School is standing tall
Top: St Patrick’s students have enjoyed success in the combined primary schools state athletics carnival. Medal winners, from left, are Blake Hall, Laura Allan, Mike Nipperess and Kerrie Stephenson
Today its greatest claim to fame might well be the success of the small Catholic primary school of St Patrick’s.
Trundle, a farming town 70km west of Parkes, in central western NSW, is home to 600 people.
And St Patrick’s school, with an enrolment of 40-50 children, is its beating heart.
Everybody in the community pitches in to help, like the local policeman, for instance, who is also the swimming coach, or the parish priest who teaches Italian.
In 2004, the school is a thriving place of learning and excitement, a stark contrast to its situation a few years ago.
Then the students and teachers were assessed as lacking the skills and confidence to make use of computer technology.
Teacher Pam Burke says that the geographic isolation from libraries, museums, theatres and galleries was “mirrored in the children’s social naivety and low self-esteem”.
“The results in standardised tests also tended to reflect their limited exposure to literacy and numeracy in its many forms, other than that found in books,” she says.
The school’s response was to embrace the challenge of incorporating technology into all key learning areas while transforming teachers and students into competent technology users.
And its success was reflected in the recognition it received – as state winner of the Royal Life Saving Society’s water safety slogan competition; as one of 70 schools out of 1300 nationally to win an e-learning grant from the Commonwealth Bank; as state winner of a Hewlett Packard computer competition; and as winner of the Tidy Schools Award.
St Patrick’s is also regarded as a “lighthouse” school for technology in the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese.
Principal Sharon Phipps, who has been at the school for five years, says the awards show the children that no challenge is too great.
“We have a philosophy that we want every child to experience success each day,” she said.
“The awards have been a tremendous boost to morale for staff, students and parents. The school consumes all of the staff involved – it’s not just a job.”
In 2000 the Catholic Education Office, Wilcannia-Forbes, employed a technology coordinator to visit schools to help teachers incorporate technology into their everyday lessons.
Pam Burke says: “It quickly became obvious that the staff lacked the necessary skills and the confidence to make the best use of technology”.
“Two out of the four teachers had been employed at the school for more than 20 years and had sought no professional development in technology, and two others had been largely self-taught.
“Class surveys also indicated that few children were aware of technology.
“Our school had limited hardware and software was limited to a few CDs with no access to the internet.”
One of the teachers used her holidays to attend a quality teaching conference in Melbourne where the emphasis was on helping children become life-long learners through utilising technology.
She returned to the school better equipped to help the others incorporate technology into everyday learning.