The building blocks of attendance

The building blocks of education click together at Yarrawarrah Public School and contribute to excellent student attendance. Linda Doherty reports.

Students sitting on a wooden floor playing with Lego. Students sitting on a wooden floor playing with Lego.
Image: A Lego theme linked to school activities has been a big hit among students at Yarrawarrah Public School.

Principal Kyleigh Nash has been on a five-year mission to make school so exciting that children leap out bed and can’t wait to get to their classroom.

The school has extensive procedures for attendance, but the X factor that has lifted the overall rate to above 95 per cent for the 250 students is the annual fun theme that links to school activities.

On the first day of term all Yarrawarrah Public School staff were at the school gate wearing ‘We build the future’ T-shirts to welcome students back to learning and reveal this year’s theme – Lego.

Every class is named after a Lego set that has the initial of the teacher’s surname. Ms Nash, for example, chose the NASA set and the principal’s office is adorned with space posters, a Lego globe and a star wall for student achievement.

“The theme really helps our students connect with the school and their class. Even our bell song is connected – ‘Everything is Awesome’ from ‘The Lego Movie’,” Ms Nash said.

“It’s an Olympics’ year in 2024 so we’ll have a Lego Olympics in July.”

It’s a fitting theme as the Lego building blocks are named for the Danish phrase ‘leg godt’ or ‘play well’.

Student reward certificates are branded with Lego motifs, as are the ‘We missed you’ cards students receive with a hand-written teacher note when they return to school from an absence.

At lunchtime there’s a Lego club for students, along with groups for Aboriginal culture, drawing, sewing, drama and the gardening and insect club. Before school there’s a run club and breakfast club.

“We like to think we go above and beyond, so our children really love coming to school, they feel they belong and it’s just exciting to be here,” Ms Nash said.

The students are voting with their feet. Last year the overall attendance rate was 94 per cent; so far this year it’s 95.1 per cent.

The percentage of students attending more than 90 per cent of school days climbed 11 percentage points from 72 per cent to 83.5 per cent between 2022 and 2023 and is currently tracking at 85.1 per cent.

A split image with a woman dressed as a astronaut surrounded by lego bricks and a girl watering a garden bed. A split image with a woman dressed as a astronaut surrounded by lego bricks and a girl watering a garden bed.
Image: Left: Principal Kyleigh Nash has a space themed office set-up. Right: Gardening is one of the activities students can participate in.

Attendance and wellbeing

Yarrawarrah Public School, on Dharawal Country near Engadine, also has designated staff as ‘Attendance Wellbeing Officers’ to formally recognise the link between attendance and wellbeing.

Each student has two adult staff mentors they choose who can check in on them in the playground or visit via a note popped in the wellbeing mailbox.

Students can use the wellbeing mailbox to reach out – ‘I had no one to play with today’ – or raise a practical concern, ‘There’s sand in the girls’ bathrooms’.

“It’s very much a community, everybody looks after everyone,” Ms Nash said.

The welcome party starts each morning with a teacher at the front gate to greet students and families.

Learning starts promptly at 9.20am with all classes engaging with their morning routine where students sit on the floor with their whiteboards for brain-starter fun facts.

“It’s beautiful to watch, everybody’s settled and learning, and we don’t get latecomers because the students love morning routine,” Ms Nash said.

“It helps with attendance in the morning because it improves punctuality as the students are through the gate and ready to learn.”

Learning Support Coordinator Linda Greening said CARE [Caring (for) And Respecting Everyone] groups run once a fortnight for mixed groups of students from Kindergarten to Year 6.

“The CARE groups focus on social emotional learning through The Zones of Regulation and the Kindness Curriculum, or we’ll take a specific look at a wellbeing issue,” she said.

The school also has an ‘attendance track’ on a staffroom wall to show how individual students are travelling with attendance. If a student falls below 90 per cent attendance a car with their name on it is put on the track.

Every fortnight the track is analysed by the Learning and Support Team so individual support can be provided to the students and families.

“It’s like a data wall so we can see in real time if there are students struggling with attendance and we can then offer individual support,” Ms Nash said.

Students standing inside a cubby house. Students standing inside a cubby house.
Image: Students at Yarrawarrah Public have a variety of activities to choose from.
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