NAPLAN: adjustments for students with learning support needs

podcast-2665984_960_720.png

In this interview we speak with Mary Kerba. Mary is an experienced educator, combining special needs education and school leadership. Mary is the founder of the Hills Learning Centre, a current professional member of SPELD NSW and Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA); a committee member of the Learning Difficulties Coalition (LDC) and an associate member of the Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA).

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 3.56.48 pm.png

Music: "Sunny" www.bensound.com

NAPLAN: what can parents do to help prepare their Year 3 and Year 5 children

podcast-2665984_960_720.png

In this interview we speak with Mary Kerba. Mary is an experienced educator, combining special needs education and school leadership. Mary is the founder of the Hills Learning Centre, a current professional member of SPELD NSW and Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA); a committee member of the Learning Difficulties Coalition (LDC) and an associate member of the Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA).

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 3.56.48 pm.png

 

 

Music: "Sunny" www.bensound.com

Tagged: podcastNAPLAN

0 Likes 

Share

NAPLAN and Managing Anxiety with Ruth Fordyce

podcast-2665984_960_720.png

In this interview we speak with Ruth Fordyce. Ruth is a registered psychologist from the Resilience Centre, Epping NSW. Ruth explains anxiety, what is normal and when to be concerned. She offers practical ways parents can assist their children dealing with anxiety in the NAPLAN test period.

 

enl_DSC_7114.jpg

Parenting in the Digital Age

The Day by Day: Learning Together app is designed for mums and dads with children up to three years old.  The app prompts parents to play simple learning games and do activities in everyday environments, such as the kitchen, bathroom, outdoors and travelling.  Maria, who has three children under five years old, says she and her husband downloaded the app to their phones and spend a couple of minutes looking at it each weekday.
 
'The activities are quick and straightforward, so even after a busy day, it doesn't take much effort to complete one to two activities that we'll try with the kids over the next few days,' Maria says. '" I am already noticing how they are more intrigued about everything we do — asking questions and fascinated about the simple things while learning at the same time."
 
Parents can even design the app's characters to look like themselves and their child.  The app is readily accessible on Android and Apple smart phones, tablets, and designed so there are no ongoing data usage costs.

The State Government invested $300,000 into the app, while Save the Children, one of Australia's largest aid and development agencies, oversaw its development.  Save the Children worked with researchers, policymakers and practitioners, and consulted with parents to develop the app.

Save the Children Australia State Manager for Victoria and South Australia Claire Febey says "The app creates healthy habits and attitudes by rewarding players for completion of small goals.  It brings families closer as kids learn new things and together they share accomplishments" 
Minister for Early Childhood Education Jenny Mikakos says "The project aligns with the $202.1 million Education State Early Childhood Reform Plan, created to provide more support for parenting - particularly for first-time parents who may not have easy access to facilities and services".
 
For more information, see:
Early Childhood Reform Plan
Download Day by Day for iPhone or iPad from the Apple Store
Download Day by Day for Android devices from Google Play

MENINGOCOCCAL VACCINATION PROGRAM

The Andrews Labor Government is extending a free meningococcal vaccination program so even more young Victorians can be protected against the deadly disease. This follows the inaction from the Turnbull Government which continues to shirk its responsibility leaving young people behind in the fight against this disease.

Visiting Traralgon Secondary College, Minister for Health Jill Hennessy MP announced there would be free meningococcal vaccines for all young people in Year 10 of secondary school, as well as those young people not in secondary school but of an equivalent age (15 or 16 years old).

They will be able to get the vaccine at school, at their GP or through their local council immunisation session and they’ll be protected against four strains of meningococcal disease, ‘A’, ‘C’, ‘W’ and ‘Y’.


“Our local schools, GPs and councils will be working with students and families to offer this free life-saving vaccine to young Victorians, and help protect the wider community by reducing the spread of the disease.”


https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/protecting-more-victorian-teens-from-meningococcal/

MEDIA RELEASE

 

Friday, 5th January, 2018 - Keeping our Childcare, Kinders Safe and up to Scratch

Minister for Families and Children - Jenny Mikakos:  "Quality education and care is what every young child deserves - we're cracking down on those dodgy providers who fall short."  "The vase majority of our early childhood services do a fantastic job, but we want parents to rest assured action is taken if providers do the wrong thing."  " We've stepped up inspections by more than 60% compared ot the previous Government to ensure all Victorian kids are in a safe and caring early years service."
https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/180105-Keeping-Our-Childcare-Kinders-Safe-And-Up-To-Scratch.pdf

Useful Links - Term 1 2018

“Math saves lives” - Mathematics
http://splash.abc.net.au/home?sf178326000=1

Working with Children Screening Checks Guide (VIC) *updated*
The Victorian guide has been updated to reflect changes to Victoria's working with children laws, which came into effect on 1 August 2017.
http://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/ 
 
FAQ for Parents and Citizens associations
Below are the most current FAQ for Parents and Citizens associations (P&Cs) and Parents and Friends associations (P&Fs) which outlines their obligations to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) if they are registered. The only difference between the documents is the use of ‘P&C’ and ‘P&F’.  Please pass this on to the P&Cs/P&Fs that you assist or include the FAQ in welcome packs/committee handover checklists or website as an additional resource.

The ACNC Webinar for P&Cs:
http://www.acnc.gov.au/ACNC/Comms/Multimedia/Webinar_20172103.aspx

Non-Government Schools and the Quality Schools package –
Independent Schools Council of Australia

The per student base funding component of the new funding model is calculated as a Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), intended as a measure of the cost of effective and efficient provision ...
http://isca.edu.au/blog/non-government-schools-quality-schools-package/

The Impact of Machines on Jobs
“At least one-third of tasks could be automated in about 60% of jobs, which means substantial changes for employers and workers.
However, history shows that, while technology is disruptive, it also creates jobs. Between 8% and 9% of new jobs in 2030 will not have existed before. In addition, certain sectors, such as healthcare and technology, would see a massive growth in jobs.”
These are the jobs most likely to be taken by robots | World Economic Forum
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/robots-coming-for-800-million-jobs/
 
Great resource from NZ Parent-Education
https://parents.education.govt.nz/essential-information/news-stories/back-to-school-tips/
 

Social media readiness
https://www.esafety.gov.au/education-resources/iparent/staying-safe/social-networking/social-media-readiness?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=i_parent&utm_term=social_media&utm_content=social_media

Mental Health and Cyberbullying

Support to promote the health and wellbeing of our state's students
Schools have a range of strategies in place to promote positive mental health. 
This includes creating positive environments, maintaining strong connections with families and communities and social and emotional learning.
In committing to promoting positive mental health, our schools can also help to foster satisfaction and success in all aspects of their students' lives.
 
In February 2018, the Victorian Government announced additional support to promote the health and wellbeing of our state's students.
With a specific focus on mental health and bullying, this investment will give our schools the resources and tools they need to maintain a positive environment.
Recognising a growing need, this additional support will also include a dedicated focus on preventing suicide. 
Together, these investments will help support the work of our schools and ensure our kids are happy and healthy.
Mental health
http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/health/mentalhealth/Pages/healthyminds.aspx

Cyberbullying
 “Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham has called for a total ban on the use of mobile phones during school time, in a bid to crack down on cyberbullying. 
 
What do you think - Should we ban mobile phones at schools? And how would such a ban be policed? Let us know in the comments below. #9Today”

https://www.facebook.com/VicParents/posts/1589125084469870

The VPC Seminar 2017 at Brighton Grammar School   “Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Digital Age” with Dr Glenn Melvin

Questions from the audience

In relation to antidepressants for anxiety in teens/children, once they are on them is it feasible that they will be able to come off them?
There are two phases of treating depression in adolescents, the response phase and then the maintenance phase. The response phase is getting the teenager well. Once a person has improved on antidepressants they have had a response. The maintenance phase is keeping the teen well.  For one episode of depression the maintenance phase is between 6 to 12 months depending on the side effects.  If the person has more than one episode of depression then it is longer, and the timelines are less clear.  When the person has been well for a while, during a quiet time, like school holidays it is worth gradually reducing the dose and seeing if they (1) need to remain on the antidepressant at all, and (2) if they can manage on a lower dose.
 
In addition, if teen doesn’t respond to the antidepressant, that is, it doesn’t resolve the symptoms that were targeted, the teen may come off the antidepressant or switch to another antidepressant.
 
Also note, there is much more evidence that antidepressants are a helpful treatment of teens rather than children.
 

What were the two books regarding anxious children you mentioned in your talk?
You and Your Anxious Child by Anne Marie Albano
https://www.bookdepository.com/You-and-Your-Anxious-Child/9781583334959
Helping Your Anxious Child by Ronald Rapee
https://www.bookdepository.com/Helping-Your-Anxious-Child/9781572245754
 

I have a popular, emotionally intelligent & socially engaged boy so he is not shy or introverted. Right now at age 11, he is starting to worry about what he is going to do with his life and that he isn't smart enough. He is having trouble sleeping & getting tummy aches. How can I help him besides just assure him?
While it is hard to make specific comments about a child without having met with the child and family and completing an assessment, a few general thoughts come to mind.
 
It is important to listen to your child and provide empathic responses. Show that you can see that worries are bothering him. This type of validation can be containing for children. There may be other fears underlying those that are currently being expressed and if they feeling safe and able to express himself, you may learn more and therefore be able to help more.
 
It is important to emphasise that it is normal to be unsure about one’s career choice during adolescence and particularly at 11 years. Focus on the importance of searching and exploring interests, rather than having a career determined in late childhood.
 
Boys can be a competitive bunch, so competition about who performed the best on a test or in a term isn’t unusual. However, being smart isn’t the only thing. Persistence and determination, which some have called ‘grit’ plays a very important role in achievement and being productive. Angela Duckworth’s writing in this area might be of interest https://angeladuckworth.com/
 
Sleep difficulties and tummy aches may be symptoms of anxiety.  If these persist consult your GP for advice or referral. It is better to get onto learning strategies to cope with stress or anxiety and its symptoms earlier rather than later.


What strategies can children/parents use to cover the move from school to school? (especially from small primary to large secondary) 
Changing schools is a time of increased stress for most kids and teens. Expressing that it is normal to feel some anxiety or unsettled feelings when starting at a new school may be helpful. Also pointing out that this anxiety tends to settle down in time is helpful.
 
Children may need more rest or downtime during transition to a new school, so it is important to take this into account when scheduling extra-curricular activities. Around transition time, make sure you are a bit more available for your child too, providing them with opportunities to tell you about how school is progressing and what is on their mind.  Be aware of the homework demands and ensure your child has the time and space to complete his/her tasks.

Support the development of new friendships by supporting social activities, e.g. having friends over or going to the movies, playing sport on the weekend.
If you are concerned, contact your child’s teacher earlier rather than later, to see if any issues need to be addressed. Connecting with other parents can also be helpful to gauge how your child is progressing compared to others.

Why does there appear to be so many more kids suffering from anxiety? Does the research support that this is the case?
In 2015, the Australian Government released the Second Australian Child & Adolescent Survey on Mental Health & Wellbeing. This survey found that 6.9% of Australian children and teens experienced one or more anxiety disorder in the past 12 months. Many more would experience anxiety to a lesser level that may have a lesser impact on their lives. Unfortunately, the prior national survey did not assess anxiety disorders, so we don’t have any good data to show any kind of change in child and adolescent anxiety.
 
However, there is some evidence to suggest from these national surveys that rates of mental health problems have increased slightly. It is not entirely clear why, but many theories exist. While some stigma still certainly exists around mental health, reductions in stigma are thought to be associated with increased reporting of mental health problems. Beyond this, changes to our social structure are also thought to play a role in increasing risk of mental illness.  

I think OCD should be put down as an anxiety disorder for kids/teens. I think it is one parents should be aware of as well as eating disorders.
This is an interesting nosological (classification of diseases) point! Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was thought of as an anxiety disorder up until 2013. It now sits in a new grouping of disorders called Obsessive and Related Disorders that includes hoarding disorder and skin picking disorder. I, too, think that it is an important disorder for parents to know about. I would have liked to have spoken about it but was limited by time. Eating disorders are also important for parents to be aware of, particularly in young women, while not forgetting that young men can also affected. Being aware of the warning signs of both these disorders is important. The Butterfly Foundation is a good source of Australian information about eating disorders https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

How do we encourage optimistic thinking in the elderly?
According to eminent psychologist Martin Seligman, optimism can be learned. This can be achieved by modifying our responses to daily stressors and hassles and modifying how we respond to such adversity. Seligman wrote a book on this topic called Learned Optimism. It might be a useful resource.

NAPLAN by Dr Tracy Robinson

Dr Tracy Robinson is a senior research fellow at the Monash Centre for Health Research & Implementation.  As a registered nurse and a doctor of psychology, she has extensive experience working in the field of mental health and supporting the wellbeing of young people.  We’re most grateful to her for once again providing an article for this term’s newsletter.
 
There has been much talk about NAPLAN testing over the past week with research by Dr John Ainley that found over the last decade Year 9 results in reading and numeracy have barely improved. Between 2008 and 2017, numeracy scores across all states and year levels stagnated. Moderate improvements in literacy were identified for some primary schools but were not sustained when students reached high schools. Dr Ainsley’s review is the most comprehensive analysis of NAPLAN data to date and raises some serious questions about the utility of this testing. Originally designed to help governments and schools identify whether students are meeting their key learning outcomes, NAPLAN has now become a source of anxiety and stress for students, their parents and teachers. In fact three state governments have called for a review of NAPLAN because of its potential to impact negatively on teaching and learning – especially because so much attention is now focused on this testing which occurs in Years 3,5,7 and 9.

While no one would disagree that literacy and numeracy are essential to children’s success, NAPLAN testing is coming under increasing scrutiny – not least because it is often used as a measure of a school’s performance – which it is not! In fact, it can be argued that the test results only tell teachers (who do a great job) what they already know in terms of identifying students who are facing challenges in their learning. Of more concern, is the question of whether NAPLAN results might contribute to low self- esteem in very young children who do have the ability to understand the whole context of the assessments. Also, because NAPLAN does not make accommodation for students who are new to Australia or who have spent less than five years speaking English we need to consider whether this is fair on students and schools.

One thing that gets overlooked in this debate is that there are many types of literacy young people need to prepare them for life and the world of work in the 21st century. Data and computer literacy, cultural literacy, emotional literacy and even media literacy which involves building young people’s skills to think critically about different forms of media. Recently, there has been much attention on emotional literacy – the ability to understand and express feelings. This relies on having self-awareness and being able to recognise and manage one’s own feelings. Emotional literacy also includes empathy – being sensitive to other people’s feelings and situations, which is essential for developing communication skills. The term emotional intelligence is sometimes used interchangeably in the academic literature where it has become an area of increasing interest and research. Emotionally intelligent people are able to identify, use, understand and regulate emotions (their own and other people’s). In the world of business and management it is widely accepted that emotional intelligence/literacy improves relations in organisations and increases the performance of employees and the organisation as a whole. The literature on leadership identifies emotional intelligence as a key attribute of effective leaders.

It is also worth thinking about the relationship between emotional literacy and bullying. Many young people who bully others frequently experience overwhelming feelings of anger, excitement, boredom or even fear and do not know to empathise with their peers who may look or act differently. Some schools now run programs to increase emotional literacy but with all the focus on NAPLAN testing it is hard for schools to make time in an already crowded curriculum.  Is it time to now broaden our understanding of literacy and focus more on skills that build the resilience and emotional wellbeing of young people? In Dr Ainley’s report on NAPLAN, he questions whether we should have more focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills (in line with international trends). We need to move on from old definitions that focus only on reading literacy. Many schools in Victoria now take a “whole school” approach and allocate more teaching time for reading. It is these kinds of programs and more intensive interventions for young people who are struggling that make the difference – not the NAPLAN testing. And perhaps it’s also time to reflect on the good job our teachers and schools do in terms of supporting our children and ensure they have adequate funding. Instead, we continue to see deep cuts in funding for local schools, despite the Gonski review which held such promise for our education system.

Annual Seminar 2017 - Mental health and wellbeing in a digital age

21151493_1432745436774503_2498411409897417407_n.jpg

We were delighted by the fantastic turnout at our 2017 Annual Seminar on September 1, which focussed on supporting young people's mental wellbeing in an increasingly connected world.  We had a wonderfully diverse range of attendees, including parents, educators, social workers, charities and mental health professionals, from throughout Victoria.

Many thanks to everybody who attended, as well as all those who made this seminar possible. We are most grateful to Brighton Grammar School for hosting us in their beautiful new Wellbeing Centre; to Sally Pryde of the Department of Education and Training; and to Tim Wilson, federal MP for the electorate of Goldstein, who officially opened the seminar and kicked the day off to a great start.

And of course, all praise is due to our brilliant speakers and their relevant and engaging insights into student wellbeing:

  • Christine Ireland, past president of the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented, who spoke about social and emotional issues facing high-achieving students
     
  • Josh Reid Jones, founder of the Just Be Nice project, who discussed the project's focus on social responsibility and providing equal opportunity through housing, employment and mental health
     
  • Dr. Glen Melvin, senior lecturer and clinical psychologist at the Monash University Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, who discussed anxiety in children and ways of supporting children's mental health using a range of phone apps
     
  • Martine Oglethorpe, Accredited eSafety Presenter at Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner, who discussed digital resilience and potential online traps for young people
     
  • Casper Pieters, of SOOCed, who spoke about how parents can support their children to became safe and responsible digital citizens
     
  • Kylie Warry, lead trainer with Teamology, discussed how parents can assist their children in building resilience through a strengths-based approach

You can see more photos and read more about the Seminar over on our Facebook!

Tracy Robinson: Stress, exercise and relaxation

Dr Tracy Robinson is a senior research fellow at the Monash Centre for Health Research & Implementation. As a registered nurse and a doctor of psychology, she has extensive experience working in the field of mental health and supporting the wellbeing of young people. We’re most grateful to her for once again providing an article for this term’s newsletter.


pexels-photo-312839.jpeg

We all have stress in our lives that comes from a variety of sources. At this time of year, many young people are preparing for exams and may become quite worried and anxious about their marks and final results.

Most of us tend to think of stress as a problem but it would be unrealistic to think we could live a totally stress free life. In fact, stress can work as a powerful motivator and if we did not have some in our lives we would feel bored and unchallenged. However, if we have too much stress in our lives we can become ‘distressed’, and excessive or chronic stress can increase our risk for a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Put simply, stress is an imbalance between a person and demands of their life and occurs when we do not feel we have the resources to cope with these demands.

For this reason, stress is an individual experience – it is triggered by different things in different people and depends largely on how we view a situation and whether or not we believe we can cope. Different people display stress in different ways. For example, children and adolescents might complain of headaches, stomach pain or dizziness when they are feeling stressed (although it is important to first rule out any underlying physical problems). So it is important to know how stress affects our bodies because once we recognise the warning signs we can then either change the stressor or else change the way we respond to it. 

The first step in this process is to decide if the situation or problem is a ‘real’ stress trigger or if it just feels like one.

For example, you cannot change the fact that all students must sit for exams at school, so it is more effective to prepare as best you can rather than endlessly worry about something you cannot change. A lot of people tend to ignore problems in the hope that they will go away but actively solving and coping with problems as they arise is associated with better emotional health and wellbeing. Putting things off for later doesn’t really work because the longer we wait, the more we tend to worry. Similarly, arguments with parents and friends don’t go away until we deal with the issue or until we all apologise, decide to forgive each other and move on.

While it is important to try and fix problems, sometimes nothing can be done to change the situation and it is important that we not worry endlessly about things we cannot change. It can help to understand what happens to our bodies when we are under prolonged stress. When this occurs, our body produces a hormone called cortisol. This hormone has an important role in memory, learning and even our immune systems. It is released in response to stress and when in balance it helps our bodies to function in a healthy manner but if someone in under chronic stress they have high levels of this hormone (which is why it is often called the stress hormone).

Exercise is one of the most effective ways of reducing cortisol levels and dealing with stress. If a young person is stressed about an assignment, then going for a run or doing some exercise can really help because we are all able to think more clearly after we have used up those stress hormones. Finding enjoyable activities and building them into our routines is one of the most effective stress busters – as is having a good belly laugh and being active with friends. 

We need to ensure that all young people continue to do things that make them happy even when they are stressed and busy and this could be as simple as listening to music or else going to the movies. As parents, we have a vital role in modelling a healthy and balanced lifestyle and in ensuring that young people set achievable goals and limits.

This is not an easy thing to do in our busy world - but one key thing is to try and maintain a balance between work and play. Given all the balls that parents have to juggle, we often find it hard to make time to immerse ourselves in things we enjoy. Allowing ourselves to indulge in relaxing activities (like having a bath) is really important because when we effectively manage our own stress we reduce the stress in our relationships.

 Knowing what stresses us can also help us avoid some of these situations (like sitting in rush hour traffic). Putting aside 10-20 minutes a day to relax can make a big difference to how we feel and cope with the rest of the day. Learning to say ‘no’ when we need to is another way we can start to make time to manage our own stress.

Remember, learning to relax doesn’t come easily and, like any other skill, it takes quite a lot of practice before it feels natural. You could try making a list of things that help you feel calm and give yourself permission to schedule in some of these activities every day. Ultimately, these are life skills that can produce enormous benefits for our children – if only we can give ourselves permission to indulge, however briefly, in the activities that soothe us every day!

Tracy Robinson: Learning to challenge unhelpful self-talk

Dr Tracy Robinson is a senior research fellow at the Monash Centre for Health Research & Implementation. As a registered nurse and a doctor of psychology, she has extensive experience working in the field of mental health and supporting the wellbeing of young people. We’re most grateful to her for once again providing an article for this term’s newsletter.


masks-827729_960_720.jpg

Socrates is famous for saying “an unexamined life is not worth living”. In this context, he was acknowledging that being able to reflect on past events and how we might have done things differently is a positive thing. This capacity to reflect on one’s own thoughts and feelings helps us gain insight and is a key component of what we call emotional intelligence. By becoming more self-aware we can better understand what it is we really want in life and what others are feeling and thinking. But people often confuse reflection with self-criticism.

We all have inner dialogue that we refer to as self–talk. It is like an inner voice and it determines how we perceive situations in life and the way we feel and act. Our self-talk often changes – sometimes it is positive and realistic (“I tried my best even if I didn’t win”) and sometimes it is negative and unrealistic (“I am a failure”). Often our self-talk is negative when our stress is high because it is easy to blow things out of proportion when we are stressed. This is when we often fall into what some people call “thought traps” – ways of thinking that make us lose perspective.

Some of the most common “thought traps” include over-generalising (“bad things always happen to me”), black and white thinking (things are either right or wrong with nothing in between) and should and must thinking (“bad things shouldn’t happen to people”). These unhelpful thoughts traps are commonly reported by people who have depression – but the good news is that because you create your thoughts, once you become aware of them, you can change them. When you catch yourself using unhelpful self-talk, you can try asking the following questions:

  • Am I jumping to conclusions?

  • Am I being hard on myself?

  • What is the evidence for and against?

  • Am I forgetting about the positives and focusing on the negatives?

  • Am I taking things too personally?

  • What would I tell a friend in this situation?

  • Is there another way of looking at this?

When you change your thoughts about a situation you can change your emotional reaction to it. Learning to challenge unhelpful self-talk does take some practice, but research has shown that this skill can be learned (even by young people) and that using this technique is associated with lower levels of depressed mood and negative feelings. The way to overcome negative thinking is to deal with our unhelpful self-talk. Like all habits, unhelpful self-talk can be hard to shake, but practice is the key.  Next time you find yourself depressed, angry, anxious or upset, take the time to become aware of your thoughts and ask the questions listed above.

You can also practice this skill with your children. For example, if they say “no one likes me at school”, rather than reassuring them, try asking “what is the evidence that no one likes you”? You can then work your way through the other questions.

Of course, if your child is experiencing bullying and can provide evidence that they are experiencing unfair treatment, then you need to take action, because we would not ask anyone to simply change the way they think about abuse and/or violence. In those situations, we need to take action and seek help. But for myriad other situations, practicing to recognise and challenge unhelpful self-talk can really help us become more resilient.

Perhaps what Socrates understood was that questions are more powerful than facts. One way we can support our young people is by building their capacity to question and challenge their thinking.

Tracy Robinson: Parenting resourceful adolescents

Dr Tracy Robinson is a senior research fellow at the Monash Centre for Health Research & Implementation. As a registered nurse and a doctor of psychology, she has extensive experience working in the field of mental health and supporting the wellbeing of young people. We’re most grateful to her for providing this article for this term’s newsletter.


Dear parents and friends,

I want to introduce myself to you all as I hope to be contributing to your newsletter on several occasions over the year. First and foremost, I want to introduce myself as a parent of two children – now both aged over 21. I am also a nurse and have worked in the field of mental health for three decades! For the past 20 years I have worked as an academic at several universities, but it is my work with children and adolescents that I wish to share with you all.

Back in the 1990s we became aware that Australian adolescents had among the highest rates of death by suicide in the world. This spurred the government into action and, from 2000 onwards, we saw significant investment in child and adolescent mental health services and early intervention programs.

I was part of that early wave and began to work in the field of prevention and promotion. This included working with teachers in high schools to develop and implement mental health programs and resources across NSW. In particular, we implemented what we call universal programs (for all young people) and selected programs (for those young people at risk). We could not have done this without the support and commitment from principals, teachers and school counsellors, who I continue to admire because they are required to take an increasing role in providing not only education but also pastoral care.

One of the programs we implemented was the Resourceful Adolescent program (RAP), a universal program designed to promote the emotional wellbeing of young people. The RAP program is strengths-based rather than problem-focused, which means we start by helping young people identify their strengths and resources and continue to add to this as we progress through the program.

In western cultures, adolescence can be a very challenging time for young people because it is when they develop their identity and their independence. Identity formation is all about self-esteem and being independent is all about finding one’s own way while also remaining connected.

In fact, teenagers need both attachment and independence at the same time. These are the two main developmental tasks of adolescence - feeling good about one’s self and being independent while also remaining connected with others. No wonder parents sometimes struggle to understand what their teenagers need!

We do know, however, that parents have a really important role in building their teenager’s self-esteem and in helping them achieve independence with attachment. Seeing that ‘proud glint’ in a parent’s eyes is one of the most powerful ways we can validate and increase our young people’s self-esteem.

Giving them more independence a little at a time and negotiating rules and arrangements together are important strategies for supporting independence with attachment. It is important to negotiate curfews, staying in contact, supervision arrangements and transport. It is also important to discuss the increased responsibilities that come with independence (which is not the same thing as giving free rein).

If we understand the developmental tasks that teenagers have to navigate and if we acknowledge the important role we have as parents in promoting their self-esteem, things can be a little clearer. Seeing that ‘proud gleam’ in a parent’s eyes is a real booster (even for adults).

But we also need to be aware of available support services, because sometimes young people need to talk with people outside their families. It is comforting to consider that we don’t need to be perfect parents (few of us would have had that ourselves) and remember to make a mental note of our own strengths and positive qualities on a regular basis.

Free parent webinars through the ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Independent Schools Digital Collaboration Network

The Independent Schools Digital Collaboration Network (formerly TtEDSC) has been offering live webinars for a couple of years now, a number of which are aimed directly at parents. It's a really good resource, and the videos from past webinars are well worth checking out.

Of particular interest to parents and friends:

ISDCN's next parent webinar will be held on May 3 at 7:45-8:45pm. The focus is issues concerning the online behaviour of children, particularly the risks around sexting. There's no need to register - if you're interested, just tune in on the night and follow the instructions to view the presentation.

New VPC member offers for 2017

This year, VPC is excited to offer a range of high quality training programs and resources to our members schools at exclusive discounted rates. We've partnered with programs and organisations that we believe are providing unique, worthwhile services for parents and teachers in order to give you to opportunity to take advantage of them at a special reduced price.


Successful Learning

Developed by the Australian Parents Council, this interactive parent-to-parent training workshop encourages and assists families to engage in their children’s early literacy and numeracy, supporting the school’s teaching in the home. It's designed to empower parents, giving you the knowledge and confidence to work in partnership with teachers and play an active part in your children's learning.

The program is ordinarily valued at $440 per workshop. VPC will be offering a number of free parent workshops throughout the year and can arrange additional workshops for schools at a discounted rate.

You can learn more about Successful Learning here.


The Resilience Doughnut

Developed at the Resilience Centre Australia, The Resilience Doughnut is a practical model for developing resilience in children, young people and adults, based on identifying and combining individual strengths. They offer a range of quality online parent workshops, including 2- and 4-week online courses in raising resilient children, and 90-minute “Hot Topic” seminars presented by experienced psychologists.

VPC members are eligible for a 20% discount on 4-week online parent courses and a 10% discount on 2-week courses and seminars.

You can learn more about The Resilience Doughnut's parent workshops here.


Every Chance to Dance

Every Chance to Dance is a weekly online arts, health and physical education curriculum resource for teachers, promoting physical and mental wellbeing through self-expression and movement. It's designed to be inclusive, offering every student a chance to participate and develop their strengths, and includes access to lesson plans and tips, video lessons, original music, assessment templates and professional learning support for teachers.

By purchasing an annual subscription up front, VPC members can receive a 15% discount, representing an annual saving of $300.

You can learn more about Every Chance to Dance here.


Parents and Schools Working Together

Parents and Schools Working Together is a professional development program designed to build teachers’ skills and understanding of how to most effectively engage and work together with the parents of the children they teach. It's a high quality, evidence based program, developed in a collaboration between the NSW Parents’ Council, the Council of Catholic Schools Parents NSW, the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, and researchers from the Australian Catholic University.

The program consists of five one-hour online modules priced at $100 per module, or $450 for all five. VPC is offering members a 10% subsidy on program costs.

You can learn more about Parents and Schools Working Together here.


Savv-i Digital Citizenship eLearning

VPC is delighted to partner with SOOCed to offer this unique eLearning program, designed to foster discussions about safe, savvy and social Internet use, with individual courses specific to parents, teachers and students. The program covers the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, making use of quality interactive learning resources from around the world.

VPC members are entitled to a 15% discount on the program’s one-off setup fee, representing a saving of $300.

You can learn more about SOOCed's eLearning program here.


For more information about how to take advantage of these offers, get in touch with us by using the contact form or emailing vicpc@vicparentscouncil.vic.edu.au. And remember to keep an eye out on our website and Facebook page for more announcements of exclusive offers and free sessions over the course of the year!