Children’s spirits soar in safe environment

St Therese’s Primary School, New Lambton decided on butterflies as a symbol, while St Brigid’s Primary School, Raymond Terrace opted for the traditional white balloons when schools in the Diocese recognised National Child Protection week, held this year from 6-12 September.

National Child Protection Week prioritises the safety and wellbeing of children. To grow up well, children need to feel safe and loved, have a chance to play and explore, have a say in decisions that affect them, and have access to essentials such as food, shelter, and healthcare. 

As part of “Putting Children First”, all classes at St Brigid’s from K-6 this term focused on child protection in PDH lessons. To supplement these lessons the school again celebrated White Balloon Day on Friday 11 September to recognise National Child Protection week.

Recognition began with a prayer at morning assembly. White balloons were on display at the front of the school thanks to one of the parents arranging a garland. St Brigid’s used Facebook to share information on protective behaviours and cyber-safety.

Students were asked to come to school on Friday 11 wearing a white piece of clothing and to bring along a gold coin donation. White balloons displaying the “We ALL have the right to feel safe” slogan decorated classrooms and were displayed around the school.

At St Therese’s, New Lambton, each stage painted a butterfly canvas from Mila Maretich’s beautifully drawn work. Staff worked with the students to produce three spectacular pieces of art that will be hung in the Catherine McAuley Centre. While students contributed to each painting, the teachers discussed the importance of child protection themes and behaviour.

The butterflies signify the freedom and beauty of a child’s spirit. St Therese’s wanted a display that meant something to everyone and that students could reflect upon and reiterate the message of “Putting Children First”.

“A child’s innocence and happiness are what we want to protect to ensure our students and all children grow up safe, respected and with love,” said acting assistant principal Deb Petersen. “The butterfly theme was also chosen to represent life and hope. With the building works happening at our school we thought the amazing new space, the Catherine McAuley Centre, was the perfect place to display these masterpieces.” 

The book My Underpants Rule was read to all students and the message reiterated throughout the week. At St Therese’s, each class teacher dedicates their Health lessons for weeks 8, 9 and 10 at the end of each term to the school’s Protective Behaviour program. The teachers understand the importance of these lessons and use the Office of Safeguarding padlets to share resources and strategies with the students and our wider community. 

As an environmentally proud school, St Therese’s opted to use the paper variety on White Balloon Day and completed them with the names of five people, places and/or services that help keep children safe. These balloons were displayed in the new infants area. Students and staff also wore a white shirt to school on Friday 11 September to help create the connection between White Balloon Day and its important message. 

“It is important to the school community to support Child Protection Week and share awareness,” said Ms Petersen. “Our students are amazing individuals that together create part of our kind and welcoming community. Educating the students in appropriate behaviours, protecting themselves, and recognising the warning signs when something is not right, are valuable lessons. We want all our students to be happy and safe at school and away from school.

On the last day of Child Protection Week, St Therese’s students sent letters to their grandparents.

“We know that a village raises a child and we wanted to recognise the important people in our students’ lives,” said Ms Petersen. “Due to restrictions, many of the students have not seen their grandparents in a long time and so writing them a letter or drawing them a picture was a way to keep connected.

“We ask the students to identify five people they trust, and often their grandparents are on this list. Students have brought in stamped envelopes to school and during writing lessons and art have created some wonderful letters. Students could write to another significant family member if they wanted.”

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