A message from our new Principal, James Burnside

Posted on Friday 8, September 2023

Dear Parents & Carers,

I am thrilled to introduce myself as the new principal of The Patch PS from Term 4! I have big shoes to fill, with Debra Herrmann having sixteen highly successful years establishing strong community connections, an exemplary outdoor learning environment and a student-centred culture, amongst many other achievements. I hope to build on these strong foundations for many years to come.

Before I tell you about some of my hopes for our school, I need to answer the biggest question I have been asked: who am I? I am an experienced principal with a passion for empowering a school community to make every child feel successful. After teaching for a number of years and then becoming a curriculum coach in Pakenham, I took an acting principal role at Wandin Yallock PS in 2018. Being someone who values knowing every child and family individually, I quickly fell in love with being in a smaller, community-based school. That led to my ongoing appointment as principal of Seville PS later in 2018.

 At Seville PS I was able to fully realise my vision of catering for the individual needs of every child while making sure every member of our school had a voice. We implemented a learning program that was centred around students’ ownership of individual learning goals and their choice in how they achieved their goals. We focused on celebrating effort and growth, so every child had the chance to achieve and feel successful. We established strong communication of current learning and achievements to parents so they could contribute and celebrate their child. We introduced lunch clubs during break times that were chosen by students, which included gardening, drawing, wheels club, board games, Lego, dance and many more. We introduced veggie patches within our sustainability program as we promoted more outdoor learning opportunities and the role of being a responsible citizen. We built connections with community groups and clubs to create greater opportunities for our students and establish a tight-knit community. Through these initiatives for four years, we were able to achieve:

  • Significantly improved academic results, highlighted by 100% of students achieving benchmark growth and 69% of them in the top two bands for Numeracy in NAPLAN;
  • Improving student attendance from 90% to 94%;
  • Tripling Prep enrolment numbers;
  • Becoming a leading school for School Climate due to high results in all school surveys – students, staff and parents;
  • Which resulted in Seville PS having a high performance rating for overall achievement by 2021.

During 2022, I made the difficult decision to leave Seville due to my family – my wife Michelle, daughters Grace (7) and Maya (5), and son Nate (2) – and I deciding to relocate to Queensland. Being an active family that love the outdoors, I wanted to put my family first and experiment with what life would be like in the sunshine state. Fortunately, due to my successful time at Seville, I went straight into a principal role at a larger school of 455 students in Brisbane for a year. It was an amazing experience leading a school with a high number of First Nations families. I was honoured to take part in many traditions with our Goori Elders, such as dances, story-telling and walking through sacred sites on North Stradbroke Island. It opened my eyes to how different cultures view community differently, and allowed me to experiment with further initiatives in my quest to create an inclusive school environment for all.

In Term 2 this year, with our family having spent a year in Queensland, we realised that being close to family was the most important thing to us. So, we made the decision to come back to the hills in Victoria as our permanent home (with all our family residing in Monbulk and Macclesfield). However, my daughters Grace (in Year Two) and Maya (in Prep) had one request: wherever we went, they just wanted to be at daddy’s school. So, we decided we would choose the school together. We wanted a school that valued community. That had gardens and loved the outdoors. One that wasn’t too big so we could know everyone in it. One where I could further my dream of making every child feel successful and valued. We watched advertised jobs come and go for four months until we finally found one that ticked all our boxes: The Patch Primary School.

I took a risk in only applying for your beautiful school, but I wanted a school that I envisioned seeing myself at for many years to come. One that matched my ethos and ambitions, and one that would be a great fit for my family to become a part of. I am so excited to begin my time with you all in just four weeks as both a principal and a community member!
In Term 4, my main goal is to immerse myself in our school community and to make sure every member is heard. From students to staff, parents to volunteers, I want to talk and listen, and get to know what everyone values and hopes for in our school. Be prepared: I love a good yarn! Expect to see me walking our grounds before and after school whenever possible (please approach me to say hello if you see me), visiting each classroom to greet our students each day and having an open door as often as possible. In addition, I encourage you to keep reading our Compass dates regularly, as I love to get your opinions on school ideas through online surveys.

For now, enjoy your time with Deb and celebrate hers and your achievements together. But, if you do have any further questions of me, feel free to talk to the school and they will forward on any pressing requests, as I won’t have school email or Compass access until the beginning of the new term.

I look forward to seeing you face-to-face on Monday, October 2nd, as we start this new chapter together at The Patch!
James Burnside