatever routines form our lives.

We have, in many cases, had some time off from the usual routines and now it’s back to real life!

In our case, it’s actually been interesting NOT to have to get back to real life because we are retired from paid work, family responsibilities now our kids have well and truly left home and needing to be anywhere, somewhere by a certain time.

However there are days where we need to attend appointments and in my husband’s case perform his volunteer roles but we can take our day at a more leisurely pace. I know I needed routine in my life as a mother and a professional and it was via lists, preparation of meals and clothes ready to wear and generally having a running diary both in my head and on the fridge calendar.

Now, there are some routines I need to follow: eating meals, going for a walk, doing the blog and so on but it is less-timetabled and more free. It has taken me some time to become used to it all but now…love life with fewer routines!!

This sums up me in quite a few ways! The old me really.

I am someone who enjoys helping others and I also did some on-line research about the value of routines and agree that they are good for consistency and a smoothly operating family life…as best as can happen! I love this site that is Australian based and has many, many more helpful ideas for families.

Why routines are good for parents
Routines take some effort to create. But once established, they have lots of benefits:
* They free up time for you to think about other things while you work.
* Regular and consistent routines can help you feel like you’re doing a good job as a parent.
* When things are hectic, routines can help you feel more organised, which lowers stress.
* A routine will help you complete your daily tasks efficiently.
* As children get better at following a routine by themselves, you can give fewer instructions and nag less.
* Routines free you from having to constantly resolve disputes and make decisions. If Sunday night is pizza night, no-one needs to argue about what’s for dinner. Source: here.

What does “Back To Routine” mean for you?

Have you had a break from routine?

Do you find you can keep to a routine most days?

Can you give yourself permission to vary the routine and have some extra fun?



Here are the rules for the link-up “Life This Week” is a link up that runs every Monday and remains live for until Thursday at 5 p.m.during that week.
* You can link up something old or new, just come on in.
* Please add just ONE post each week!
* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.
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* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine!
* THANK you for linking up today! Do come back next week. Next week’s prompt is “What’s Enough Money?”.

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Fourth Term Means This. 366/292.

Fourth Term Means This. 366/292.

Those of you who have had kids at school for a while will identify with some of the things on this list. Some of you I know are in your first year of having a child at school and the list may help. Or not!

It is offered with no advice other than



  • The weather will be hot or  cold, rainy and all that in between because it’s FOURTH term
  • The child who left home with jumper or jacket or both will have taken them off and even though they are labelled, will not bring them home.
  • You will ask why. The child will say I left it in my room. It will not be there. It will be somewhere.
  • Muttering under your breath, you pop into the classroom, greet tired teacher with ‘have you seen J’s jacket?’
  • You will be told, nicely I hope, ‘it could be in the lost property bin near the office if it’s not here.’ It is in none of these places. It IS FOURTH term you know.
  • YOU think “I am so not buying another jacket so my child will have to learn from this. Other parents advise: ‘just take an unlabelled one from lost property, you can see that the box is overflowing. It is so ‘not like you’ but it’s FOURTH term and you are not buying a new one.
  • Your child wakes up and says “I’m not going to school today, we are only watching DVDs”. Of course….that’s what happens in the last weeks of  FOURTH term!
  • You send you child to school and later that day, when asking how the day was. “It was cool, we got to watch DVDs all day.”
  • Providing lunch and snacks each day for your child is over-rated, yeah?
  • So, because  it’s FOURTH term…so it’s a case of “who’d like a canteen order today?” and hope that you can scrounge enough cash for more than one day a week because…so over it.

What’s your Fourth Term advice for parents?

What are some examples you could add to this list?

By the way, how IS Fourth Term going?



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Joining Kylie Purtell and bloggers over here for I Blog On Tuesdays.



Is Repeating A Grade Helpful? 366/250.

Is Repeating A Grade Helpful? 366/250.

Repeating a class or a grade is an issue that parents raise more than school personnel.

My experience over decades as both a K-6 deputy principal and K-6 principal  was to recommend a child repeat a grade/year on few occasions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Schools tended to ‘repeat’ students with greater frequency before then as the quote below mentions.

I can only speak from an anecdotal perspective. I do not have records to show whether this has been a success or not for the children concerned.

Where I have either agreed to or been part of a joint decision the main reason has been to assist the child to become more socially mature. I have known of some families to decide to enrol a ‘not yet ready for school’ child with their plan to seek repetition in Kinder/Prep to give the child 2 years of being ready for formal learning. I do not agree with this as a strategy.

Schools have since realised that when this has been a goal that it is hard on the child first and foremost and sometimes I have known the families to take the child out of the school and start again elsewhere. I am also aware that for some families an ‘early start to school’ is because of affordability and access issue for child care. By ‘early” I am referring to those months in NSW school starts for public schools as June and July, with possibly May/April added.

In some circumstances, such as a long absence from school due to illness or injury, and moving interstate, there can be a very good reason for recommending repetition of the grade beyond the first year of school.


This article is from 2014 but remains relevant in my opinion.

From that, I add a quotation from my former colleague and just retired Principal Geoff Scott.

The president of the NSW Primary Principals’ Association, Geoff Scott, says students commonly repeat because of poor social skills or maturity levels rather than academic outcomes.

Australian kids start school younger than almost any other developed country in the world, up to two years ahead of students in top-performing countries such as Finland and Korea.

Mr Scott says it is always the priority of principals to progress students, unless there were extenuating circumstances such as missing considerable amounts of class time due to a lengthy holiday or illness.

“Going back some years, repeating was often the first port of call,” he said. “But now that we have more information about how children learn, the realisation from both parents and schools is that repeating isn’t going to make any difference, it’s only going to make them a year older.”

He said, while students might experience an academic bounce after repeating, the gains were minimal and short-lived.

“The reality is that the problem that’s caused that issue in the first place is still there and hasn’t been addressed by just repeating,” he said. We really need to intervene and tackle the issue, whether that be a learning difficulty, a socialisation problem or emotional issues.”

In high school, far more students repeat year 10 than year 7, 8 and 9 combined, with almost 5000 NSW students repeating year 10 between 2010 and 2013.

What do you know about repeating a grade/year at school?

Did this occur for you or a member of your family?

How did it work out?

Thanks for sharing!


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This post is part of I Blog On Tuesdays with Kylie Purtell and friends over here! 


Women Have The Kids. 366/194.

Women Have The Kids. 366/194.

It is a fact. Women are the child-bearers. Now they are and unless things change drastically will continue to be.

They are not always the full-time child rearers. We know that too.

But, like all matters that are fair and reasonable, most mothers would like to take some time off from the paid employment to have their kids, take care of them and then return to work on a part-time or full-time basis as suits them. Hopefully it can be worked out with their workplace to mutual agreement.

I have only worked as a teacher in the  NSW public (government) system. It was thought to have flexible and good return to work arrangements for parents. Mothers of course, being those who actually HAVE the kids needed to best possible choices.

Fair? I always hoped it was.

I know that in the 1970s I HAD to take a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave (full time) and return to work was only on a full-time basis. I took around 6 months with our daughter in 1971 even though I ‘wanted’ to return to work by the end of November, the rules were that I could not do so within 4 weeks of the end of 4th term. Rightio then…lack of money didnt help but it was what it was. Actually now I think of it, this was probably the reason I took this decision which I wrote about regretting here. By the time I had our son, I had superb child care sorted and a great job to return to so I had around 4.5 months away from school with him. Back to full-time roles.

I can’t recall when part-time maternity leave came in, nor can I recall when the staffing conditions changed for mothers who are teachers to be able to choose the part-time working option up and until the child starts school. This has been a generous condition. However, thanks to exactly that it has also enable quality female teachers and school executive to remain in the profession, contribute to their school’s work and have a home life for their child/children. It has worked. I have witnessed it personally and professionally.


It can be somewhat challenging as a principal to ‘meet everyone’s needs’ when the school staff is predominantly ‘young and female’ but it can work. The situation with teaching (particularly the area where I am most familiar K-6) is that there are around 70% female staff employed.

Now, this is happening. I have only read about it this week and I am trying not to over react but I can see that it could change the fabric of goodwill and education for many female teachers who are in NSW Public Education system. I cannot comment on other systems within NSW or Australia.  The challenge with being a teacher and having under school age children is to be able to have quality, on-call, well-know child care. I have been this for  members of our family for a number of years. Not all grandparents can do this. So, like me, when you find a family daycare person or your local early childhood centre is suitable, then you ‘grab’ those times and days IF you have work to go to on a regular basis.

Not everyone who is on maternity leave wants that though. Some really want to be at home and then return to the school after their child has started school. This means around 5 years away from the classroom/school. Yes, there could be loss of professional development unless you keep yourself up with what is happening. Yes, there could be a need for you to consider whether you will want to return to school. However, the article suggests that you will return to a beginning teachers’ salary when you do go back to work instead of returning at the level you were when you left. Unless, in the meantime you have complied with the days of Professional Development and taught some casual teaching days. This is a challenge for some people, yet when you consider that their role is teaching children then you would expect compliance with keeping up to date with your training and qualifications.


The article above, and the resulting comments I have seen via my teacher colleagues’ and others’ twitter stream is that the new way may be neither workable for some of the mothers who HAVE the KIDS….but I also think that the conversation is worth having.

I can also see that it may be viewed differently if you are not a teacher!

I hand the topic over to you, dear readers.

What are your thoughts about maternity leave?

Have you taken maternity leave?

What changes were made while you were on leave?

Has a teacher taking maternity leave affected your child’s education that you could note?

Thanks for helping with this topic everyone!


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Joining Jess at Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.


Jane Caro’s Words. 366/182.

Jane Caro’s Words. 366/182.

Jane Caro is a public education advocate, speaker,  mother (of a teacher in the public system), sister (of a principal in the public system) and someone who is not afraid to share her thoughts and words. Recently Jane made the biggest hit over at the Drum on ABCTV and I linked to it here. More than 1 million views about teachers and morale. I do hope you watched it. If not, pop over now!

The following article I have permission to republish from her Facebook page…was written in the beginning of the Christopher Pyne years. 2 years ago. Now we face another election. Thank goodness. I hope that when you vote on Saturday you consider the party which will put education for all kids first. Vote remembering #gonski .


Merrylands East P.S. Benefits from Gonski Reforms.

Jane’s Words. “About Teachers”.

I have been asked by an intern at a publication to answer some questions about how to get more “intelligent” people to go into teaching and how governments can “improve” the teaching profession.

I thought others might be interested in my answers.

‘Here are my answers.
We already have lots of smart teachers – high academic results do not necessarily help hold the attention of bored 14 year olds or 8 year olds from chaotic homes. Teaching is a vocation as much as a skill & requires high emotional & social intelligence, plus performance skills & a sense of humour. Nerdy swots who get high marks themselves often neglect these intelligences.
To attract the best people into teaching is no different to attracting the best people into any profession.
You need to respect the profession.
Take the practitioners seriously and listen to what they have to say about the work they do.
You need to provide safe, attractive, well resourced workplaces (not falling apart schools).
You need to provide the resources necessary to do the job properly.
You need to increase the amount of work they enjoy (teaching) & decrease the amount of work they don’t (endless admin). We are doing the opposite of that today.
You need to pay them fairly & appropriately.
You need to offer a career path that rewards achievement & increasing skills.
It ain’t rocket science.
Unless we do all these things, we can increase the difficulty of getting into teaching all we like & all we will do is reduce the number of people who want to teach.
Why would high academic achievers with many choices of career open to them choose to go into an under-paid, under-valued profession which is a political football and is becoming increasingly onerous?

Intelligent teachers are numerous already, but they are over-worked, under-paid and their morale is plummeting. In fact, the assumption behind your questions is one reason 50% of teachers leave the profession forever after 5 years. Your assumption is that our current crop of teachers are not good enough. Where is your evidence for that? The brightest give up and leave because they lose hope of ever gaining respect or being allowed to do what they are good at in increasingly micro-managed schools.

Great teachers do raise results, but they cannot compensate alone for poverty, chaotic home lives, lunatic parents, an increasingly unfair funding system, ideologically driven government policy, and rapidly increasing inequality.

The advice I’d give Australian Govts is to stop talking down the teachers they already have and begin to work with them rather than against them. Why would anyone with any choice want to join a profession that is routinely spoken about with the assumption it’s not good enough? That, and that alone, is enough to undermine teaching.

The single most damaging thing that has happened to education is governments driving down teacher morale over the last 30 years. It’s not that teachers aren’t smart enough or good enough, it’s that our political leaders are not.’

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Thank you Jane for your words, 100% support and for your on-going advocacy for schools and teachers!


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Joining with Anne at Domesblissity on Thriving Thursdays.

Catching up with Grace at With Some Grace for Flog Your Blog Friday.


Reader Asks About Learning Issues. 366/131.

Reader Asks About Learning Issues. 366/131.

A few weeks back I asked readers who comment to leave me some ideas for future posts on Tuesdays when I write about education and schooling.

This week I am responding to the first of the questions.

Thanks for asking these!

I’d like to know about how teachers determine if a child has a learning issue and may require further help.

Essentially it would be by observation of a child, and over time within the classroom. Teachers are trained to look for and listen for children who may be experiencing learning issues. These differ from diagnosed learning difficulties or disabilities which are often made before a child starts school and via professional assessments. However, let’s take a child who starts school and presents well in terms of socialisation and is mature in the management of himself or herself at school.

This child may not be able to ‘keep up’ with some of the age-appropriate tasks in say, reading or in mathematics. One thing I would hope a teacher might observe is the physical first. Can the child hear normally? Does the child see well? Can the child manipulate writing implements? Is the child able to walk, run and jump?  Where a teacher may have concerns, it is always hoped that he/she will quietly mention this in a confidential chat and start from there.

There are always different ways children can ‘present’ as having learning issues and often they can be classed as ‘behavioural.’ That doesn’t mean ‘bad behaviour’ but it might include things such as cannot get organised to start work, often asks the teacher more questions when the class have started their activities or it could be something like ‘never finishes work.’

What to do? The teacher, after checking through the child’s records such as enrolment form (where you, the parent, have completed, in all likelihood, about 20 pages of info!) then chats to one of his/her grade supervisors and makes a plan to see if there are some issues needed to be addressed via chatting with you, the parent, then making a referral to the in-school learning support team. These things take time and they are the beginning.

It is always hoped that with co-operation between school and home the best interests of the child are considered sensitively and the best outcomes are planned for.

Please take the time, whenever you can, to make your observations of your child and learning. You may notice that with homework he/she cannot even begin to understand the processes. Do not make this a battle if it continues. Please chat, confidentially, with the teacher when you can.

Of course, if you know that your family and home circumstances have changed in recent times, as they can via parents’ separation, death of a close family member, losing a pet, moving house and so on, let the school know. It is quite astounding that this does not happen as much as it should and these matters, dealt with confidentially, may be impacting your child’s ability to learn.

I wish all families well.

I know that NAPLAN starts today all over Australia. I also know that families may or may not be allowing their children to participate if they suspect it would so more harm than good if learning disabilities or issues are present. Parents know best!



Thank you for your question. Next week and for two weeks on I have more questions to answer about schooling.

I’m also happy to respond to new ones over the next months.


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Joining Jess at Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.

I’m adding this post to With Some Grace for Flog Your Blog Friday because I know Grace has many readers with school-aged kids.