School's back for western division staff and students

Staff and students at schools in western NSW have returned to learning this week. Dani Cooper reports.

Students and their teacher in front of a school sign. Students and their teacher in front of a school sign.
Image: At Pooncarie Public School, 120 kilometres north of Mildura, seven Kindy students will have their first full day of school on Monday.

Kindergarten students across the western division are putting a smile on principals’ faces as a number of tiny schools celebrated a lift in numbers.

At Pooncarie Public School, 120 kilometres north of Mildura, seven Kindy kids will have their first full day of school on Monday, after completing their Best Start assessments.

Further north, White Cliffs Public School principal Lavinia Weaver will have her full cohort of four Kindy kids at school on Monday after two of her new starters were cut off from the town by floodwaters.

The two schools were among the 120 public schools in the NSW Department of Education’s western division that welcomed back students yesterday.

The western division starts later than eastern division students and staff, due to the higher summer temperatures.

Pooncarie Public School principal Alison King said the school had hit double figures in its enrolment with nine students full-time and a one-day enrolment on Fridays.

Ms King said the student who was attending one day a week was combining distance education with attendance at the school because they lived more than 90 kilometres away.

“There is great excitement in the community and among the teaching staff as well that we have a group to teach and the possibilities of what we can do with them,” Ms King said.

The seven Kindergarten students would form one class and do all their literacy and numeracy work together.

The school’s two students from last year, now in Year 2 and 5, would have their own class for literacy and numeracy and then the school would do other lessons together.

“Four days a week the classes will be separated from 9am-1pm so we can target learning at the students’ level,” she said.

Ms King said the later start to the school year was welcome, but it was expected to hit 43 degrees next Tuesday.

In the far north corner of the state, where the temperature gauge was sitting at a “beautiful 31 degrees”, Bourke High School was welcoming the new school year yesterday with 21 Year 7s among the school’s 132 student population.

Deputy principal Kay Dunbar said the Year 7 students were excited to be transitioning into high school and “all looked lovely in the new uniforms”.

She said the small Year 7 cohort meant the students benefitted from small classes and almost received one-on-one teaching.

Ms Weaver said the school was delighted to have four Kindergarten students as it was the biggest intake for a few years.

She said the community was a strong supporter of the school and had come together last year for a working bee to spruce up the grounds after suffering drought in the area.

Ahead of the return to school, the area welcomed 100 millimetres of rain, which had left a number of students unable to return for the first school days.

Wilcannia Central School Executive Principal Nadia Mills was delighted to welcome new teachers and a fresh crop of Kindergarten students.

Ms Mills was also excited to see Year 11 students begin their HSC journey.

Willyama High School students and staff have risen admirably to the challenge of relocating after mould was discovered in classrooms during the summer break.

The Department and other Broken Hill schools rallied quickly to ensure minimal disruption to learning. Counselling and support is available for affected students.

Students in a group outside. Students in a group outside.
Image: Students at White Cliffs Public headed back to school this week.
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