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Small schools a place of big hearts

Teaching in a small town like Moulamein meant Jennie Wilson needed to quickly become the ‘master of everything’.

Jennie Wilson and students

Jennie Wilson with students at Moulamein Public School.

As 98 percent of NSW feels the devastating impacts of drought, schools across the state have seen firsthand the challenges faced by their communities.

Moulamein Public School principal Jennie Wilson knew there was an important role for her team to play in supporting their 60 students – and the entire town of 300 people on the banks of the Edward River in south-western NSW.

She told Secretary Mark Scott on the Every Student Podcast the school is working to “ease the burden of farmers” who are doing it tough.

“[Our students] get on that bus and they come to school and they have a really great day,” Ms Wilson said.

“Their grass is green and they are coming to school because they want to come to school.

“If [the families] are not worried about school then that is one less thing that they need to worry about in their life.”

While the school has supported the community throughout the drought – putting families in touch with mental health resources and helping organise food hampers where needed – the community has also helped the school reach their goals.

“Community members come in and run really amazing art workshops such as glass-making, mosaics,” Ms Wilson said. “We had painting and drawing oil pastel classes, we also had some great science workshops.”

The workshops have driven growth in student attendance, something Ms Wilson flagged as an issue early on in her time at Moulamein.

“If they are at school for [the workshops] they are at school to read every day as well,” she said.

“They actually nag their parents to come to school, which is exactly what I want.”

The students’ results speak volumes about engagement.

“In 2016 and 2017 I had about 20% of our students in the top two bands for NAPLAN. Last year 100% of our students in Year 3 are in the top two bands for Reading,” she said.

Mr Scott applauded the work of Ms Wilson and other small school principals.

“The weight that a small school principal carries not just with those kids but in the community, you will be a big figure in that town,” he said.

Listen to the full episode now:

Read the transcript of Every Student Podcast: Jennie Wilson.

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