As a parent of two children attending Crafers Primary School – the oldest of whom is in his eighth year – I would like to begin this report with an observation. Those who attended and worked at the school in its foundation year, 1866, would be moved beyond belief by the changes that have occurred – not least in the School’s address but in education, in technology and in the breadth of curriculum and resources that support our children’s development. But I feel sure that they would, despite the overwhelming unfamiliarity, feel foremost the same strong sense of community, fellowship and mutual care that characterised their village school.

While I’m sure that other schools in our region might make a similar claim, our ‘small school’ atmosphere, student and staff retention rate, very active parent body and growing extra-curricular opportunities for parents and children to build relationships, all work towards a cohesive and engaged school community. This remains an enduring pleasure for me to observe, even though I’m no longer a regular part of the ‘gathering at the gate’ that sees so many parents of Reception children begin relationships and friendships that last through to Year 7.

It is in that context that the School celebrated its 150th last year, most notably in the immensely successful 150th Fete but also in the classroom, with students researching and exploring the school’s history in myriad activities through the year. It was especially pleasing to see so many past students attend the Fete and share their memories. Ultimately, the vast majority of parents, families and staff was involved in the celebration through classroom activities, Old School Day (who can forget John Nielsen ringing that bell or the effort by staff to dress up!) and the end of year celebration. We look forward to similar whole-school events being held in the future. Without wishing to exclude the many who burnt midnight oil, I reserve special thanks for Kylie Hopkins for the success of the 150th Fete.

Much of what our Principal, Deputy and staff do in the course of a year goes without recognition: the fewer the bumps and the smoother the daily routine, the less that people seem to notice. So it is fitting for me to pay formal tribute on behalf of Council and the School community for a most successful 2016 to Chris Minear, John Nielsen and all of their wonderful staff, including those who left us at the end of the year. I mention two of the latter for different reasons. Sue Fox, now retired, spent many years here and was an exemplar of the dedication and commitment that all our teachers show. We wish her well in a classroom-free life. At the other end of the spectrum was someone who only spent a year here: Kirby Dickinson. His energy in the classroom, his bonding with students and his huge contribution to after-hours and extra-curricular activity were a measure not only of his character, but of the inspiration and commitment that our school and staff inspire.

John Nielsen is another whose service to the school has been remarkable over a long time, and his reluctant (I believe!) but very capable filling of Chris Minear’s position during her well-deserved leave in Term 4 was appreciated and enjoyed by all. Thank you John.

Behind the school’s achievements there is also an extraordinary number of equally extraordinary parents who contribute to the School through membership of Council and its Committees, volunteering for everything from classroom reading and preparing lunch orders to barbecues, garden improvement and fitness training. To all of you, I say thank you on behalf of the whole school and encourage you to continue your effort and encourage others to share the experience. I note the retirement of members of Council at this meeting. I thank them all and appreciate the extra effort that has been put into Council and School concerns over the past twelve months. Two Councillors have decided not to renominate. Julie Manning has served for a number of years and over nearly two years steered the OSHC Committee through the successful establishment of our truly wonderful after-hours care operation. That OSHC continues to provide such a wonderful and financially sound service is due in no small way to Julie’s input. Patrick Bolte also stands down, having served most notably on the School Development Committee and demonstrated a passionate commitment to ensuring that Council not only met its obligations but also provided well-considered input to some of the School’s fundamental planning processes and – very visibly – the School website. The School is a better place for both Julie and Patrick’s contributions and I look forward to their examples being followed.

In 2016, Council – representing the many views that it receives – was more deeply involved in the development of the School’s cornerstone planning framework: the Site Improvement Plan. Council’s role is to ensure that the thoughts and needs of the school community are reflected in the Plan, and that the whole school body works collaboratively to achieve students’ positive development. The review of that Plan for 2017 will be a priority for the incoming Council.

Council also contributed to the formal review of the School by DECD and the review report certainly highlighted the level of parental engagement as one of many attributes of CPS.

When mentioning earlier the extra-curricular side of School life, I had several things in mind, each of them a fine example of the ‘above and beyond’ attitude that permeates School life. Around half of our students learn a musical instrument within the school day. This is truly remarkable and the musical side of CPS has become a strong point of difference and celebration. It is a tribute to our music staff and the many specialist teachers and mentors who inspire and encourage our fine musicians in the making. Some 40-50 students also participate in Pedal Prix and over a number of years Crafers has occupied all places on the winners’ podium. Parents of these students, and supporting staff, have built a formidable training and competition regime of which we can all be proud. Involvement in SAPSASA, in the Festival of Music, in After School Performance Group… what a lively place our children bring us to!

Amongst the extra-curricular is the work of the Parents & Friends/Fundraising Committee. As in all cases at CPS, for ‘committee’ read ‘people’, for that’s who’s responsible. Quiz night, barbecues at every event, Mothers’/Fathers’ Day stalls… these raised $24,459 in 2016. Fundraising lets us achieve many things that would otherwise not be possible, and Naidine Cullen deserves special thanks for her continuing commitment to the process.

But in the end, it is not in our achievements that we find our measure, but rather in the way we rise to the challenges we meet. I believe that we – as a whole school community – can lead, support and prepare our children even better when facing a future that is uncertain in employment opportunities and economic challenge. We can find new ways to use technology in a more innovative and creative manner. And as parents, we can find better ways of using home education, stimulation and challenge to complement the work done in the classroom.

As my oldest child enters his last year at Crafers, I reflect on all that Crafers has given him, on all that I and his mother hope he learns this year, and on the prospect of his secondary school recognising him as another fine graduate of Crafers Primary School.

Finally, I thank Council for letting me contribute in my own small, sometimes idiosyncratic way. It is a pleasure to do so.

Colin Koch AM


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