School Initiative



At school your child is learning a range of skills and abilities (which teachers refer to as key competencies) to help them do well in life. At Russley School these key competencies are embedded in the Russley Dispositions.  At home, there are many ways that parents can support their child’s development in the key competencies.

  • Managing self
  • Participating and contributing
  • Thinking
  • Relating to others
  • Using language, symbols and text

Why do key competencies matter? They matter because our world is changing.  It is no longer sufficient for students to merely acquire knowledge and master skills.  Students need opportunities to develop their capability as users of knowledge and skills in wide-ranging contexts now and in the future.

Key competencies are not just for school, but for life. Your child uses these key competencies in many situations at home, in sport, at church, at cultural occasions, and eventually in the workplace. 

Participating and contributing is embedded in the Russley Dispositions of being Respectful, Healthy and a Team Player.  This competency includes contributing to a group, making connections with others and creating opportunities for others in a group. We all enjoy participating and contributing - it makes us feel connected, and helps us get the most out of our lives.

At school, children are guided to be involved in real activities that are personal and meaningful to them. They are also challenged to be involved in things that they might not have thought of doing before. Even ‘simple’ things such as asking students to work with a wide range of classmates, guiding them to understand what makes working together successful and how they can do it even better.

Things to try at home:

  • Encourage your child to take on new challenges in different contexts and then talk about the “how to” knowledge and skills that they gain as a result.
  • Support your child when they take on leadership roles at school or in the community. This could be something as simple as being the recycling monitor for a week, looking after younger students during breaks or at a sports day, taking care of equipment or resources, speaking during an assembly.
  • Encourage your child to do small things that will help others.
  • Talk with your child about the ways other people might see issues. Help them see things from a range of different perspectives.
  • Give them increasing responsibility for tasks that will help at home. For example, feeding the cat, emptying the rubbish, setting the table or helping cook dinner.
  • You might be surprised at which parts of your knowledge and skills would be welcomed by the teachers as they work to build more “authentic’ learning for students. For example, at Russley School students are learning how to grow food. If you have gardening skills, you are likely to be able to help.

For a student, managing self means being self-motivated, having a can-do attitude and understanding themselves as a learner. Parents can help their child develop self-management skills by:

  • Noticing and praising their child when they do chores or homework without having to be asked. This shows them that you value their spontaneous self- management.


Use praise that is linked to the action such as: 

* You tried really hard at that

* You never gave up even when it was hard

* You have such a positive attitude

* You have really improved on….

* What a creative solution to that problem

* What a great friend you are

* I love how you took ownership of that

* That was a very responsible thing you did

* I like the way you are doing…

* You really handled that situation well because..

* I appreciate how helpful you were when...

  • Talking about the challenges of learning, not just about what has been learned, and by demonstrating to them that you are always learning as well.
  • Supporting and encouraging your child when the going gets tough. Be positive, and show them that you have confidence in them rather than letting them make excuses. Use the power of YET! When your child thinks they can’t do something, add the word “YET” to the end of their sentence.  “You can’t do that yet.” or “You haven’t learned that yet.”

A much talked about topic in educational psychology is the growth mindset.  Stanford University professor Carol Dweck’s claims in her book “Mindset: The new psychology of success” that teaching children to have a growth mindset does work and can be developed. Children who have a growth mindset seem to face challenges in a more positive way. They will say things like, “I love a challenge,” instead of having negative thoughts when faced with difficulty.

When we have a growth mindset we believe that our brain can be developed and we can grow our intelligence, whereas a fixed mindset is the belief that our brain can’t be developed and it is static.  Research shows time and again that if a growth mindset is encouraged by teachers and parents, children perform better and see obstacles as opportunities to improve and learn.

Children should be taught not to give up on a task just because they cannot do something immediately. Effort and perseverance are the start to training the mind, in order to achieve, learn and grow. One of the ways adults can encourage this is through the  language we use when we discuss challenges with children. Dweck mentions that saying “not yet” to children instead of saying they have failed at something is a much better way to show them that even if they have difficulties overcoming a challenge, the time will come when they will succeed.  The use of “you haven’t learned it yet” shows that there is a learning curve, and points to the process, not the outcome.

According to the Mindset website, “Every so often a truly ground-breaking idea comes along. This is one.” The mindset theory explains:

  • Why brains and talent don’t necessarily bring success and in fact, can stand in the way of it
  • Why praising/rewarding brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but rather jeopardises them
  • How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity

After decades of research on achievement and success, Carol Dweck proposed the Growth Mindset, “a simple idea that makes  all the difference.”

Online references:

Mindsetonline - Carol Dweck

Sesame Street - The Power of Yet

Student Wellbeing - The Quiet Room

The Quiet Room is a safe and calming place for students who are sometimes overwhelmed by the busy, noisy playground.  This initiative began at the start of term two when the school opened Room 20 (the ESOL room) on four days a week to provide a supervised space during the lunch break.  

The children invited to use the room have access to mindful colouring in, craft activities, building materials, books and board games.  The lights are kept dim and sometimes music is played.

The Quiet Room is a space away from the noise and bustle of the playground; a space to relax, calm down and chill out.  Having a safe and peaceful place to go helps a child take ownership of his or her ability to self-regulate emotions and sensory systems, which are crucial for learning.


Last year, Russley students were introduced to mindful breathing or tummy breathing. This type of breathing is a quick and easy way to engage the body’s natural relaxation response. It draws the child’s attention away from the present, boosts concentration and helps them turn anxiety and anger into feelings of relaxation and focus.

Younger students were introduced to this practice through a Sesame Street video that features Elmo as the main character. Elmo explains in a fun, interactive way when and how to use tummy breathing. This video can be found online at Elmo Belly Breathing.  The older children viewed a video entitled Just Breathe

We suggest parents encourage their children to tune in to their  breathing whenever they feel upset or angry, or want to relax. 

In addition, there are online resources at that support wellbeing and mental health. You will find Elmo Belly Breathing in the “Sparklers” section and the website also has a useful “Tips for Parents” section.