Kangaroo Flat Primary School: A picture of change

To help welcome and engage new families, Kangaroo Flat Primary School took literally the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words. As part of the Refugee Education Support Program (RESP) the Bendigo region school used photographs of families and school staff to enhance communication.

The school wanted families to feel at home from the enrolment stage onwards. It was aware that language was a barrier to families feeling welcome and, even though it was using interpreters, Kangaroo Flat wanted to place limited demands on families’ English-speaking abilities.

At enrolment, families were given photographs of the key staff with whom they might need to engage: their child’s classroom teacher, the receptionists, the wellbeing officer and the principal. The idea was that if parents wanted to talk to any of these people, all they needed to do was take their photograph to school. Likewise, if staff members wanted to talk to a family, they gave a photo of themselves to students to take home to parents/carers.

The photos of staff members were also helpful because families put them up at home and, when students discussed what was happening at school, parents/carers knew who it was their children were talking about. Both families and staff found that this easy, low-cost use of images simplified communication, especially during the early period of families’ involvement with the life of the school.

The school discovered that families often didn’t have photos of themselves. At enrolment, the school photographed each family, a practice that brought families joy and a sense of being welcomed by a friendly community. Families also needed further encouragement to engage with their children’s teachers, and the school chose its early first-term welcome night as a vehicle for change.

The school allowed students to settle in for a few weeks before promoting the night, meaning students encouraged their parents/carers to attend and be part of a festival atmosphere. On the night, the school made teachers available for a brief meet-and-greet in classrooms. The bonus was, if parents availed themselves of this opportunity, their children received a raffle ticket to go into a prize draw. The kids didn’t want to miss out, so they encouraged their parents/carers to go and have that chat.