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Kimberly Rathjen is making families proud to be at Fraser Park
A new principal at Murray Bridge's smallest school is helping students engage with their learning and improving the school's reputation.
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Things are changing at Fraser Park Primary School.
Inside its colourful, transportable classrooms, under new principal Kimberly Rathjen, with help from new technology, a new culture is developing.
Students are re-engaging with the curriculum.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re so proud of how far we’ve come,” Ms Rathjen said.
“Students are now really focused on their learning, and quite proud of their learning.
“Just having those relationships, that routine and structure, and having everyone on board (has made a difference).”
The school’s student population of 49 is tiny – about a 10th of the size of the biggest public primary school in Murray Bridge – and incredibly diverse, as more than half are either Aboriginal or new to Australia.
A majority come from low-income families in the surrounding neighbourhood, which has historically been dominated by Housing Trust properties.
There are plenty of challenges facing Fraser Park’s students.
Staff are determined to overcome them.
“(Fraser Park’s families) are just like any other families,” Ms Rathjen said.
“They want what’s best for their children, they’re supportive of the school, they’re engaged with their students’ learning.
“We can’t ask for more.”
One luxury of being a small school is that staff can build close relationships with each family, and invite them to come and get involved in their children’s learning whenever they can.
“We want the parents to know us,” Ms Rathjen said.
“We want to get to know them so we can work with them, support them, celebrate them, do all the normal things families do.”
The new approach has won glowing praise from parents.
Kate Rice said Ms Rathjen was “a star”.
“She doesn’t beat around the bush, (she’s) very understanding and communication is really good.
“My son has learnt more in this year, since the change in the school.”
Sam Webb said he had thought about pulling his boys out of the school – until this year, when a lot of the disruptive behaviour by students at the school had stopped.
Another mum said Fraser Park had changed “in more ways than I can count” since Ms Rathjen’s arrival.
“My kids are getting the help I know they have needed and they are helping me with my children, who have been there since pre-kindy,” she said.
A recent IT upgrade has helped students enter the 2020s, too – they now have access to laptops, tablet computers and interactive boards.
Ms Rathjen hoped her past experience as a behavioural coach would help her not only improve educational outcomes at Fraser Park, but improve its reputation in the community and help it attract more students.
Unlike other schools, it could already fit at least 50 more students without having to build a single new classroom.
New classrooms would be nice, of course – it was disappointing that a $2.1 million upgrade promised by the Liberal Party at this year’s state election would not go ahead.
But the buildings didn’t matter, Ms Rathjen said.
What mattered was what went on inside them.
Staff were working hard to make sure their students could go wherever they wanted in life.
“We don’t want (Fraser Park) to be forgotten, the school you’ve got no choice to go to because you’re on the bottom rung,” she said.
“We want to be just seen like any other primary school in Murray Bridge – we can deliver … what other schools do.
“If your child comes to Fraser Park, they’re going to learn.”
Find out more at Fraser Park’s open day
Families can learn more about Fraser Park at an open day at the preschool next Thursday, September 8.
Ms Rathjen will take parents and youngsters on tours of the site at 11.30am and 12.30pm.
Enrolments are now open for children who will start school in 2023.
As South Australia returns to two annual student intakes, instead of one, those who turn four before May 1 will be eligible to start in term one.
Those who turn four between May 1 and October 31 will be able to start in term three.
More information: Visit www.preschools.sa.gov.au/fraser-park-child-parent-centre or search for “Fraser Park Preschool-6 School” on Facebook.