Introducing Gillian Blackmore
Deputy Principal, Campbellfield Public School
Master of Instructional Leadership
A reading revolution is taking place at Campbellfield Public School in New South Wales. At the helm is Gillian Blackmore, Deputy Principal and soon to be graduate of the Master of Instructional Leadership.
The Reading Project, featured in Good Morning Macarthur and on Channel 7’s Sunrise program brings in parents and people from all walks of life in the local community to come in and read to the students. ‘I don’t know anybody, no matter how old they are, who doesn’t enjoy having a beautiful book read to them’, says Gillian. Students along with their families can enjoy an intimate outdoor garden complete with hay bales, rustic furniture and a community café for the families and their children.
The idea was inspired by the ‘Leading Schools Through Leading Self’ subject, which is part of the Masters course and has a positive psychology focus. It introduced Gillian to ‘appreciative inquiry’, where the strengths in school and work are key to take the school on a journey from good practices to outstanding ones.
‘The school where I work had some challenges in improving reading for our students. However, what we did have is a community which values the work the school does’, says Gillian. Supported by a new principal with a reform agenda of increasing community engagement, the Reading Project was born.
A goal of the project was to build a community around the students. According to Gillian, ‘Feeling a sense of belonging and connectedness is vital for a flourishing child and community.’ The school had worked hard to make parents feel welcome but the challenge was to extend this to parents and the wider community using their strengths to support student learning in an innovative way.
‘The impact the Reading Project has had on our school and community has been humbling’, says Gillian. ‘Not only have our kids been highly engaged in reading, but they have an increased sense of belonging. They now see that they are important, and are supported by a fantastic community who are prepared to give up their time to come and read to them’.
The students are not the only ones to have benefited. Gillian observed that, ‘Parents have been able to feel connected and heard, as well as establish new friendships and support networks amongst the school community’. One parent commented, ‘I felt seen as a person, not just a parent’. A newly arrived parent from Pakistan who was asked to read a story in her native language said, ‘It is nice to know when you are new to a country that people accept you’.
The community and the school had previously had a reputation as the ‘deficit’ school and area, because of the high rates of public housing. Due to the success of the project and the resulting media publicity, a light has been shone on the amazing outcomes happening in the Campbellfield Public School community.