Founder, innovator and advocate

Berry Public School, on the south coast of NSW in the Shoalhaven region, was the first school in Australia to participate in the Living Ripples process. The appeal for Berry Public School was that the process engages the whole school community, gathers and uses real time data and is aligned to the school’s enduring commitment to the value and importance of student wellbeing. Berry Public School saw Living Ripples as an opportunity to innovate and enhance the school’s wellbeing ecosystem.

When Berry Public School started Living Ripples in 2021, they were part of a small-scale trial, joining another three volunteer schools. With early successes across these four schools, the Living Ripples process was expanded. This became known as Version 2 and involvement was expanded to a total of 26 schools. In mid-2023, the Living Ripples Model completed its three-year scaled-up trial phase. Throughout this process, Berry Public School has been involved, making contributions to the model’s refinement through its annual implementation, action and evaluation.

Within these three years, Berry Public School has received awards for its outstanding approach to student wellbeing. It was recognised in the 2022 Australian Education Awards and then again in 2023, this time taking top honours.

At Berry Public, Living Ripples provides a structure to provide wraparound support for its students. It has enabled the regular implementation of focused and differentiated wellbeing programs through to engaging extracurricular programs for high potential and gifted students. It has also enabled students to shape their school from the creation of a natural play ropes course through to being hosts of the Berry Way Podcast.

For principal Bob Willetts, student, staff and family wellbeing is the foundation that underpins and guides the school’s value, mission and actions. Known locally as The Berry Way, these codesigned values and actions underpin the school community’s collective commitment to excellence.

Embedding this approach shares both leadership and responsibility. All staff are involved and this wider reach, within and beyond the school gate, helps to foster inclusion. Staff are given time to plan, implement, and review initiatives. It also allows the time for staff to communicate the results and impacts.Principal Bob Willetts speaks of the importance of ‘noticing what is happening and then gathering the evidence that informs our actions’. ‘This is what the Living Ripples process helps facilitate and we are committed to continuing our involvement.’

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