My role as a Defence School Transition Aide
My name is Thérèse McTavish and this is my ninth year as the Defence School Transition Aide (DSTA) at Kapooka Public School.
Ours is the most wonderful small school!
It is fortunate to have experienced and dedicated staff members who have an extensive understanding of children from a variety of backgrounds, whether it is Defence or from the local community.
Our experience allows us to have a better insight of what occurs during a transition period (e.g. when children move from one school to another) as well as providing additional support whenever needed.
The staff at Kapooka Public School (KPS) work closely together to ensure that all children are supported, not just academically, but also emotionally and socially to help them achieve their full potential.
My long association with Defence
Due to my husband's postings and deployments while he was a Defence Force member, we have moved 13 times in 16 years (11 of those times with children). That experience as well as having an education degree (Primary), enables me to fully appreciate the impact that moving can have on a child's education and their social and emotional wellbeing.
I also understand the effects that moving can have on the whole family. Therefore, I feel it is imperative to have support for the whole family unit. If for any reason I am unable to provide the support that is required to help make your time in Wagga more rewarding, a team of Wagga Wagga Defence Community Organisation (DCO) members or other local agencies are able to help, as well as our Regional Education Liaison Officer (REDLO), Suzanne McBride.
I am happy to talk with parents particularly whenever a problem or concern arises, as are all staff members.
Supporting the children.
When a child first arrives at our school we ensure that they feel welcomed and a part of the school community as soon as possible.
- Welcome Packs
When a child arrives at our school they receive a Welcome Pack which includes a personalised certificate, a booklet all about Kapooka Public School with tips on how to settle into school, an information sheet about my role, a long list of children's clubs and activities available in Wagga Wagga and a list of books that can be borrowed from the DSTA's parent & children's library.
- Buddy Groups
We also provide a more formal Buddy Group session in Term One teaching important pro-social skills and values which contribute to friendships and other social relationships. This is a school wide program.
- Friendship Groups
This year, once a week, four separate groups of children come to a ‘Friendship Club' aimed at giving the children a variety of skills which enriches their ability to make friends and enjoy their company. Friendship Club also helps children apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. (This is based on CASEL – Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning's framework).
- Children with Special Needs
The level of support I provide varies depending on the individual child and their needs.
For children who find socialising and understanding emotions difficult (particularly children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder) I have implemented some emotional and social development programs which enable children to understand and label their emotions. This in turn allows them to develop their social skills and to help them make and maintain friends more easily.
- Monitoring students
During lunch and recess times (for at least 3 recesses and 3 lunches per week) I spend time with the children on the playground. I am then able to monitor the children's friendship and peer groups and offer support when necessary.
- Lunchtime activities
The school staff offers a variety of activities for the children to do within the library four lunchtimes a week. Some of the activities offered are:
dress ups (dress up clothing can be worn in the playground…great for imaginative play);
In our spacious, green playground we have a ‘passive play' area, a vegetable garden, a football field, full size basketball/ netball court, playground equipment, sandpit, handball court, volleyball court, giant chess board set and checkers set and a HUGE array of sporting equipment. There is always something to do during lunch and recess, or a quiet area for children who'd like to have a quieter time.
- Absent parents
From experience, we find it very helpful if we know when a parent is going to be away from home, (ie. family reasons, exercises, deployments, courses or even at the beginning of a platoon) as it allows us to understand why a child's behaviour may change. For this reason I provide all families with a ‘Parent Away' form, which allows you to notify myself and the staff if a parent/ carer is going to be absent.
For longer periods of separation, or when a child finds it difficult to cope with the change, I happily provide resources for the children to use at home, such as countdown calendars, as well as providing strategies to help cope with the separation.
To help a child welcome a parent home, the children are able to make a ‘Welcome Home' poster during lunchtime.
When the time arises, I help prepare the children to leave the school by providing a variety of ‘preparation for moving' activities.
Several weeks before a child leaves our school, the child is given a ‘Location Pack' which includes an address book and tourist information brochures on the gaining location. These brochures can be used to discuss the new location with mum and dad. I find that it is important to work in conjunction with the parents before a child leaves our school, as support given by parents is essential and it is the one constant a child can rely on during a transition from one home, community and school to the next.
During lunch time in the final few weeks the children have the opportunity to role play the upcoming moving day. This is a very popular activity for the younger children who may not remember their move into Wagga Wagga. The children are also given a ‘treasure chest' which they can decorate and use to place memorabilia of their time at KPS and in Wagga Wagga.
In the final week at school, the child is also given in a ‘farewell pack', which includes a farewell certificate and a special note from their class amongst other fun things!
- Families welcome
Throughout the year I host morning teas to enable parents to catch up with old friends and possibly meet some new ones!
The school hosts a very useful information night at the beginning of each year, which also incorporates a welcome / welcome back BBQ for the whole family.
- DSTA availability during the week
I am available from Monday to Thursday from 9.00am - 3.00pm
- Family Assistance Support Team (FAST)
Regularly throughout the year, our Principal, Lyn Eacott and I participate in the FAST meetings which are held on base at the Army Recruit Training Centre. These meetings are led by the Commandant and the S1 and include various leaders at ARTC and 1RTB, DCO and other important key stakeholders from Wagga. We work closely together to ensure that our families are receiving the best possible support during their stay in Wagga.
- Wagga Community
Within my position I feel it is important to inform families of upcoming events in the Wagga community, which I do so in the school's newsletter each week. In addition, I send home a ‘What's on in Wagga' brochure which is collated by the Wagga Wagga City Council each month.
- Parent Contact Booklet
To enable parents to make contact with other families from KPS, I collate and distribute a Parent Contact Booklet early in Term One as well as an updated version during the year when new families arrive. This includes parents' names and phone contact details. It is optional to be included in this booklet.
Educational Support for children.
If a defence member's child moves to Kapooka Public School from another location and has school aged children, they may be entitled to 14 weeks of tutoring in any subject that has been identified by the school as representing a gap in the child's learning. In other words, you may be eligible to access one hour of tutoring, per subject, per week.
Please refer to the ‘Educational Assistance' tab on the following link for further Tutoring Information
Thanks to the generosity of the ARTC's Regimental Trust Fund and a Wagga Wagga City Council grant, I have been able to establish a Parent Resource Library for families within the school. There are over 150 books, CDs (which are also in book form) & DVDs that are available for parents to borrow as well as about 15 games for children that make learning about life a little more fun!
We welcome any questions that you may have and look forward to meeting you in the near future.
Defence School Transition Aide
Kapooka Public School
Ph: 02 6931 2703