2017 VEEA Finalists

​​​​​​​The Victorian Education Excellence Awards recognise inspirational teachers, principals, business managers and support staff who improve young lives and give Victorian children the skills, courage and curiosity they need to be their best.

Twenty-eight individuals and teams from government schools across Victoria have been shortlisted for the 2017 awards which will be presented on Friday 27 October at the Plaza Ballroom, Melbourne.


The 2017 finalists are:

Outstanding Business Manager Award Finalists  

Brett Coad
Kurnai College

When Brett Coad became the business manager at Kurnai College, his first task was to rebuild the financial position of the school. By implementing new processes, overseeing facility upgrades and developing new funding models, he has rolled out transparent and fair systems.

Affectionately called the ‘Gippsland Guru’, Brett is generous with his expertise, not only at Kurnai College, but at other local schools.

Brett has attracted funding for the college from a wide range of grants and financial resources. He was integral to the establishment and development of the Kurnai Learning Hub, in partnership with the Smith Family. He has played a key role in the development of the Kurnai Young Parents Program and the Latrobe Valley Flexible Learning Option and ensured these important programs are viable, sustainable and supported financially. 

Brett has always placed student learning at the forefront of his thinking and has a detailed understanding of the college’s priorities and aims. His focus is on how the college can achieve these aims and how he can facilitate the necessary resources. Brett has a keen sense of fairness and social justice and has advocated strongly for programs such as the Kurnai Pantry, canteen vouchers, food hot spots and support for students.

Brett is also committed to sustainability at his school, and has successfully applied for water and energy grants to reduce the college’s energy usage.

Lisa Gray
Northern Bay P-12 College

As business manager in a large multi-campus school, Lisa Gray’s exemplary practice has led to the improvement of systems and procedures integral to the financial and resource management of Northern Bay P-12 College. Lisa oversees the budget management of staff, facilities and resources in a transparent and equitable manner with strong alignment to the school’s strategic vision.

She is a valued member of the college’s leadership team and plays a key role in managing and developing over 100 education support staff.

Lisa led a project to open an onsite childcare and kindergarten. She was involved in all aspects of the project: from overseeing recruitment, licensing, registration and compliance standards; refurbishing the space and promoting the new early learning centre to the wider community.

As a result of her work, the kindergarten now operates at full capacity and the childcare centre looks after up to 48 children. 

Lisa is always looking at ways to improve herself as well as the systems she puts into place. Through study, networking and attending professional development programs, she’s worked her way from an integration aide at a small primary school to a business manager across five campuses of a combined college with 2100 students, 350 staff and a multi-million dollar budget.

Kylie Roskosch 
South Geelong Primary School 

As business manager at South Geelong Primary School, Kylie embraces her role in maximising resources so the budget can support staff and, in turn, lead to an improvement in student learning outcomes. Coaching and mentoring her education support team to work collaboratively together has been a focus for Kylie this year. Kylie is continually self-evaluating, learning and seeking feedback on her performance.

She builds a climate of trust by respecting each individual and the role they play within the school; acknowledging their field of expertise and operating in a fair and transparent manner. These are practices Kylie has embedded in managing her school office. Consistent process evaluation ensures the school is operating efficiently and effectively has led to the improvement of school operations and communication.

Kylie’s commitment to professional learning and helping others inspired her to develop a professional development program for aspiring business managers in Geelong. The Vital to Aspire Mentoring Program pairs eight mentees with eight mentors (experienced business managers), and has seen a large number of participants become business managers.

As the facilitator of the program and a mentor to several developing business managers, Kylie is constantly assessing her own career and hopes to be a role model for other women in the workforce.

Outstanding Primary Teacher Award Finalists 

Emma Ross
Canterbury Primary School 

Emma Ross is passionate about the role of student voice and teacher relationships as the foundation of a child’s engagement and success in education. She has a special interest in STEM curriculum and believes it can develop student skills in all areas of their learning – literacy, numeracy, creative thinking and problem solving.

Emma’s targeted approach involves assessing the Zone of Proximal Development for each of her students, and designing explicit teaching that works for them. She has developed innovative learning models that resonate with inquisitive young minds and encourage responsible risk-taking and entrepreneurial thinking.

She has run narrative writing workshops based on computer game characters, and introduced a school Makerspace where students and teachers explore, design and invent together in an ‘anything is possible’ learning environment. Emma also strives to model her teaching by mentoring and collaborating with her peers.

She has a leadership role on her school’s STEM Annual Implementation Plan team and has run professional development sessions in teaching and assessing Science Inquiry Skills.

Emma also led a ‘Young Minds of the Future’ project involving 500 students and teachers from local schools. Students developed products and solutions to identified problems and then connected with industry experts on Twitter to gain feedback about their innovations. The initiative was highly engaging and successful. Emma is passionate about reversing the under-representation of women in STEM careers and is determined to contribute to a solution by achieving deep learning outcomes in her own classroom and beyond.

Nicole Tierney
Knox Park Primary School 

Nicole Tierney has a system-wide view of education and an individual devotion to her students. Her dynamic and responsive model of teaching, coupled with her collegial approach to networking, has inspired a whole-school shift in the delivery of curriculum at Knox Park Primary School.

Over the past 18 months, Nicole has introduced performance-data tracking and learning innovations that have significantly improved student engagement and literacy outcomes, particularly in writing. She has a strong focus on identifying individual learning needs and using data-driven methods to develop curriculum with purpose. She uses student-led practices to excite and empower – believing that inquiry-based learning makes the greatest impact on academic progress and important life skills.

Nicole’s dedication to her students is driven by her desire to contribute to the greater good of public education. She collaborates school-wide and sector-wide – mentoring, team-teaching and leading professional development initiatives at Knox Park Primary, while constantly keeping pace with best practice through her broader teaching networks.

Guided by her personal motto – My students deserve my best – Nicole believes that education is transformative and that every student should remember a teacher who inspired them.

Riley Corrie
Swan Hill Specialist School 

Riley Corrie is motivated by the small but significant changes she notices in her students. Progress may not always be academic, but to see a student master a skill independently for the first time is always rewarding. 

The Swan Hill Specialist School teacher is using her considerable expertise – which focuses on managing students with autism – to coach other teachers of children on the autism spectrum. And her work is transforming the way special needs education is managed in the region.  Riley provides individual coaching as well as whole-staff professional development for mainstream schools with autistic students. She helps teachers understand different ways of teaching students with autism, and coaches them in classroom management strategies. 

She offers advice on how to handle challenging behaviours, and has developed professional development programs specifically focused on the wellbeing of students with special needs, such as Zones of Regulation. She also provides structured guidance to graduate teachers.

Riley has introduced her region’s first-ever special-needs library, that allows teachers to try out resources for their classrooms that are often difficult to find in such an isolated region. The library is stocked with books, sensory items, and practical tools for the special needs classroom such as slant boards, stools and specialised Picture Communication Systems.  Riley’s work has meant that students with additional needs can stay in Swan Hill and have access to necessary learning resources and teachers with expertise.

Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award Finalists 

Luke Peak
Chaffey Secondary College

Luke Peak is deeply passionate about the transformative power of music for young people. As the music coordinator at Chaffey Secondary College in Mildura, Luke has introduced a revolutionary approach from the United Kingdom called Musical Futures. Students are more motivated and engaged in class, and have demonstrated a notable leap in their musicality and confidence. 

The Musical Futures approach is about making the music curriculum relevant and student-centred. It takes the strong personal connection that many young people have with their own favourite music and brings that into the classroom.  Using the Informal Music Learning model – which draws on the real-life learning practices of popular musicians – students learn music in a self-directed and independent way. The result is an authentic musical experience for students, which promotes independence, resilience, teamwork, creativity and leadership. 

Many students who may not have participated in a traditional music program have achieved high levels of musical skill and confidence through this approach and have continued their music studies into VCE and beyond.  In 2015 Luke travelled to the United Kingdom with a select group of Australian teachers to visit leading Musical Futures Schools and attend the Music Learning Revolution conference in London. 

Most recently, Luke attended the Modern Band RockFest Conference in Colorado, USA, followed by professional development in Los Angeles as part of another Musical Futures Professional Learning Tour. Chaffey Secondary College is a leading example of this student-centred approach to music education, and is one of only 12 schools Australia-wide to be selected as a Musical Futures Champion School.

Nicole Marie
Point Cook Senior Secondary College

Over the past eight years, Nicole Marie has developed multiple learning resources and teaching models that have supported her students to become empowered and independent learners.

As a senior English and literacy teacher at Point Cook Senior Secondary College, Nicole has brought about improvement in the reading and writing skills of vast numbers of students. Through targeted skills workshops and interactive ICT platforms, Nicole has helped achieve student performance growth in literacy and also in history. 

Nicole places student wellbeing on par with academic achievement, and believes that academic success is a bi-product of a happy learner. She is dedicated to helping the students at Point Cook build resilience, nurture their self-esteem and develop their own self-efficacy.  Nicole encourages her students to take charge of their own learning and become active constructors of their own knowledge. This, she believes, has an overwhelmingly positive flow-on effect on each student’s personal health, internal satisfaction, self-esteem and self-efficacy in life. 

In addition to supporting the young people in her school community, Nicole has also dedicated considerable time to helping fellow teachers reach their own potential. Nicole regularly mentors graduate teachers, and has opened her classroom to staff and pre-service teachers for learning walks and peer observation. She has facilitated numerous professional development workshops, is an active member of subject area networks, has contributed to various academic publications and is completing a thesis on critical literacy in secondary classrooms as part of a Master of Education. 

Karen Anders
Traralgon College

Karen Anders is an ardent believer in the role and ability of education to address disadvantage and inequality. With 15 years of experience teaching at some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged schools, Karen is highly respected for her achievements in student engagement and retention.

As the Year 10 Leader at Traralgon College, Karen has developed various data-driven initiatives based on positive reinforcement and differentiated instruction. Her focus is on creating a happy and ordered learning environment where students feel valued, cared for and understood. As a member or her school’s Positive Behaviour Support Team, Karen has collaborated with staff to develop behaviour and reward practices that have turned difficult students into diligent learners.

One example saw positive behaviour rewarded with a star-shaped click on a card. After 10 clicks, students could claim a chocolate frog or a hot drink from the canteen. This simple system showed immediate outcomes as it promoted positive and respectful exchanges between students and staff.  

A determination to fight against the socioeconomic disadvantage faced by many of her students also led to Karen reviving Traralgon College’s Central Australia Camp, which had ceased running for many years. Karen paved the way for students to explore the unique culture and history of Indigenous Australia – a rare opportunity for many who had not ventured far beyond the La Trobe Valley region.

Karen believes that every student deserves the opportunity to succeed and that they should leave school as competent, independent learners. Her intimate understanding of students’ backgrounds, coupled with her innate ability to interpret and support their needs, makes Karen Anders a life-changing teacher. 

Outstanding Primary Principal  Award Finalists 

Kim Laffan
Kilmore Primary School

Since beginning at Kilmore Primary School in 2015, Kim Laffan has developed an overall vision for the school that sets high standards for students, staff, parents and the wider Kilmore community. Kim has worked hard with the school’s leadership team to improve the school, according to The Kilmore Way, a document that has transformed teaching and learning throughout the school.

Kim has built a positive culture of support and collaboration between students, staff and the wider community that promotes high expectations for all.  Kim has focused on improving teaching and learning in the school through initiatives such as the Learning Walk program, where she leads observation teams through classroom visits and gives feedback to teachers about how to improve the behaviour and learning of their students.

High expectations of behavioural and learning outcomes are conveyed through Kim’s visible and positive presence within the school. She is a frequent class visitor; praising student effort and work, and providing additional support those who need it.

Kim has also improved student confidence and student voice. Her ‘Wall of Fame’ for exceptional student work is a source of motivation and pride for many, and her creation of a Student Voice Professional Learning Community encourages students to be active contributors to school discussions and improvements.  Recent parent and staff satisfaction surveys have shown significant improvement since Kim took the helm in 2015; Kim’s work to build a positive school community is achieving great results.

Brent Richards
Clifton Springs Primary School

Since taking on the role as principal of Clifton Springs Primary School, Brent Richards has worked hard to rebuild the culture of the school and regain community confidence. Brent’s vision for the school was based on promoting a culture that featured a strong student voice, high community engagement and a rich learning culture. He has worked tirelessly to build networks at regional, Victorian, national and international levels.

Brent has strong links with education professionals in Victoria, interstate and overseas. He has developed networks with school leaders, academics and system leaders and promotes quality practice wherever possible. An example of this work is Brent’s involvement with the Open to Learning Leadership program, which has helped him to contribute to building a strong leadership culture across the system.

Brent has had an outstanding record for innovation and change management, leading his school through the development of strong evidence-based practice over several years. This includes establishing a Professional Learning Community approach where practices can be assessed, challenged and improved.

Positive staff and student survey results have shown the progress the school has made in recent years. Brent’s outstanding leadership has led to a significant improvement in the reputation of Clifton Springs Primary School within the community, and the government school system more broadly.

Di Craig
Specimen Hill Primary School

Di Craig is a passionate school leader who is committed to driving a culture that values excellence in practice and commitment to success across the education system.  Di has demonstrated a strong capacity to influence the system and make the most of the opportunities she has to do this.  She sees the system as an integrated whole, and believes that the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes affirmed the approach that she has had to teaching and learning throughout her entire  career in education.

Di inspires positive change throughout the system by contributing to numerous school reviews, workshops and strategy discussions, as well as participating in initiatives such as the Principal for a Day program and international research projects.

She was a founding member of the Bendigo Team China group which forged sister-school relationships with schools in China, and she was an International Teacher Fellow to Colorado, in the USA, where she was presented with a Teacher of the Year Award for demonstrating excellence.  Di has led Specimen Hill Primary School with a focus on high expectations and establishing a vision for each child’s future.

An important part of Di’s approach to lifting student outcomes is to build a community of learning that empowers parents to make a commitment to their child’s educational and life outcomes, and stay involved in this process. Di’s commitment and leadership has contributed to visible improvement in student performance at Specimen Hill Primary School. 

Outstanding Secondary Principal Award Finalists 

Steven Cook
Albert Park College 

As the Foundation Principal of Albert Park College, Steven Cook led the re-establishment of the school following its closure in 2006 – as Albert Park Secondary College – due to unviable student enrolments. Charged with the daunting challenge of regaining community confidence, Steven instead saw a unique opportunity – and took to relaunching Albert Park College with dedication, optimism and determination. Steven made some bold moves to re-engage the local community and deliver on his promise of education excellence.

He partnered with local businesses and raised almost $1million to transform a 150-year-old building into an award-winning Year 9 campus that focuses on the intersection between the environment and the arts. 

He also established community partnerships with sports and arts organisations – creating an annual arts show to bring local artists into the school, and launching a school-community literary festival with resounding success. Upon re-opening the school in 2011, Steven made the decision to ask all students to buy an iPad – a relatively new device at the time. He is now a recognised leader in online digital learning.

Under Steven’s leadership, the college now has a strong emphasis on differentiated high-expectation and high-demand teaching and learning. Steven’s focus on building a reputation of academic excellence has been achieved by his significant work in attracting exceptional educators and developing cutting edge facilities and curriculum.

In just six years, community confidence in Albert Park College has soared and the college has grown to two campuses with a third underway.  Under Steven’s vision and leadership, Albert Park College is a success story that now leads public education thinking and inspires other school communities.

David Sutton
Maryborough Education Centre

David Sutton has been a key member of the Maryborough Education Centre school community for 30 years, including spending the last nine years in assistant principal and principal roles. David has led the school through a significant transformation based on a vision for the future that is optimistic, aspirational and inclusive.

David’s commitment to the students and families of the Central Goldfields Shire has been evident in his relentless efforts to address disadvantage in the region and improve the school’s facilities, inside and out. Under David’s leadership, the quality of the school grounds has improved, outdoor furniture has appeared, shade sails have been erected and artificial grassed areas and rock gardens have made the school into a place of community pride. 

David is also the leader of Go Goldfields, a community alliance that brings local leaders together to address social issues in the region. His leadership is defined by his commitment to inclusive, high-quality teaching and learning, with a strong determination to provide a nurturing environment for all students in the area, irrespective of their backgrounds.

He is also focused on creating a respectful culture with a high level of community engagement, which is ultimately about improving student learning and building a more equitable society. At Maryborough Education Centre, David provides students with the teaching, materials and facilities that allows them to thrive. 

Jane Mersey
Trafalgar High School

Since 2008, Jane Mersey has lead a period of regeneration and strong growth at Trafalgar High School.

As principal, Jane has delivered on her vision for putting the school at the centre of the community. In shaping the school into a vibrant hub and source of community pride, Jane has overseen significant upgrades to facilities, including a new library, a home economics space, a canteen, classrooms and staff facilities. Jane has been a leader of change who is responsive to the needs of her school, and the needs of all students, families and teachers in the school community.

Under her leadership, Jane has overseen the school’s transformation into a flexible, sophisticated and inclusive learning organisation that is well connected with the community and the wider school network. Jane is a passionate advocate for public education across the network and has developed strong community connections across the education sector. As an active leader in the West Gippsland Principals Network and the Gippsland Secondary Principals network, Jane offers great support to her colleagues and has been a catalyst for positive change within the system.

Working with local connections, Jane has actively promoted the school’s international travel program, securing resources to support student learning in Indonesia, Malaysia, France and Fiji. By contributing to the growth of a global community of learning, Jane is helping to become confident and connected global citizens.

Outstanding Koorie Education Award Finalists  

Berwick College 

Berwick College embraces diversity by creating an inclusive school culture, guided by the targets of the Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan. Berwick College celebrates Aboriginal culture throughout the school, and recognises that education is the key to unlocking understanding about Koorie history, customs and language. The school commitment is not token, it is evident to visitors and the wid er community.  

The college practises Acknowledgement and Welcome to Country and has a dedicated Koorie education section on its website. It presents the annual Dinlu Award (meaning proud in Wurundjeri) for Koorie students who demonstrate the college values of respect, integrity, perseverance, resilience and personal achievement.  

Emphasis is placed on the wellbeing of Koorie students and on fostering pride in their cultural identity.  The school is committed to providing a range of supports to break barriers to learning.  Koorie students have many opportunities to spend time together at morning teas and special events; they represent the Koorie cohort at student-led forums, and connect with their culture and community. The college also works closely with Indigenous community groups and local government to commemorate key dates including National Reconciliation Week.

The school goal of Bridging the Gap and making Koorie student outcomes a school-wide priority has given rise to a real sense of cultural identity and pride. Tailored career action plans and pathways for Koorie students to further education, training and work placements ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at Berwick College are able to succeed in work and life. 

Kurnai College 

The figures speak for themselves when it comes to the success of the Koorie support team at Kurnai College. Described as integral to the dramatic change in school and community culture, the team understands that building a connection with students is key to engage them in school work. 

The Koorie support team aims to ensure students feel comfortable and understand that the staff are passionate and genuine people who want to listen to their story. 

The Koorie support team works in partnership with the careers and pathways team and is instrumental in securing work experience for Koorie students. This has included a placement with local Member of Parliament, Harriet Shing, and traineeships at the Latrobe City Council. This partnership ensures that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students build workplace skills and experience to thrive in life after school. 

Relationships with local elders helped in the formation of the Koorie support team and curriculum development, which seeks to promote cultural understanding as well as strengthening cultural identity and pride for Aboriginal heritage.  From only five Indigenous students enrolled in 2009, Kurnai College is proud to have received 86 Indigenous student enrolments in 2017.

Thornbury Primary School

Thornbury Primary School aims to break barriers to learning by building confidence in the school and the school system, and creating an environment of respect that recognises and celebrates cultural identity.

As one of only two schools in Melbourne to teach Woiwurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people, Thornbury Primary recognises that language plays a key role in the culture of the school. Students spend at least an hour a week learning to use the language to communicate and  understand its context to the culture of the Wurundjeri people. 

Class visitors are greeted with "Kii" or "Womenjika" (which means Hi or Welcome). When a visitor leaves the room, they all use the word "Triganin" (meaning See you later). This year, Thornbury Primary School has been working to trial the Koorie Inclusive School Wide Positive Behaviour Support program. Its implementation has involved the Koorie community through the Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group. 

It is embedded in the culture of Thornbury Primary School to show respect to all cultures by first respecting the land of our First Nations people. This awareness and respect is enhanced through special projects such as a unit developed by the school’s Koorie staff to teach students about the First Fleet from the perspective of Aboriginal people.

The school recognises the importance of visibility and symbolism and, as such, Aboriginal culture features in all aspects of school life. Signs and symbols are shown around the school and classrooms, artwork from the Indigenous Inspired Art Unit sits on display, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait flag is flown in a number of locations. 

​​Outstanding Inclusive Education Award Finalists 

Baltara School and Bendigo Special Developmental School 

In 2016, Baltara School and Bendigo Special Development School came together to provide the Bendigo Outreach Service as part of their Connected Communities Creating Capacity partnership.  

The service provides wrap-around support to students in mainstream primary schools in Bendigo who demonstrate challenging behaviours, and are experiencing barriers to their learning. By combining knowledge and expertise, the service places specialist educators within schools to coach and mentor teachers and facilitate the creation of learning and behaviour management plans, with a focus on prevention.

Students come from a range of backgrounds, some have experienced trauma, while others have learning disabilities or behavioural issues. Some students have never been able to manage formal schooling. Early intervention is key to shifting the course of a student’s journey to better learning, health and life outcomes. 

Parents say the program has improved their child’s social skills and behaviour, with some students demonstrating greater maturity, confidence and independence. The Bendigo Outreach School Service is a one-term program, where educators are placed in schools two days per week and work with up to three students over the term. Fortnightly visits are scheduled in the preceding term, to ensure teaching practices and supports are embedded. The service is focused on re-engagement. Personalised plans are designed to go with students as they progress, so their needs can be understood and responded to at any point on their education journey.

Croxton School and Thornbury High School 

Staff at Croxton School believe students with additional needs should have the opportunity to learn in the same classroom as their peers in a welcoming school environment.

With that in mind, educators at both Croxton School and nearby Thornbury High School were determined to strengthen an existing partnership program into a blueprint for inclusive education that takes a holistic approach to student pastoral care and academic outcomes. After five years of intensive work, the Transition Learning Centre is a best-practice model of dual enrolment in integrated classes where special-needs students can access the same variety of subject electives as their mainstream peers.

Individual learning plans, supported by teachers, have been streamlined to move freely between both schools. 

Student interaction extends beyond the formal Victorian school curriculum into extra-curricular activities such as camping, sport or theatre.

The highly successful model has seen enrolments soar from a single digit to the current 45 placements. Student lives are being transformed as they build self-confidence, develop life skills and begin their personal journey towards achievement.

North East Flexible Learning Network, Wodonga Senior Secondary College ​

A partnership program spanning four campuses in the North Eastern region is transforming the education futures of marginalised students.

Developed in 2015, the North East Flexible Learning Network (NEFLN) campuses in Benalla, Seymour, Shepparton and Wodonga address the needs of disengaged students to bring them back into the educational fold. After experiencing trauma, mental health problems, out-of-home care or youth justice issues, many of the students have missed significant amounts of formal education and are behind their peers before they even start schooling.

By recognising the barriers, identifying learning needs and scaffolding tasks, the NEFLN seeks to empower young people for life by boosting their academic and social achievements to build self-worth and confidence.  More than 400 young people now connect to the network and have embarked on aspirational pathways designed for seamless transition and support.

At the heart of the system are individual learning plans, mentor teachers, one-on-one and group learning, as well as online learning. The network has successfully embedded inclusive cultures in safe and welcoming environments. Each campus has strong links to support services in schools and local communities to help students develop resilience and self-determination.  Staff involved in the program have found the engagement with families to be especially rewarding, as parents watch their children transform into proud, confident young achievers.

Outstanding School Advancement Award Finalists

Lightning Reef Primary School, Specimen Hill Primary School and Eaglehawk Primary School 

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that’s exactly what Lightning Reef, Eaglehawk and Specimen Hill Primary Schools decided to do in partnership with local businesses and employers in Bendigo to raise work aspirations among students.

The Passions and Pathways partnership aims to connect the dots between school and the world of work to help students understand that education and training allow people to achieve life-long goals and unlock a brighter future. This unique and innovative partnership has created workplace experiences through tours, expos and projects to put students on the path to employment. Hands-on experience makes employment and work seem like a realistic goal for students. 

Facilitated by the Goldfield’s Local Learning and Employment Network, and supported by La Trobe University and the City of Greater Bendigo, Passions and Pathways demonstrates the power of developing strong public and private partnerships.  Students learn that both school and work require the same attributes and skills, such as the ability to problem solve and work as a team, and the ability to demonstrate reliability and determination.

Employers have seen the benefit in engaging a potential future workforce, and the partnership has gone from strength to strength with over 40 businesses and industry workplaces on board. 

Northern Bay P-12 College 

The junior science staff team at Northern Bay P-12 College has been working hard to instil a love of science among students.

The team aims to go beyond academic results to genuine inquiry, passion and excitement – to relate science back to life and to show students how science can help solve problems and innovate. Students have responded to this energy in a positive way. Senior students now want to study science further, with many in the upper years demonstrating greater skill, knowledge and interest in the subject. Northern Bay has seen significant progress in student results as part of the Supplementary School Level Report.

The team works across multiple campuses with students of mixed abilities, and devotes much focus to building staff capacity through professional learning and collaborative practices – completely overhauling the way science is taught at the college.

An exciting partnership with Ford has been also forged by the team to set up a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Hub at the school and create other opportunities to interact with Ford engineers and sophisticated equipment.  Lunchtime science sessions and an extended school day program are available so students can learn for longer. A science library has been set up and planning is underway for an expo in National Science Week 2017. 

Pakenham Hills Primary School

The School Improvement Team at Pakenham Hills Primary School refuses to accept that generational disadvantage determines a student’s future.  Over the past 12 months, the team has set about creating a school model and culture of collective responsibility for student engagement, wellbeing and achievement.

The team led an intensive analysis of existing teaching models, student performance data, school priorities and community engagement. Through a process of self-reflection and goal setting, they developed an ambitious program to significantly improve professional practice, community collaboration and student outcomes.

The school’s Strategic Plan and Annual Implementation Plan were aligned with FISO (Framework for Improving Student Outcomes) and Education State targets, and a newly formed Professional Learning Community established new standards and a whole-school approach to staff professional development. A renewed commitment to community connectedness has resulted in plans to build a parent hub on school grounds, and a Prep transition program is forging strong ties with local families to give their children the best possible start at school.

The decision of the school improvement team to focus attention and resources on priority improvement areas has made immediate impacts at Pakenham Hills Primary School. Student achievement data is improving and a positive school culture is evolving, evidenced through staff, student and parent opinion surveys.

Swan Hill North Primary School 

Swan Hill North Primary School is raising the aspirations of its students and reconceptualising traditional views of teaching.

The school’s journey started five years ago and, through researching best practice, the leadership team highlighted instruction as the most critical element in a school’s success. The team recognised that the most successful way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction. They soon created their own FLISC (Feedback, Learning, Intentions and Success Criteria) model and used this model to significantly lift student learning outcomes – evidenced by NAPLAN results. 

To further develop their new approach, the team emphasised the need for teacher collaboration and sharing of practice – with all staff members becoming experts in at least one area of the improvement model.

Recognising the strong link between academic results and social success, Swan Hill North Primary School has also embedded a positive student and staff culture by implementing the key tenets of positive psychology. Students have focused on reaching their potential and achieving targets by exploring a growth mindset. Creating frequent experiences of positive emotions is the goal of much work being done around strengthening relationships, increasing resilience and promoting mindfulness.

There has been a visible flow-on effect throughout the whole school community which has noticed and embraced the school’s progress in recent years. Student pride also emanates through a strong sense of belief and connectedness to their community.

Outstanding Education Support Team Award Finalists 

Berwick College

The aptly named ConnectED Wellbeing program at Berwick College is a multifaceted approach to student wellbeing. By ensuring that every student is connected to school, their peers, an appropriate pathway and at least one significant other to support them, the education support team provides opportunities for students to overcome barriers to achieve academic success.

The team consists of four social workers, a chaplain and a registered nurse who work collaboratively to ensure the holistic needs of every young person are met. They are committed to providing an educational, preventative and proactive approach to student wellbeing.  ConnectED plays a pivotal role in raising the profile of mental health in the school community.

The focus is always on making sure young people remain connected, through initiatives inside and out of the college that meet financial, social and emotional needs so students are ready and able to learn when they are in the classroom. In addition to support for students, the team at Berwick College provides ongoing assistance for families, staff and often the general community. The team works to ensure there are no barriers for young people to attend and engage with school. Their ability to connect others with appropriate support services ensures young people are cared for at school and at home.

Each member of the team brings individual strengths, and comes together as a powerful team, and parent feedback has affirmed the important work the team is doing to ensure young people feel connected

Cranbourne East Secondary College ​

 When the Cranbourne East Secondary College wellbeing team conducted an analysis of attendance data, they identified some students in Years 7 to 9 were avoiding school due to high levels of anxiety, learning difficulties and challenges at home. 

Additionally, many of these students’ families did not engage with support services and were unaware of services in the local area that could help them.  In direct response to this, the wellbeing team designed a dual-enrolment re-engagement program for students to learn, in a safe and supportive environment, with wrap-around services to support students and families.

From this original idea, formed in 2016, the ‘Lift Off’ program began at the start of this year with 18 students enrolled from seven local secondary schools in the region. ‘Lift Off’ aims to promote complete physical, emotional and social wellbeing through collaborative care from the family, school and community to which the young person is connected. 

‘Lift Off’ provides students with a meaningful pathway to help their transition back into mainstream school. It supports their vocational skills and helps with referrals to appropriate agencies.  The wrap-around program has been life-changing for many students and their families – renewing self-worth and hope for a brighter future. 

Sale College (Guthridge Campus)             

The education support staff at Sale College, Guthridge Campus, constantly think outside the box to cater for their students with additional needs.

They believe there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; their aim is to understand the unique interests and needs of every student and harness those in a positive learning setting. From art therapy, to horse-riding, to hospitality training, the team aims to bring out the best in their students’ learning and life skills.

In order to foster academic achievement, the educational support team works collaboratively with class teachers to provide frequent and explicit instruction in the skill-areas needed. Their strategies include: modifications in the classroom; creating alternate assignments; and providing written outlines of lessons – all aimed at supporting the best possible learning outcomes for their students with additional needs.

The education support team stay informed of research and practices that offer the best support and strategies. One of their most successful innovations has been the creation of a safe indoor space open at recess and lunch for students with developing social skills, or those looking for a place to belong. The space has meant students feel safe and happy and forge friendships they may not have made otherwise.

The staff in the team have been leaders in creating a school-wide culture of inclusion, where all learners feel welcome, safe, valued and supported to achieve their goals.