Belonging at heart of KidsMatter community

St  Francis Xavier Catholic Primary Lurnea students were reminded that ‘every face has a place’ at a KidsMatter school picnic held at Western Sydney Parklands, Abbotsbury on October 21.

The school is about to enter the second part of the four-phase initiative, which promotes positive mental health and wellbeing through a whole-school focus on areas including belonging and social and emotional learning.

Students ate a sausage sizzle lunch together and took part in games including cricket and soccer at the picnic, which acted as an official school launch for the program.

Year 6 teacher Joseph Lentini is one of five teachers in the school’s KidsMatter Action Group.

The school surveyed students and parents at the beginning of the program. The data collected showed students were generally very happy at school, with most rating their level of happiness at more than four on a scale of one to five.

“KidsMatter has promoted a discussion and given teachers, parents and students the language to articulate their feelings and promote mental health and wellbeing,” Mr Lentini said.

“I believe this is important in early intervention and to having students with positive mental health. There are studies which show that through a focus on wellbeing students’ academic growth is higher and it translates in social areas as well.

“If you look at statistics, mental health is quite poor in some communities and as students get older it becomes more of an issue. We want kids to be happy at school so they can thrive.”

We are all friends at St Francis Xavier.

– Joshua Joseph

The KidsMatter picnic will become a biannual event to further the school’s focus on belonging.

Students now wear red wristbands printed with the words ‘I belong, you belong, we belong’ after a competition was held for students to come up with a slogan that promoted inclusiveness.

Year 6 students Bethany Alvaro, 12, and Joshua Joseph, 11, led the school’s peer support program this year with their peers and teachers.

Both see value in being part of a KidsMatter school.

“I really like how everyone can be involved in all the activities that we do,’ Bethany said.

“We’ve had the picnic, the slogan competition and done a lot of surveys as well. It’s really fun to do all of it together.

“We made paper dolls with our faces on them and we decorated them to show that every face has a place. They’re on the glass doors of the library where everybody can see them. You decorated them to express how you look and how you are as a person. It’s really cool.

“We’ve also put up a lot of posters around the school with slogans on them about belonging, family and friends so you can see them while you’re walking. It makes you feel happier and more positive.”

KidsMatter has given teachers, parents and students the language to articulate their feelings.

– Joseph Lentini

Joshua said he liked that everyone joined together through activities like the picnic day.

“Peer support is a mix of every class K to 6, and it’s about building resilience and making friends,” he said. “You do activities and have fun.

“Before we had this thing called a Buddy Bench where people wait for friends. Now no one uses it because we are all friends at St Francis Xavier.”

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