They say wonderful kids go to Woorinen District. And it’s not hard to garner why. The small, rural school in the Mallee has built its reputation by being innovative, nurturing, and attentive. In 2020, it accommodates 90 students – next year there will be 95 – which is roughly twice as many as it had just ten to fifteen years ago.
The school’s growth is not reflective of some wider boom in housing in the district. The surrounding township has seen just a handful of new dwellings in the past 30 years. Perhaps longer. Put simply, the difference is in the school, itself. No longer are families opting to put their kids on the bus to Swan Hill — they’re staying local, and they’re proud of it. As classroom teacher Jana Beasy says, Woorinen District Primary School (WDPS) is ‘attaining its catchment’ … and then some.
‘I think there are a number of factors that have got us to this position; you couldn’t just point to one or two things and say, “that’s why we’re growing”,’ Ms Beasy says.
‘I think we’ve earned a reputation for being family-oriented — like we are one, big family — we have an extremely motivated staff who want to go that extra mile, and we have our Principal, Kristie Bennett; all of this really stems from her,’ she says.
‘Still, we always pride our school on its small-school feeling, even if we are now in a phase of growth.’
With growth comes new requirements and new opportunities. To accommodate for its burgeoning numbers, WDPS extended its sporting oval. And then, in an absolute coup for the pupils, the decision was made to install a purpose-built bike track, which craftily winds its way around the yard. The track was made possible following a Sporting School PLUS grant, as well as supplementary funding from school council, due to the cancellation of camps and excursions in 2020.
It’s safe to say the bike track has been a breakout winner among excited students who have finally returned to face-to-face learning in Term Four. You could say it has been something of a reward – a gift, even – for the 90 little learners who are genuinely thrilled to be back after the challenges of home-schooling and isolation.
For the people behind the project – the school council, the educators, the parents – it’s a joy to see children back in the schoolyard, eagerly picking up their bikes and cutting laps. As Ms Beasy says, now more than ever, it’s the little things that count.
An overview of the bike track pre-construction
‘I think we all know 2020 has been like no other; as teachers we never could have predicted what this year was going to throw at us and our school community,’ Ms Beasy says.
‘The idea for a bike track wasn’t new – it had been on our bucket list for a while, really – but to finally see it created, and in these circumstances where the kids are so happy to be coming back to school, and coming back to this awesome facility, it really is special to see,’ she says.
‘Now, we can only hope that term four will bring some normality back to education, that we will get to remain at school, and that the bike track will eventually become well worn.’