New Mortlake school builds solid foundations

Leading the new: St Patrick’s Mortlake Assistant Principal Catherine Funston and Principal Mandy Westlake. Photo: Kitty Beale

The agile classroom spaces in progress at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School Mortlake are not the only element ready to encourage imagination and learning among the school’s first students.

Foundation principal Mandy Westgate and Assistant Principal Catherine Funston have taken a child-centred approach to gathering resources, appointing staff and building an inclusive community vibe at the school.

It will open to Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 in February next year and grow to include students through to Year 6. Parents have already expressed interest in their children joining the school community in 2018 and through to 2021.

Mrs Westgate grew up in the Mortlake area and credits the St Patrick’s parish with forming her faith. She was previously the principal at St Kevin’s Catholic Primary School Eastwood for six years. As a member of the NSW Ministerial Advisory Group on Literacy and Numeracy and literacy and numeracy committees within Sydney Catholic Schools, she is set to ensure the students’ foundations for life-long learning are strong.

“Starting the school we had to have strength and quality in our teaching staff who appreciate what the early learner already brings to school,” Mrs Westgate said.

“There will be a range of resources and furniture so that we can have that flexibility of great areas for explicit teaching as well as those where we can work on inquiry-based learning and exploration with the children.

There’s a uniqueness about it that you can’t replicate.

– Mandy Westgate

“There are wonderful positive advantages to being a smaller community to start off with – to build the connectedness between the students which will give them a greater sense of wellbeing and confidence in themselves.

“Some of the parents who have enrolled their children here have come from that experience and wanted to see that for their own children. There’s a uniqueness about it that you can’t replicate.”

Miss Funston is equally passionate about early literacy and supported other teachers in Sydney’s inner west to develop children’s literacy skills between working as a Kindergarten teacher and Religious Education Coordinator at St Columba’s Catholic Primary North Leichhardt. She has previously taught in England, Alice Springs, and at another Catholic school during its inception.

Our kids are so lucky to have this kind of energy being put into their education.

– Christina Moravski

Miss Funston said the gift of a new school was the ability to get the foundations right, recognising that all children start school at different levels and with different strengths.

“There’s so much research about how children learn to read and write so we have the opportunity to implement what we know is good teaching practice with brand new resources,” she said.

“We’ve had parents come in whose children have been tested in the gifted range. It’s our duty to cater for that, and we do that naturally because we take the child from where they are at.”

Christina Moravski’ son Harrasem, 5, will begin Kindergarten at St Patrick’s next year.

The Breakfast Point local provided a parent perspective in the early stages of the school’s development and said it was exciting to see the progress.

“We had the opportunity to go to a full-day visioning workshop, even before planning,” she said. “The amount of consultation that was being put into different areas to make sure that the school was the best it could be filled me with a lot of confidence. Our kids are so lucky to have this kind of energy being put into their education.

“We went for an interview at the enrolment centre and Harrasem was rapt. I think there are so many benefits to being in such a lovely, focused environment.

“The other thing that is quite exciting and unique is getting the chance to develop that school community from the get-go. There are no cliques; everyone coming next year is invested in the school. It’s a good chance to start off on a great footing.”

St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School is at 1 Adams Street, Mortlake. Details: 9736 1797.

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