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Gazette Article

Volunteers – essential part of school

Volunteers are an essential part of Artarmon Public School (APS) life, deputy principal Judy Learmonth says. “We have so many parents doing things around the school, we just couldn’t operate without them,” she told the Gazette.

From assisting in the uniform shop and maintaining the gardens to co-ordinating the music programs and providing valuable assistance to teachers in classes – every facet of school life involves volunteers.

In 2012, the school canteen alone employed more than 220 volunteers to ensure lunches were made and delivered every day. Unlike the majority of NSW school canteens, which are commercially run, the APS school canteen remains a service organised and run by the school’s Parents and Citizens (P&C) Committee.

According to canteen convenor Kali Lawrie, there is a compelling advantage for a canteen run by the P&C and volunteers. “We keep the prices down because we only aim to make a small profit every year and that money goes back to the P&C and subsequently to the school,” she said.

Surprisingly, those who volunteer their time to prepare between 60 – 80 lunch orders every day and up to 160 on Fridays are not the people who use the canteen regularly.

Canteen volunteers tend to be grandparents, uncles and aunts and mothers with young children – even members of the wider community who want to lend a hand.

“One lady moved in nearby and wanted to give something to the community and because she was right next to the school she came and volunteered,” Kali said.

Volunteers from the wider community also contribute to student learning. The school’s thriving primary ethics classes are expanding this year to enable more students to participate.

Primary ethics classes are held as an option for students who do not attend special religious education classes. Currently, volunteers teach classes in the Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

The training is provided by Primary Ethics, the organisation authorised by the NSW state government to create curriculum and deliver ethics classes. Felicity Vacchini is the ethics co-ordinator for APS and says the classes’ aim is to get students thinking about ethically challenging topics. “Children are encouraged to identify the moral dilemmas within a particular scenario which facilitates discussion and allows the class to appreciate different opinions,” she said.

“Whenever they ask themselves the question ‘What ought I to do?’, they are faced with an ethical dilemma.”

Topics covered include acting fairly, respectful disagreement, teasing, empathy, happiness and stewardship. Judy Learmonth said the classes were popular. “Our children here are very bright and I can imagine that some of the discussions they have in ethics classes would be very, very interesting,” she said.

More volunteers are needed to help provide the wealth of services and learning experiences to the student population that this year has swelled to well over 900 students.

by Jane Rowley

Courtesy of Gazette February 2013
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Volunteer at APA school canteen ... one of more than 220 helping out
Photo: APS


If you would like to volunteer your time as an ethics teacher, email Felicity Vacchini: Potential canteen volunteers can contact Kali Lawrie:




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