Education Week

Photo of Alister Henskens SC MP and Principal Pip Fox at Killara Public School
15 August 2018

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (18:15:41): According to the Department of Education's website, "Education Week is a statewide, annual event, held during the first week of August, to celebrate New South Wales public education." Ku-ring-gai people have a strong streak of individualism and self-reliance. These qualities are carried into its nation-leading public schools, which do not feel compelled to celebrate Education Week in the designated five-day period commencing on 6 August. According to Principal Jim Huckerby, "Every week is Education Week at Gordon West Public School." That statement is not only impossible to dispute but also explains why Gordon West has no concerns about waiting until 20 September to hold its always impressive showcase, which I am certain will demonstrate to parents everything that is positive about that school.

Given that the official Education Week clashed with a parliamentary sitting week this year, I am grateful for the non-conformist scheduling of some of Ku-ring-gai's public school principals, because it has provided me with a greater opportunity to join in the fun. While Gordon West's event is still six weeks away, Turramurra North Public School jumped the gun by opening its stage 3 flexible learning space for the local community to see the students' learning in action on 1 August. As compelling evidence of how the school classroom has evolved, all of the grades at Turramurra North work collaboratively across their rooms every day, but the stage 3 space is unique because it features three classes in one space, integrating advanced technology. It is where all schools are heading.

In respect of those schools that did hold their Education Week activities last week, on 6 August, Principal Tom Moth of Wahroonga Public School delivered a thought-provoking address on this year's Education Week theme, "Today's schools creating tomorrow's world", in which he referred to the important role that schools play in preparing students for a future world including artificial intelligence, where there is considerable uncertainty about the necessary workforce skills and opportunities. Beaumont Road Public School at Killara arranged reporting sessions on 7 August in which the children not the teachers led the conversations with their parents as they showed them aspects of their year's work.

On 8 and 9 August, Normanhurst, Pymble, Warrawee and Waitara public schools all staged open classrooms during which parents visited to observe both the learning process and the learning environment, had morning tea with their children and then were entertained by the schools' bands, choirs and dance groups. Warrawee Public School also held its science fair day on 9 August, which included talks from science experts, science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] challenge tasks and online research and investigation exercises.

Killara Public School's open day program involved an entire afternoon of activities on 10 August, including open classrooms, a picnic lunch and a parent workshop, but I had a front row seat for what was undoubtedly the highlight of the day, the Education Week concert. It was no surprise that both Killara Public School's Ryde Schools Spectacular choir and its senior choir had already impressed eisteddfod judges this year because their performances on the day were of a very high standard and a credit to the school's music department, led by Jenny Whiteman. This is not to forget the enchanting string ensemble and the enthusiastic year 2 recorder group who madeSad Old Song a happy tune indeed. I congratulate all of those who sang and played, as well as the Killara school leadership team, who emceed the concert with considerable aplomb.

My thanks to Principal Pip Fox for inviting me to visit the school on Open Day, which also provided me with the opportunity to see the new learning spaces, bathrooms and multipurpose sports court that have recently been completed under the Government's $4.2 billion infrastructure program. Like Turramurra North Primary School, the flexibility of the spaces provides opportunities for learning in small or large groups while ensuring that students receive the individual attention that they need.

Turramurra Public School and West Pymble Public School are two other Ku-ring-gai schools whose Education Week festivities are yet to take place. Turramurra Public School will be combining classroom visits and performances with Grandparents' Day and Book Week on 20 August. The years K-2's mini concert and the years 3 to 6's mini concert will showcase progressive stages of National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee [NAIDOC] dance. There will be a book fair in the school library for the duration of a very busy Open Day. I very much look forward to meeting the parents and grandparents of our students at what is sure to be another memorable Turramurra Public School morning tea and to purchasing a book or two in celebration of Book Week.

Not to be outdone, West Pymble Public School is advertising that "there will be something for everyone" at its Spring Showcase on 30 August. While the open classrooms will understandably be the main attraction, this Open Day will also feature a gymnastics display, an art gallery, busking, a Father's Day breakfast, a picnic lunch, robotics, a book fair—sounds as if I will be making another purchase!—a cupcake stall and performances from the school's dance troupe and choirs.

Whenever and however our magnificent public schools are celebrating Education Week, I am full of admiration for the dedication to learning that is invariably demonstrated by their principals and their talented and hardworking staff. These schools truly are equipping our youth with the skills and capabilities they need to thrive in a rapidly changing, globalised world.