Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Education Week and Ku-ring-gai Public Schools

Education Week 2019

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (19:34): While State members of Parliament were preoccupied here in Macquarie Street a couple of weeks ago, our public schools participated in the sixty-fifth New South Wales Education Week. The theme for this year's Education Week was "Every student, every voice," celebrating that every child in New South Wales feels empowered to speak out about what they believe in and know that they will be supported when they have the courage to express their views. More broadly, Education Week is about acknowledging and celebrating the richness and diversity of the entire school community—not just the students, although they are understandably the primary focus, but also those who care for them at home, the Parents & Citizens Association, the before- and after-school carers and the teachers who provide valuable learning experiences.

I have, on several occasions, spoken in this place about the high quality of the public schools in Ku-ring-gai. Two weeks ago I took the opportunity to visit Warrawee Public School and Beaumont Road Public School in Killara to participate in their Education Week activities. Warrawee's effervescent principal and new grandmother Carrie Robertson had just enough time to welcome me before donning her Tigger onesie to supervise the first event of the school's open morning. This was a parade of students and teachers dressed up as their favourite book characters. Not surprisingly there were a few Harry Potters, but there were many others too, including three little pigs and my old favourite the Cat in the Hat. A lot of effort had been put into the costumes by the teachers, as well, but what impressed me just as much was the size of the crowd of onlookers—the proud relatives. That included grandparents, because the school incorporated the annual Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day in the festivities.

It truly was an occasion that the entire school community embraced. The parents and grandparents who subsequently spent some time in the open classrooms would no doubt have seen, and possibly smelled, something new. In furtherance of the New South Wales Government's commitment in January this year to put an additional $449 million towards clearing the school maintenance backlog by July 2020, all of the internal areas of Warrawee's permanent buildings are being painted at no cost to the school. Already there is a freshness about the place and the revitalisation of the old buildings seems to have energised everybody in the school.

From Warrawee, I travelled to Beaumont Road, with the eager anticipation of participating in some of its renowned student-led reporting sessions. I was not disappointed. These popular sessions, an initiative of the enthusiastic and very experienced principal, Malcolm McDonald, see the students individually giving their parents a personal account of their educational progress. Almost 100 per cent of parents ensure that they are involved in what is a unique and rewarding experience, and the process no doubt enhances both the students' confidence and their powers of oral expression.

I was also given a guided tour of the school's art show, which was a visual demonstration not only of the artistic ability of many of the students but also of the quality of the tuition that they receive at Beaumont Road. Mr McDonald and the Parents & Citizens Association have been very proactive in recent years in planning and ultimately making improvements to this popular East Killara school. With the assistance of Government grants, they have funded and overseen the construction of a new multi-purpose building and shade sails over the playground, and they are hoping shortly to construct a new all-purpose surface for the games court. However, the first thing that I noticed when I arrived at the school was the upgraded roofing, asphalting and painting—again, all thanks to the Government's maintenance backlog clearance program. Mr McDonald takes great pride in the appearance of the school and it is looking magnificent.

In addition to open classrooms and music and artistic performances by their students, Killara Public School, Pymble Public School, Wahroonga Public School and Normanhurst Public School all hosted book fairs that provided a range of great books for the students to buy. Killara Public School also held a book fair in conjunction with its showcase and at Turramurra Public School a performing arts concert with dancing—including dance gymnastics—band and choral performances were the focus of the Open Day and Grandparents' Day. Due to my parliamentary commitments, I did not have the opportunity to join in on all of those activities but I am informed they were universally a great success. I am, however, personally aware that West Pymble, Wahroonga, Turramurra, Turramurra North and Normanhurst public schools have all recently been the beneficiaries of attractive Colorbond steel roof replacements, as the Government's unbridled maintenance program continues. The principal of Turramurra North has recently remarked that the students happily experienced a temporary inconvenience for the benefit of "leak-free rainy days", while West Pymble Public School's principal has described the new appearance of the school's buildings as fantastic.

The permanent classrooms at most of Ku-ring-gai's schools have been painted this year. Some now have new fencing and others have upgraded toilet blocks and new carpet. It is a long time since the schools have looked this good. I speak of these maintenance works in Education Week because the two are not unrelated. Investment in our school children is an investment in our future and if we want them to thrive as students and to become engaged citizens, then it is incumbent on us to provide them with the best possible environment in which to do so. I am proud to be part of a Government that recognises and takes active steps to ensure our students reach their full potential. I am glad that Education Week activities in Ku-ring-gai were so successful.