Page 1968 - Week 06 - Friday, 6 May 2005

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Theodore primary school

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.26): I would like to speak briefly today about a visit to the Theodore primary school, where I got to see first-hand the ways in which schools meet the needs of our children and young people.

Some members may have seen an article in the Canberra Times in late April regarding the school’s community garden project. The project came about because the staff and community at Theodore primary school wanted to do more to address the needs of students who had ongoing difficulties in academic, social and behavioural areas and who were disengaging from school. They knew that addressing these issues at the primary school level was vital to ensuring that these kids got the best opportunity for their future education.

In 2003, Theodore primary school developed a mentoring program, in partnership with Menslink, under which volunteers came to the school to work with children on the garden project. Mentors were recruited as volunteers by Menslink and worked with the students under the supervision of a teacher. Groups of year three and four students were selected to participate in the program, each group a mix consisting of students targeted as in need of assistance, as well as positive role model students.

The students designed the perimeters of the school’s garden and were involved in the construction of fences, garden beds, a poultry shed and a compost facility, and planting. They then marketed the garden to the whole school, and each class was given their own garden bed for further development.

The community garden has yielded great results for both the individual students involved and for the whole school, including:

improved behaviour displayed by boys in the program;

improved social skills, particularly student relations with adults and girls;

environmental education and other cross-curriculum benefits of the garden; and

opportunities for the students to develop and demonstrate leadership skills.

Students who were once in danger of disengaging from their education now proudly take their families to school to admire their handiwork. An important element in the success of the Theodore primary school mentor program has been the significant support of the school and wider community.

Theodore primary school is another great example of the work being done in our schools. Every day our schools are developing our children as individuals and preparing them to take their place in society.

Following on from that, this week I received a lovely letter from a grandparent of a young girl in our school system. I will not read the letter out, but the nature of the story was that the grandmother had custody of this young girl, who had a range of disabilities

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