Inclusive, connected and inspiring

On the south coast of NSW, a coordinated, cooperative and locally led transformation of a school community is taking place. Bomaderry Public is a Kindergarten to Year 6 school in the town of Bomaderry on the Shoalhaven River, four kilometres north of Nowra. Its shift of focus from behaviour management to fostering wellbeing among students, staff and families has been the game changer. Attendance is improving, engagement from families is on the rise and enrolments are increasing.

Bomaderry Public has a diverse student population and clear school motto, ‘Aim high, Achieve high’ and they are doing just that. Within the 430-student school, there are nine special education classes, gifted and talented learners, and over one third of the total student population are Aboriginal learners.

In May 2022, the school began to change its focus from using data on behaviour to inform practice to collecting data from their wellbeing programs and initiatives. There were many reasons for this but one of the most important was feedback from the students themselves. After Covid, students reported feeling less sure they belonged and their confidence in their own abilities at school were lower. The school’s response was to adopt wholeheartedly a strategy that connected the importance of wellbeing with learning.

Engaging with Living Ripples, a three-year wellbeing program already in the region, gave a framework for Bomaderry Public School’s plan. For Assistant Principal, Danielle Braidwood, adopting the Living Ripples Model “helped us to shift the data collection to a wellbeing focus and bring everyone along with us”.

Parents and the broader school community were invited to be involved through a meeting and now, 18 months on, the meeting has become a once a term fixture to help set and then share the wellbeing priorities for the following term. Detentions no longer exist. Instead, regular check ins to support early intervention have been adopted with the findings discussed at fortnightly staff meetings. Homework club is combined with breakfast club, there are student and staff Wellbeing Wednesdays and a ‘shout out wall’ to boost staff morale.

Danielle describes Living Ripples as having enabled a “whole school voice to come together, people feel heard and valued”. “Living Ripples works alongside our own initiatives and priorities to better support our community”. “The hardest part was starting, unpacking all the activities we were already doing and evaluating each of the programs against the sort of evidence we really needed to collect to be where we wanted to be, that was huge”. “Living Ripples is now part of our school’s culture”.

The Phillips Foundation, through its Living Ripples initiative, has supported Bomaderry Public School since May 2022. The school is currently moving to Living Ripples Version 3 with the school being fully funded to engage with the Model for a further three-years.

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