When I campaigned for election to the Victorian Parliament in 2014, one of my key platforms was education.
We know our local schools are working tirelessly to provide our children with the best possible start to life.
However, we also know enrollments at three of our four public secondary schools have been declining significantly and continue to do so, that our educational outcomes are consistently below the state average and that financial investment has been lacking.
In April this year, the State Government committed $1 million to a community consultation process that will help develop a 10-year plan to transform the education system across Shepparton and Mooroopna.
Many of those involved in the region’s schools – teachers, parents and students – have already contributed to the process online, as well as at the public forum held in Shepparton in June.
Together with other members of the Shepparton Education Plan’s strategic advisory committee, I have now visited a number of high schools across Victoria to explore some exciting and innovative approaches to schooling and see what might work here at home.
Earlier this year I visited Bendigo Senior Secondary College. This school offers classes solely for Year 11 and Year 12 students, with local feeder schools for children in Years 7-10 providing the students.
I also visited Templestowe Secondary College with the principals of McGuire College, Mooroopna Secondary College, Shepparton High School and Wanganui Park Secondary College. It was interesting to see an entirely different model of “vertical integration” where each student has their own learning plan – a model introduced to counteract falling enrollments and disengagement from the local community.
In 2013, Templestowe College embraced the concept of individualised learning and by 2015 it stopped grouping students by traditional year levels. Under the new system, once basic literacy and numeracy are established, students select their own course load from more than 150 elective subjects. This provides students with a curriculum suited to their talents and aspirations and allows them to take control and ownership of their learning.
We have also visited Dandenong High School, another school which has undergone transformational change.
There'll be more on Dandenong High School, and the need for more technical education in the region, in my next blog.