St Gertrude’s school a place of welcome

St Gertrude’s students celebrate Harmony Day in cultural dress. Photo: Kitty Beale

Catholic Schools Week celebrations are set to highlight the inclusive environment at St Gertrude’s Catholic Primary Smithfield.

Principal Linda O’Regan said the inclusive nature of the community was visible in school programs that support the diverse learning needs of students, and the warm and practical welcome the school has given to students from families new to Australia from Syria and Iraq.

This includes teachers to help students make a smooth transition to school and become fluent in English. Newly arrived families are introduced to each other and to other families, so they can connect and speak to each other in the playground.

“We do put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that everyone feels welcome and included in the life of the school,” Mrs O’Regan said.

“At St Gertrude’s we have the EALD [English as an Additional Language or Dialect] teachers who meet newly arrived children and introduce them to their teachers. We will also meet with parents and carers to explain school processes and support their involvement in the life of the school.

“St Gertrude’s motto is to ‘Be respectful, be responsible, and be safe’. I really think being respectful comes from that culture. It’s something that we emphasise here, and something that also comes of attending school liturgies and Religious Education classes that explore how we are all made in the image and likeness of God – our children are respectful of all people no matter their cultural background.”

The school’s students are of more than 30 nationalities including Syrian, Vietnamese, Italian, Lebanese, and Polish. About 91 per cent of students at the school have a language background other than English, and 74 per cent speak English as an additional language or dialect.

The school library, which opens four mornings a week for ‘early bird’ reading sessions that parents can also join, is another place where families at the school can connect.

St Gertrude’s March 7 open day includes events to celebrate Sydney Catholic Schools’ theme ‘Inspiring Spirits and Minds’. A whole school liturgy and classroom tours will be held for visitors to view interactive learning experiences, and to see sport, music, dance and drama programs in action.

Parents and carers can also visit the school’s curriculum kiosks which showcase key aspects of St Gertrude’s’ learning and spiritual culture, along with the many co-curricular programs that inspire spirits and minds.

These include public speaking, Music, Dance and Drama programs. About 40 students rehearse with the school’s Dance troupe at lunchtime each week. A specialist sports teacher has also been employed at the school this year to provided added opportunities for students to grow their skills.

Students can also volunteer to be part of the school choir, which performs at parent gatherings, for the Parish community and at a Christmas Party the school has held for senior citizens each year since 1975.

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