Early Years Community Thrives at Good Samaritan Primary School
Good Samaritan Primary School in Roxburgh Park is home to a vibrant and compassionate community.
“The playgroups are not an adjunct to the school, they are part of the school,” said Principal Paul Sedunary.
The idiom ‘It takes a village’ is a living and breathing concept here at Good Samaritan Primary School. Their school homepage reads: “The goal of each Learning Village is to engage children, their families and the school staff to work together as a learning community that is dedicated to the creation of a culture of learning excellence.”
Paul talks about the five lively villages that flourish in the school grounds. These include the Jericho Community Learning Village which houses the playgroups and the adult learning programs.
“The ways that we design for learning, particularly in the early years, are informed by our knowledge of the kids here,” said Paul.
“The way that we position playgroup as a function of the school is to reach out into the community and to offer learning opportunities for kids pre-school.”
The school’s motto is Lives Fully Lived and the strategic plan of the school community focuses on this, providing a holistic experience for families. Paul said that they partner with families to help them live out their aspirations.
“Those set of principles can be universal,” said Paul.
John Stafford has been working as a Parent and Community Engagement Consultant at Good Samaritan Primary School for over three years.
“Our job is to do whatever it takes to enable that young person to become whatever they want to be. Part of doing that is to know and understand them and you cannot know and understand them unless you know their family and community. It’s all context.”
The Good Samaritan community is predominantly from an Iraqi background. Understanding the families and their journeys is critical to knowing each child. Central to the way the school works is ‘learning by the power of three’. It is the relationship, between children, parents and the school that is essential to achieving the best outcomes for children and the family.
“The playgroup is a perfect example of ‘learning by the power of three’,” said John.
“The parent, the child and the teacher in this case working together to extend the child, to support them. The parent learns, the child learns, we learn and that’s the way we want to model it, working together through the school.”
“That’s why it works so well for us and it works well for our families because they can shape their part of it rather than being told what we expect of them as a school. We are understanding what they bring, and they are understanding how we work and that’s where we come together.”
Paul said that they strive to build the capacity of the school within a holistic strategic framework that is culturally and contextually appropriate to meet the needs of the community.
He gives the example of school readiness: “We don’t necessarily talk about the child being ready for school, but rather, we talk about the school being ready for the child.”
Paul said it is a matter of adjustment for the school.
“It is part of a big project about rethinking the role of a school in its community and the role of learning by the power of three- how that shapes the strategic direction and operation of the school.”
“The kid is the kid, the family is the family. For us what playgroup does is give us another source of insight into the community and understanding who our families are and what their needs are- but also it directs how we change our practice here.”
Nancy Greige is the early years leader at Good Samaritan Primary School. She first introduced a playgroup at the end of 2015. It has since blossomed to five groups that visit throughout the week.
“The whole school is very community based, we value our families, we value helping our families,” said Nancy.
Regular visits from maternal child health nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, interpreters, parent support workers, early years students and trained playgroup staff make for a welcoming village, where families know that they can source information and support in a relational way.
“This enables these workers to build relationships with these families and help them access community services” said Nancy.
A series of thoughtful connections are creating meaning throughout the school community in Roxburgh Park.
“If we are going to make any improvement here, we can’t just improve what happens between prep and grade six, and between 8.50am and 3.30pm,” said John, “it has to be a much more holistic approach.”
The relationships forged between the child, the parent and the staff ensures that members of the community feel valued and heard. The school recognises the power of these forces working together.
Good Samaritan Primary School is reaching out, creating opportunities for their community to lead lives rich with meaning.