A Great Start to the New School Year

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A wonderful gathering of students and their families arrived at our school today.  Today is both an exciting and an anxious time as we start these first few days of school.  We welcome each and every one of our students and hope they all had a fun-filled Christmas break with a lot of different activities that allowed them to explore their interests, relax under the sun, and re-energize their enthusiasm for this new year of learning.

As adults, we remember our own first days of school where we met our new teacher(s) for the first time, started the adjustments to new routines and schedules, and refreshed our friendships with hellos and smiles.  As the professional educators at St Augustine’s we strive to ensure a very successful transition and we take pride in the many wonderful academic programs and activities that we provide throughout the year.  We work diligently to ensure that we address a wide range of student interests and skills. We thank you for giving us your greatest gift and we take that responsibility very seriously.

At St Augustine’s this year, we will be looking at student performance on assessment measures in all we do including the use of technology and digital citizenship.  We will be discussing these at length in our staff meetings, special parent workshops, P&F meetings, and on other occasions as the opportunity arises.  However, we recognize that there is more that defines the success of each student.  We are working to provide an environment that will allow each student to grow academically, emotionally, and physically in a comfortable surroundings of support and guidance.

We are cultivating partnerships with parents, community members, and our Parish to enhance the relationship of learning new ideas, the relevance of contributing and creating for the benefits of all society, and the rigor of exploring new concepts and solutions.  Our culture of learning is shifting to a future of continuous engagement and participation in understanding, questioning, and construction of new possibilities.

We welcome our new families to this phenomenal school and we welcome back the many families who have been such a strong part of our daily success.  Have a great start of the school year.  I am glad that you are here.


A Lighthouse School

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Over the past few months our school has collected data from parent, staff and student surveys on areas of our school as part of the School Review and Development program. On Wednesday and Thursday this week a visiting panel comprising of our Educational Consultant, Ian Walton; Religious Education Consultant, Jenny Triglone; Additional Needs Consultant, Anne Bellert, CSO Teacher Educator, Karen Robson and St James Primary School Principal, Murray Macdonald interrogated the data, listened to presentations from staff, parents and students, and provided validation of our school’s next five year strategic plan.

There are many undeniable facts that should be shared with the wider community regarding our school arising from the summation of the visiting panel to the leadership team. Some of the comments are as follows:

  • St Augustine’s is a lighthouse school in our diocese and your school’s commitment to the diverse learning needs of the student population is amazing.
  • Through the interconnectedness of faith, learning and community you have been able to create a welcoming community focused on the needs of students and their families.
  • The organisation of the school is both purposeful and efficient and with the central focus of the teaching and learning driving planning and development.
  • It is evident that you have a proactive, caring and vibrant community.
  • With a cohesive leadership team, the school has a clear vision that is focused on the implementation of the Diocesan Contemporary Learning Framework. The educational results are excellent.
  • The children enjoy their learning and are particularly thankful for the variety of learning opportunities provided.

Once the school receives the final report from the Validating Panel I will share it at the next P&F Meeting.

I’d like to thank our Assistant Principal, Leanne Feltis, the Leadership team and the staff for their support in the SRD process. We are very fortunate to have a committed and dedicated staff.

Eternal Truths

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During last week a piece of paper came my way bearing the heading “Eternal Truths”; here’s a sample of its offerings:

* If it weren’t for stress I’d have no energy at all.
* I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
* Some days are a total waste of makeup.
* Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by you again.
* My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
* A conscience is something that hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
* If you look like your passport picture, then you probably need the trip.
* Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

With the events happening around my family in the last couple of weeks I have contemplated life and found some other philosophical “Eternal Truths on Parental Love.” Maybe with your experience, you can improve on what’s ahead:

* A parent’s love gives a child the hope and energy to grow.
* A child’s heart requires their parents’ friendship and love as surely as their body requires food.
* A child wants their parents to notice the good things they do and to communicate affection and love.
* A parent’s love for a child is a basic requirement for the development of a healthy caring adult.
* A child can be likened to a flower. They open up when their parents’ love shines on them.

We need to keep in mind that love is more than a feeling, for there might be times when we don’t feel very loving towards our children. Love is a commitment to be with, to understand and to support the development of another human being – our child. Sometimes we can focus most of our parenting energy on correcting and disciplining our children.

Unfortunately, this focus can take over and the relationship and the rapport between parent and child can be lost. Consequently, when a child does not feel loved they are more likely to misbehave, so a negative cycle is set up.

Because loving children is a long term commitment, it might not return immediate rewards. Robert Louis Stevenson, besides delighting a previous generation with the likes of Treasure Island and Kidnapped, left us this thought:

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant”.”

If, perchance, you have not had a successful outcome in a relationship with a child, then Henry Ford, who was not a stranger to set-backs, might have the thought of encouragement you were looking for when he wrote,

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

Of course, Christian parents know that God is co-creator with them and that God’s Spirit is with them, as are the gifts of the Spirit. It can be comforting to know, that in a time of need, we can ask God to activate within us His gift of Understanding or Courage or Counsel or Wisdom to assist us to be loving parents to our children.

By the way, one other “Eternal Truth” reads like this,

“I know God won’t give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn’t give me so much.”

Best Wishes


World Class Education

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As reported in the Coffs Coast Advocate, a group of teachers undertook a study tour to Norway and their interaction with international schools highlighted the strength of the personalised learning program adopted by our school.

St Augustine’s has a world class learning program built on improving the quality of the teaching and learning. As part of a keynote address to an International Symposium held recently  in Norway our principal showcased the learning program at St Augustine’s. The presentation included a video clip which offered insight into the future of learning at St Augustine’s and the need to meet the changing learning needs of our students.




Personalised Learning

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This week our school is celebrating Catholic Schools Week and we have held staff meetings, parent nights, celebrated liturgies, had sausage sizzles, school photos, supported the visiting Schol Compliance Audit team, hosted the Rosary Makers and had students attend the Diocesan Winter Trials.

Fortunately we have a personalised learning program at our school where the cohort teachers are able to differentiate the learning needs. Our program is flexible and enables students to grow with their learning.

However, personalised learning is not individualised learning. There is a significant difference in the terms. While the curriculum guides what needs to be learnt it is our teachers who determine how we use the curriculum to not only support student learning but also to raise their achievement levels.

At our school we use personalised learning to place the student at the centre of the learning and we make changes within the school to meet their needs.

In personalising the learning we raise the standards and have high expectations for every learner. In fact and probably more importantly, we find the students’ have higher expectations of their learning output than the teachers do. Simply looking at their learning goals is evidence enough.

In our personalised learning world, our teachers collaborate on each child’s learning program, offering a richer insight into the strategies chosen to meet the students’ learning needs. Our focus is on how the students are learning.

A key component of the personalised learning environment is centred on the out of school experiences. Learning is a 24/7 phenomenon and, through the use of technology, students can continue learning after the school bell goes each afternoon.

Offering a personalised learning environment helps our staff to foster specific learning skills/behaviours to help students think about their learning. Walking into our cohorts observing student interactions, noticing how they ‘get unstuck’ on a learning task and making positive decisions about their learning is an exciting part of my role.

In this way, our personalised learning program offers students a range of learning experiences to develop both collaborative and independent learning; skills that are needed when they enter the workforce.

Personalised learning enables our teachers to engage in best practice.

Welcome to the 2013 School Year

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Dear Parents,

This is a quick note to welcome you back to school and to thank you for your support in settling our children back into the routines of school life. It was great to catch up with many of you this morning and sharing some of your holiday stories.

2013 is going to be an exciting year for everyone connected to the St Augustine’s school community. We are celebrating our centenary and have some great activities planned throughout the year.

I’d like to remind you that our main form of communication is via our fortnightly newsletter, our school website (www.staugustines.nsw.edu.au) and KnowledgeNET (staugustines.knowledge.net.nz).

The school website has a lot of information about our school and will be of particular importance during this centenary year. (Check out the centenary page on the website)

Our school calendar and our daily notices are on KnowledgeNET and can be accessed using your child’s username and password.

We also have our school’s facebook page (facebook.com/staugustinesschool) and our school’s twitter account (@sapscoffs). These two social media outlets offer regular photos and snippets of information from the classrooms. It is another way of keeping our parents informed about what’s happening at school.

Our newsletter is a fortnightly publication with our first one for the year being emailed next Friday 8 February. Please pass the word and if email addresses have changed you will need to update your details by contacting the school office.

New School Year - New Shoes

The first few weeks of the school year are exciting but can be daunting as we develop specific routines and procedures. I encourage you to get to know your class teacher and to offer any support you can to help your child not only enjoy school but excel in their learning.

If I can help you in any way please come in and see me. I look forward to catching up with you throughout the year.

Peace & Best Wishes

Jake Madden



Bedtime Stories

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Our final National Year of Reading activity, Bedtime Stories, was held on the special date of 12/12/12. With the top 25 LARC users in Year Three and Four being eligible to participate and wear their pyjamas. The sharing of our favourite stories, with a sausage sizzle and an icypole for dessert was the order of the evening. Everyone loved Mr Madden’s cooking! Pau cooked us a cake and Gabi supplied the popcorn. Thanks to Mrs Madden for organising the event


Advent – A Time for Reflection

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Here is a good insight into life: “Life is not about being better than someone else. It is about striving to be better than you used to be.” Author Unknown. St Augustine had another good insight when he wrote: “When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from the light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God.”And withdraw from God we all do, not out of disbelief necessarily, but mostly out of forgetfulness, because we are just too busy with the rest of life. Take for example the Bethlehem Innkeeper who told Mary and Joseph that there was no room for them in his inn. This did not mean that he was a bad person; he was just very busy taking care of his customers, providing for their needs and keeping the peace. Unfortunately, when the most important birth in history took place in his backyard, he missed it entirely, not because he was a bad person, he was just too busy.

With Christmas just around the corner, we might be too busy to give attention to what we are actually commemorating. Those who live “by the cash register” will do everything they can to keep our attention on our wallets and purses. The Three Wise Men seem to have had the true understanding of the Christmas event. They spent many weeks in anticipation as they travelled from their homeland to Bethlehem. When they arrived, their purpose was to honour the newborn child and out of courtesy they brought one gift each.

We, too, have the opportunity for a period of anticipation in the Season of Advent. Of course, Advent is a constant season for, within our own lives, we are continuously waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfil. Hope, struggle, fear, expectations, are all part of our Advent experience. God does not come to us from the sky, he comes to us in the daily story of our lives in people, places and events.

Advent invites us to prepare for the commemoration of Gods coming by taking time to have a closer look inside ourselves away from the busy outside. This looking inside is not about remorse or regret, nor about listing ways life over the past year could have been different; its not about wishing we were better people. Its about forward movement, getting new bearings, relying more on God for directions. Its about a fresh start, getting closer to the “fire” and the “light” that are Gods love and compassion. Advent is a time to “Rejoice, let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is nigh.” St Paul Phil 4:4,5

World Teachers Day

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Last Friday was World Teachers’ Day. This wasn’t an event that captured the attention of the media or the wider community but never the less it was a day for teachers to celebrate what they do and to reflect on their vocation. As educators we are constantly reminded that we make the biggest difference to our students’ learning outcomes. Yes, there are other factors that come into play but the role of the teacher is significant.

At St Augustine’s School we have been on an incredible learning journey. Along with your children, we see W ourselves as learners and we seek new ways to improve our practice and to support our students in more effective ways. I’ve listened to our cohort teams share the excitement when their students have made progress and have achieved new goals. Teachers bring students to see me each day to tell the story of their improvement. It’s something I really look forward to.

The recent Parent Satisfaction Survey saw great acknowledgement of our teachers. Please come and see your child’s teacher if you have any concerns at all. Your partnership is valued. We may not always agree but having strong communication will benefit all, especially your child. Sometimes it may seem easier to send an email but if something is concerning you a face to face conversation is far more productive. Issues can be resolved much quicker when we get together and listen to one another.

I encourage you to continue to be partners in your child’s learning. Your school experience is vastly different to your child’s. The education model is not one you have experienced so taking an active part in your child’s education will help demystify things for you.

I recently read a blog about learning. As a parent and a teacher I found this thought provoking. It was titled, “10 Things (Some) Parents Should Unlearn….”

  • Learning is best measured by a letter or a number.
  • Product is more important than process and progress
  • Children need to be protected from any kind of failure.
  • Parents and teachers should discuss students without the learner present
  • Homework is an essential part of learning
  • The school is responsible for the child’s entire education.
  • Your child’s perspective is the only one.
  • Learning looks the same as when you went to school.
  • Focus on (and fix) your child’s shortcomings, rather than their successes.

Whether you agree, disagree or challenge one or more of these points there is certainly food for thought there.

Finally, I encourage you to support the P and F to ensure the School Fete is a success. A very small number of parents come along to the monthly meetings and the events that run during the year are often left to these few. We are counting on our families to donate items and to give a hand on the day. All money raised goes directly to benefit the children.

Leanne Feltis

(Assistant Principal)