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“You've got a wonderful school, you should be really proud of what you're doing here. Keep it up.”
They were the words of encouragement uttered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to students at Sanctuary Point Public School on Thursday.
The Mercury was granted exclusive access as the Prime Minister toured the school during his whirlwind visit to the Shoalhaven.
Mr Turnbull towered over tiny tables and chairs as he watched students create websites, build and program a robot, use 3D pens and put together TV advertisements using a green screen.
The tables themselves weren’t your regular piece of furniture – the surface was a whiteboard that allowed students to perfect their spelling on it, among other things.
Sanctuary Point Public isn’t your ordinary school – all facets of multimedia and technology were on show.
Also out of the ordinary was the obvious sense of achievement by a school punching above its weight and turning around its history of disadvantage.
The school has a 20 per cent Aboriginal population, is located in a low socioeconomic area and many community members are unemployed, principal Jeff Ward said.
“We’re especially proud of what we’ve achieved at our school, not only for our school but for our kids and our community,” Mr Ward said.
“This area has considerable social disadvantage and has for quite a long time and our school’s stepped up.”
The school received low socioeconomic status funding from the former government and has gone from strength to strength since.
“From that we’ve kind of been able to build the aspirations of our kids and our community,” he said. “Our kids are now looking forward to going to university, where before they weren’t.”
Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis said the school “didn’t have a lot going for it” as recently as six years ago, when she visited it as a staffer for her predecessor Joanna Gash.
“It was a sad school, now it is an unbelievably happy, vibrant, fabulous school,” she said.
“They’ve got the parents involved in the school and it’s got the kids really excited about it.”
One-by-one, Mr Turnbull engaged with a handful of students, asking them their name and what they were doing.
At one stage, the Prime Minister even departed from his entourage to chat to others.
A few minutes later it was a case of Malcolm in the Middle as Mr Turnbull was surrounded by students for a group photo.
Prior to his arrival at the school, the PM’s car and its Australian flag flapping in the Shoalhaven air, turned heads as it rounded the corner into Idlewild Avenue.