2020 awards finalists

The Victorian Education Excellence Awards recognises inspirational teachers, principals, business managers and education support staff for outstanding dedication and achievement in government education.

Forty-one finalists from government schools across Victoria have been shortlisted for the 2020 awards which will be announced on Friday 20 November 2020.

2020 Individual Award Finalists

Outstanding Business Manager Award

The Outstanding Business Manager Award recognises an exceptional business manager who has demonstrated excellence in school finance and business management whilst making a significant contribution to the performance of their school.

Matthew Smitten, Bacchus Marsh Primary School

Within a year, Bacchus Marsh Primary School's new business manager, Matthew Smitten has made significant improvements to the business and systems performance of the school.

Without compromising policy or relationships, he has created more efficient, open and consultative systems and procedures, restructured staff responsibilities and implemented targeted staff development.

Working in partnership with leaders and school council to implement more efficient processes, Matthew has streamlined decision-making and enhanced the governance of the school.

As a member of the Integrity Leadership Group, he has used the opportunity to network with individuals and teams within the wider Department of Education and Training, contributing his expertise to state-wide policy improvement.

In 2019, Bacchus Marsh Primary School was invited by the Department to be one of the schools interviewed to develop the Interactive School Council Online Finance Training Modules for school council members.

Matthew's exemplary financial and personal contribution have earned him the respect of the school, the Department and wider community.

Juan Hompart, Berwick College

Juan has been the business manager at Berwick College since 2017, bringing expertise and creativity to the leadership team and significantly improving the financial management and position of the college.

Juan oversees all the financial aspects of a large college with 1650 students and 170 staff. His in-depth knowledge of DET systems, processes and procedures is ensuring the best possible use of resources. Initiating new streams of revenue and creating a more sustainable learning environment for staff and students, he is improving outcomes across the college.

Extending his relationships with colleagues in other schools, Juan has supported staff to access professional learning and networking opportunities and maximised funding opportunities in support of students. Juan assists all eligible and vulnerable students at the college to apply and receive funding in support of their engagement in education.

Juan's dedicated contribution towards continuous improvement, increased opportunity and sustainable resources for students and staff is ensuring a positive and sustainable future for Berwick College.

Jodie Keast, Brauer College

As business manager, Jodie Keast has been the driving force behind Brauer College's recent structural and system advancements, improving the resources and infrastructure needed for effective teaching and learning at the college.

In collaboration with the school's Consultative Committee and Council she has led changes in education support that support whole school decision-making, creating structures to support Departmental initiatives and prioritising school goals that focus on improved outcomes for every student.

Jodie oversees all financial and asset management and ensures that upgrades to the college's learning environment and facilities, such as the recent refurbishment and upgrades to classrooms and IT infrastructure, are always focused on meeting the needs of students.

Jodie's person-centred approach to improving business function and efficiency at the college has enabled her to develop strong partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including other schools.

Mentoring several business managers of schools in the Warrnambool Region, Jodie is a well-respected member of Brauer College's wider community and network.

Outstanding Primary Teacher Award

The Outstanding Primary Teacher Award recognises an effective and innovative teacher who has demonstrated excellence in teaching practice and has made a significant contribution to improving student achievement, engagement and wellbeing.

Marika Newey, Cobram Primary School

Marika Newey, Mathematics teacher at Cobram Primary School, has worked with the school to take their NAPLAN results in numeracy from being below average to some of the best in the state.

Marika used the school’s data to pinpoint areas of need within the school and then initiated a series of Professional Learning Communities to share this knowledge across the school, encouraging collective efficacy and understanding. 

Marika then established a school-wide, evidenced based approach for effective Mathematics teaching. Implementing a new instructional model for numeracy, Marika constructed a whole-school scope and sequence for Mathematics that brought increased transparency and flexibility to the content being taught in the classrooms. 

Cobram Primary School has shown the highest benchmark growth in numeracy in the state at 45 per cent. The state average is 26 per cent, with the network at 21 per cent, with similar schools sitting at 20 per cent. These outstanding results highlight the important work that Marika has initiated across the school to dramatically improve students’ number fluency and proficiency.

Averil Mitchell, Hampton Park Primary School

Averil Mitchell, Leading Teacher Student Engagement and Inclusion at Hampton Park Primary School, works with families and students with complex needs to ensure that these students are given every opportunity to succeed.

Averil leads the breadth of student wellbeing, engagement and inclusion programs at the school. Leading the Program for Students with Disabilities and the Education Support Inclusion Team she participates in and leads professional learning to guide staff in the informed support of all students.

Committed to the work of public education, Averil has integrated the Amplify principles and High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) practices across the school. She leads programs including the Respectful Relationships Program and the Student Voice, Agency and Leadership, Rights and Resilience Program, ensuring whole-school positive behaviours and values underpin the curriculum.

Averil’s sustained commitment to building positive relationships and expertise across the school and wider community has been instrumental in creating a successful, safe and supportive learning environment for all students.

Gillian Light, Little River Primary School

Learning Specialist at Little River Primary School, Gillian Light endeavours to instil a genuine love of learning and sense of agency in students.

Gillian’s instructional practice aligns seamlessly with the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO). A passionate proponent of the whole-school improvement approach, Gillian conducts peer observation and student learning walks to create a culture of professional learning and respect amongst her peers.

Amongst many initiatives in support of student’s learning, Gillian has implemented a digital technology focus at the school to build teachers’ capability and confidence in integrating digital learning tools, resources and platforms into their teaching.

Gillian has also created and sustains a remote learning website for the school, acts as a mentor for pre-service teachers and coaches ‘Technofrogs’, the school’s robotics team. 

Modelling an effective use of educational technologies, Gillian seeks to engage and prepare students as agents in their own learning, with skills and attitudes that will continue to benefit them in their educational journey.

Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award

The Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award recognises an effective and innovative teacher who has demonstrated excellence in teaching practice and has made a significant contribution to improving student achievement, engagement and wellbeing.

Karen Crawley, Berwick College

As a Leading Teacher at Berwick College, Karen Crawley is committed to building the capacity of colleagues and systems to improve outcomes for students, especially those at risk of disengaging with their education.

Karen's portfolio of responsibilities includes leading the college's large Careers and Vocational Education and Training program and providing support to students funded under the Program for Students with Disabilities.

As an instructional leader of Professional Learning Communities and a member of the School Improvement Team, Karen works at all levels of the college towards building a culture of quality teaching practice, with a specific focus on improving literacy.

In response to high low growth in NAPLAN results, Karen researched and developed a successful literacy program with staff and established classroom libraries to encourage fluent reading and writing across the college.

Karen's exemplary commitment to creating opportunity, participation and access to learning for students and staff has built capability and a culture of high expectation at the college.

Brett Lamb, East Doncaster Secondary College

A Leading Teacher at East Doncaster Secondary College, Brett Lamb is a creative and skilled mentor of staff and students, guiding the schools' positive engagement with digital learning, media and technology.

As a Media teacher, collaborative and accessible learning is central to his inclusive teaching approach. Students work interdependently on authentic, real-world media productions, including podcasts and short films. Brett's comprehensive online Media resource provides remote access to an evolving library of curriculum resources designed to instruct Victorian Media students and teachers.

Brett leads Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) for all staff in areas of digital and remote learning, developing staff's confidence and capability to engage purposefully with new technology, learning platforms and resources designed to improve student outcomes.

Brett is a highly-respected contributor to national conferences and publications, regularly producing educational resources such as assessment tasks, presentations and articles for organisations such the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) and Creative Content Australia.

Andrew McConchie, Mordialloc College

Andrew McConchie, classroom teacher and Director of Literacy at Mordialloc College, believes it is the collective expertise and energy of the teams and community he works with that underpins the sustained success of the students in his school.

Andrew has created a culture of collaboration in the development of literacy instruction, initiating Literacy Implementation Groups and a Literacy Intervention Team to work with staff to deliver a whole-school literacy program within a guaranteed and viable curriculum.

Engaging parents and families in the program has created an emphasis on long term outcomes and pathways; for many children, sudden literacy improvements are the direct result of the literacy program's holistic approach, which emphasises relationships and student wellbeing.

Over the past three years since Andrew has worked with the college, English results at VCE level have improved significantly. In 2018 and 2019, the average study score was over 32, and coupled with continued improvements in NAPLAN results, Andrew's leadership of collective process has proven exemplary.

Outstanding Primary Principal Award

The Outstanding Primary Principal Award recognises an exceptional principal who has demonstrated leadership excellence. The principal has made a significant contribution to improving staff and student achievement, engagement and wellbeing; raised the quality of teaching; and improved the overall performance of their school.

Jane Greig-Hancock, Coburg Primary School

As the new principal of Coburg Primary School, Jane Greig-Hancock embraced the challenge of improving the culture of the school and is now achieving significant whole-school improvement.

Jane invests significant effort to ensure her teachers are working together and alongside her to co-construct a vision for the school. Using a school review's recommendations as a springboard for school-wide improvement, she mobilised the school to enact cultural change through setting and modelling high expectations for all staff, students and the wider school community.

Effective use of Education State improvement resources enabled Jane to enact a whole-school professional learning framework, focused on the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO). Leading her teachers through Professional Learning Communities training, she has successfully guided a collaborative approach to improving outcomes.

The positive impact of her 'hands-on' leadership of school improvement is reflected in recent student achievement and attitudinal survey results and in the school's increased performance in improving student outcomes across several FISO dimensions.

Julie Soutter, Gisborne Primary School

Gisborne Primary School was identified as a Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Link School for 2019, recognised for excellence in building professional learning through a strong culture of collaboration and distributive leadership.

Principal Julie Soutter leads Education State initiatives such as the PLC with fidelity, ensuring that there is positive engagement and commitment from all stakeholders.

Her dedication to developing the Professional Learning Community initiative within her own school and wider educational network has inspired a deeper understanding of how excellence in teaching and learning improves student-learning outcomes and builds professional trust and community.

A purposeful team-led approach to sustained improvement for the school has seen measurable growth in staff capacity and increased the positive impact of teaching on student outcomes.

Julie's vision for an equitable, high achieving educational environment, co-designed with the school community in alignment with the Victorian Teaching and Learning Model (VTLM), has fulfilled expectations of excellence and encouraged whole-school values that promote positive student mindset, behaviour and performance.

Esme Capp, Princes Hill Primary School

At Princes Hill Primary School, Principal Esme Capp has created a professional and high-achieving learning community by leading a visionary educational culture of support and challenge.

Esme works with teachers to better understand research as a fundamental principle of learning. Leading purposeful relationships and engagement, Esme takes advantage of the expertise in the community and models being a teacher-researcher, partnering with local and international experts to inform teachers and students.

Under Esme's leadership, the vision, values and principles of learning underpinning her approach work productively within the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO). Empowered with collective understanding and purpose, teachers use the Practice Principles and High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) to help further their practice and development as educators.

An exemplar school in the Department's Amplify initiative Esme leads Princes Hill Primary School with her experience, knowledge and skills to influence the shape of education in the future, exemplifying a vision for learning based on respect for student voice and agency.

Outstanding Secondary Principal Award

The Outstanding Secondary Principal Award recognises an exceptional principal who has demonstrated leadership excellence. The principal has made a significant contribution to improving staff and student achievement, engagement and wellbeing; raised the quality of teaching; and improved the overall performance of their school.

Karen Harris, Brunswick Secondary College

As principal of Brunswick Secondary College, Karen Harris distributes leadership at all levels of the college to facilitate a whole-school approach to attaining excellent outcomes for all students.

Open and inclusive, Karen has led the repurposing of the college's vision and values in consultation with the broader college community. Instilling trust and a sense of moral purpose in her colleagues and students, Karen has created a cohesive and high-achieving learning environment.

Karen's exemplary leadership has improved outcomes and pathways for students across all bands of achievement.

Karen's participation in Professional Learning Community sessions immerses her in the teamwork of curriculum development and sharpens a collective focus on improving the teaching and learning practices at the college.

Embedding a School-wide Positive Behaviour Support approach to behaviour, a reformed Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) entrance process and initiating a greater shift towards offering VCE early start options, provide clear examples of her leadership priorities:  improved student's access, participation and educational outcomes.

Jill Laughlin, Camberwell High School

Jill Laughlin, educational leader and principal of Camberwell High School, has brought her school community together to create and share a clear educational vision, embraced by all stakeholders.

The vision to develop independent and self-managing learners equipped to negotiate the challenges of the future, is made evident in outstanding student performance data. Building the leadership and capacity of her teaching team, Jill is leading an innovative and sustainable curriculum and providing students with a strong career and pathways focus.

In 2019, Jill successfully applied for an Australian government grant to become the only Victorian P-Tech (Pathways in Technology) pilot school specialising in cybersecurity.

Jill is currently leading the implementation of the P-Tech program and ensuring its long-term sustainability by establishing school, industry and tertiary partnerships. The design of a new Year 10 learning centre incorporating STEM and introducing a select entry STEM program for Year 9 students in 2021 is further preparing her students for 21st century life and work.

Steven Leed, East Loddon P-12 College

Principal Steven Leed believes all students should have access to quality education, regardless of their background or circumstance.

Steven's commitment to the principle of collective efficacy has led the learning community at East Loddon P-12 College to focus on continuous improvement. Providing targeted feedback and supporting collaborative learning through Professional Learning Communities, Steven works with staff to deliver an instructional model that integrates High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) and leverages student voice and agency.

Collective values and a consistent approach to curriculum delivery has yielded continual and outstanding improvement in student outcomes. The college's median VCE study score is up to 34 in 2019 (the highest in North West Victoria Region) and in 2019/20, the college is looked towards as a school of influence.

Steven is an executive member of the Greater Bendigo Network of schools, a mentor of aspirant principals in the Unlocking Potential program and a Challenge Partner in school reviews, ensuring all students in the region can access quality education and training.

Vincent Sicari, Eltham High School

Principal Vincent Sicari is leading a self-improvement journey for Eltham High School by creating an inclusive learning culture where each person feels safe to be themselves and is challenged to think critically and creatively.

Vincent's consistent approach to the implementation of the Eltham High School instructional model has also seen the embedding of High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) into every teacher's practice. The development of data literacy for staff has empowered innovation and development in the curriculum, including a new partnership with the University of Melbourne to apply a diagnostic tool to measure students' cognitive and social collaboration.

Working with the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) the school has also trialled a tool to measure critical and creative thinking, and is embedding greater levels of inquiry-based learning to support its explicit instruction model.

Vincent's significant achievements result from leading a collaborative approach where each member of the teaching and school support teams approach their work from a whole-school perspective.

2020 Team Award Finalists

Outstanding Education Support Team Award

The Outstanding Education Support Team Award recognises an exceptional education support team that has demonstrated excellence in collaboration and teamwork, and has made a significant contribution to improving student achievement, engagement and wellbeing.

Bentleigh West Primary School

Bentleigh West Primary School takes a whole-school approach to supporting students with a wide and complex range of learning differences. Integrating the diverse skills and expertise of the Education Support (ES) staff team in all aspects of the school's mission has created a safe, supportive and high-functioning learning environment.

Positive behaviour has been a focus for Bentleigh West Primary, and the collective work of the ES team is helping the school to become an exemplar in supporting the education and wellbeing of their students.

Responding to students' diverse medical, behavioural and educational needs is both rewarding and challenging. In recognition of the growing complexity of the ES role, all staff including the ES team, engage in ongoing professional learning including literacy, numeracy and High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS).

This high-achieving team has formed partnerships with several tertiary institutions, establishing Certificate in Education Support student placements at the school and extending their expertise to collaborate with neighbouring schools, parents and local community.

Kingswood Primary School

The inclusion team at Kingswood Primary School consists of five education support staff who work collaboratively. Together, they support students with learning differences to better access the curriculum and develop positive outcomes from their learning.

The inclusion team collectively identify and develop strategies, based on the evidence they collect in the classroom and from current research, to support each student in progressing towards their next set of goals.

The team communicate their strategies, like the use of visual supports and consistent language, among classrooms, teachers and year level teams to help students integrate their learning and manage behaviour.

Their collaborative practice has evolved through their initiative to develop professional learning sessions and opportunities with their colleagues in other schools, where they have become a central support team for other primary schools in Kingston's network.

The impact of their professional learning as a team has enhanced a deeper understanding of how students with individual learning differences can thrive in the classroom environment.

Latrobe Valley Flexible Learning Option

The education support team at the Latrobe Valley Flexible Learning Option (LVFLO) support students in their learning by removing any barriers to their education, building relationships and focusing on new pathways to success.

Students participating in the program are on the fringe of disengagement from school.

The education support team inducts new students, are involved in the writing of individual learning and education plans and manage the outreach program. Providing significant welfare support, they enable these students to re-engage with mainstream schooling or explore further learning opportunities.

Often working in challenging conditions, the education support team provide their expertise and support to a learning environment structured by core learning and electives that emphasise life-skill acquisition.

Forming strong community partnerships to create resources and life-changing opportunities for their students, the education support team have engaged parents, commercial and educational organisations to help sustain viable pathways for their students' learning and success.

Outstanding Inclusive Education Award

The Outstanding Inclusive Education Award recognises an exceptional team of staff who have demonstrated quality teaching and learning, delivered outstanding system improvements that have made a positive impact in their school and community that support achievement, engagement and wellbeing through a positive climate for learning for students with additional needs.

Kangaroo Flat Primary School

'Every face has a place' at Kangaroo Flat Primary School, where wellbeing and inclusion have a strong focus and students learning needs are accommodated responsively, ensuring every student can thrive emotionally as well as academically.

The team at Kangaroo Flat Primary believe all behaviour is meaningful. An effective school-wide positive behaviour framework has guided the school's teachers, English as an Additional Language (EAL) staff and large multicultural student cohort to achieve sustained improvement in student experience and outcomes.

Student outcome data informs the planning and consultative meetings share learning expectations with students and their families. Strong partnerships with home and local authorities extend expertise and access to support for students, including the introduction of the school dog 'Bonnie' to the classroom and EAL parent workshops, where multicultural education aides help families to support their child's learning at home and school.

Kangaroo Flat Primary continues to rate well-above the state average in all areas of the Attitudes to School Survey.

Pakenham Consolidated School

Pakenham Consolidated School has taken an innovative approach to engaging vulnerable learners through their Hands On Learning Program (HOP).

Based on a detailed analysis of school-based data and research, the school identified a need to differentiate an approach to educating their vulnerable and most disengaged learners, one that would encourage participation and improve learner experience.

Aligned with the Victorian Teaching and Learning Model (VTML), the HOP was designed by staff with the support of Hands On Learning Australia to deliver a blended approach of explicit teaching and applied learning, including real-life problem solving and community engagement.

Focusing on improving student wellbeing, the HOP is carefully structured with expectations, boundaries and consistency to allow all students to not only achieve, but thrive in a safe environment.

NAPLAN results reveal students' achievement has increased significantly to above state growth in reading, writing and numeracy. Staff also identified that 67 per cent of students who attended HOP demonstrated improvement in classroom engagement within a term.

Yarra Ranges Special Developmental School

In 2012, Yarra Ranges Special Developmental School developed a Satellite Prep-6 Inclusion (P6I) unit onsite at Healesville Primary School. The unit comprises of two classes with 11 students ranging from ages 7-12 with intellectual and accompanying disabilities living within the Yarra Valley.

Learning experiences are delivered through a team teaching approach using the Victorian Curriculum, where students are taught at their developmental level in conjunction with an age-appropriate curriculum.

The P6I unit works with external therapy providers and families to support the students within the classroom, across Healesville Primary School classes, at home and in the community. Engaging students in explicit teaching and learning is helping students to manage their behaviour in different environments and to develop respectful relationships.

The P6I unit has successfully increased their students' capabilities and inclusion amongst their peers by integrating their cohort into mainstream schooling. Students engage in age-appropriate, social, cultural and performance-based activities alongside their Healesville Primary School peers, actively contributing to the whole school community.

Outstanding Koorie Education Award

The Outstanding Koorie Education Award recognises exceptional educators who have demonstrated a commitment to developing indigenous cultural understanding, and respectful and inclusive teaching and learning practices to improve Koorie student achievement, engagement and wellbeing within their school and broader community.

Chaffey Secondary College

With over 25 per cent of their student cohort identifying as Aboriginal, Chaffey Secondary College is making a difference for their Koorie students by working with the wider Koorie-focused community and creating a network of expertise and opportunity for students.

Respect for Aboriginal culture and representation is embedded in the college's culture and environment. Acknowledgement of Country at every assembly, co-created artworks and uniform designs made with Koorie Elders, staff and students celebrate Koorie culture in all aspects of college life.

Chaffey Secondary College is one of only two sites in Victoria to trial the Stars Foundation. Stars provides a supportive framework for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to improve their educational outcomes.

Working alongside the Clontarf and Stars academies, Koorie Education Support Officer (KESO), Elders and local Aboriginal organisations, the college is improving outcomes for their Koorie cohort, demonstrating increased levels of student attendance, engagement and achievement.

Morwell Park Primary School

Morwell Park Primary School has created a culture of inclusion, trust and respect with the Koorie community, establishing strong foundations for positive relationships with students and their families.

Focused on ensuring high expectations for all Koorie students through the belief that they 'can and should' attain high levels of achievement, the school effectively uses data to pin-point learning needs and engages parents in developing students' Individual Education Plans.

Working with the Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, parents and community organisations through a dedicated Marrung Leader, the school has reformed the curriculum to ensure greater acknowledgement of Aboriginal history, events and peoples, extending a whole-school understanding of Koorie perspectives.

The school's sustained focus on lifting academic achievement for all Koorie students has resulted in significant gains for Koorie attainment at the school, evidenced by outstanding results: NAPLAN data has steadily improved over the last three years, with significant numbers of students achieving in the top two bands of reading and numeracy.

Swan Hill Primary School

At Swan Hill Primary School, initiatives to improve the educational outcomes of their Koorie students are significantly closing the achievement gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners.

A strong emphasis on student wellbeing has been guided by the Marrung Educational Plan and supported by the appointment of an indigenous Koorie Officer as an Educational Support to the school.

The team have worked collaboratively to integrate Koorie family, culture and learning at the school, creating initiatives such as the Koorie Homework Program and working with local Elders to bring the Wamba Wamba language into the curriculum, developing their own app to support the initiative.

The success of their efforts is clear: in 2019, nearly half of Aboriginal students achieved results in the top two NAPLAN bands and in spelling. Koorie students surveyed also demonstrated increases in levels of positive endorsement for their schooling.

Outstanding School Improvement Award

The Outstanding School Improvement Award recognises exceptional school staff who have demonstrated excellence to improve whole school outcomes through strategic planning, improvement initiatives, and have made a significant contribution to developing effective partnerships with the broader community to improve overall school performance.

Cobram Primary School

Since 2017, Cobram Primary School has been on a journey of whole-school improvement. A truly collaborative approach led by a highly-skilled leadership team and supported by teachers and educational consultants, has enabled an evidence informed, team-driven transformation of the school.

The School Improvement Team developed and implemented collective approaches to curriculum development, assessment and the building of teacher capacity, ensuring the consistency and quality of teaching practice across all classrooms. New curriculum scope and sequence now guarantees multiple exposures to content required for student progression and provides consistency across year levels.

In 2018/19, significantly improved student achievement, especially in reading and numeracy, led to Cobram Primary School being highly regarded as an exemplar school.

Collaboration is central to Cobram Primary School's everyday practice. As a school that is now recognised as influential in delivering quality teaching practice, they also work with schools from across Victoria and New South Wales to assist with their own school improvement journeys, helping to lift student outcomes across the sector.

Cranbourne East Secondary College

In 2015, a school review at Cranbourne East Secondary College highlighted the need for significant whole-school improvement and quality teaching and learning. The following year, the college principal then led a four-year process of development supported by staff teams to develop leadership and improve outcomes.

In consultation with staff, the team developed a cycle of inquiry informed by the Framework for Improved Student Outcomes (FISO). After establishing an agreed instructional model and guaranteed curriculum, a whole-school inquiry focused on improving writing outcomes provided the context for the introduction of Professional Learning Teams.

A vastly improved college climate was evidenced by the 2019 review, with consistently higher student achievement results across several measures and year levels demonstrating an effective curriculum and high-quality senior pathways.

The results of the college's improvement journey are exceptional. In 2019, the college achieved a 40-point increase in the Year 9 writing mean (2017-19) and was named most improved VCE median study score over four years, state-wide.

Thornbury High School

Thornbury High School has been on a sustained improvement journey, built on the foundation of a whole-school professional learning approach and driven by a strong focus on improving senior secondary outcomes.

The school introduced a formalised VCE data review process at a whole faculty and individual teacher level, improving staff's data literacy and creating a focus on extending high ability students, one of the contributing factors demonstrating a significant increase in VCE 40+ scores.

The school has seen significant growth, not only in achievement, but also in participation.  Within the framework of the school's professional learning approach, the team has implemented several evidence-based developments; an exemplar being the Senior Science STEM curriculum, encouraging students to excel in their Year 11 and 12 studies.

The school's popular music and performing arts program has also had markedly positive effect on student engagement and outcomes, supported by strong results in the attitudes to school survey and interviews with student and parent focus groups.

Outstanding Provision for High-Ability Students – Primary

A new category in 2020, the Outstanding Provision for High-Ability Students Award recognises exceptional teams within Victorian government schools that have demonstrated excellence in provision for high-ability students, supporting their learning, engagement and wellbeing and helping them thrive now and into the future.

Bandiana Primary School

Bandiana Primary School's implementation of the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) has increased opportunity and support for all children to achieve excellence, no matter what their ability.

Ensuring all students are challenged within every class, the school has simultaneously supported the acceleration of many students in their learning by engaging high-ability students on extension tasks aligned to the school curriculum, increasing levels of student advocacy and collaborative decision-making.

The extension program engages students in activities that focus on higher-order thinking across multiple disciplines beyond the core school subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics.

Student input and agency has led to innovative projects involving coding, robotics, and game design in a curriculum that offers STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) subjects and prepares high-achieving students for futures as creative, adaptive and critical thinkers.

Bandiana Primary School contributes to system-wide learning and engagement via the recognition of students with high potential, offering various supports to professional development, shared resources and mentoring for Network schools.

Mackellar Primary School

A Mackellar Primary School initiative, involved four high-ability female students (aged 9-11) who in 2019, wrote, produced and published an innovative multi-modal text via iBooks.

'Convergence: April 13th, 1945' tells the stories of four characters whose lives converge two days prior to the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Using research-driven narratives written by the students and developed from historical accounts, the Convergence project is a powerful example of student writing for an authentic purpose.

The Mackellar Primary School's Year 5 team have since published the 'Convergence Study Guide', an interactive digital workbook for students containing performance tasks for higher-order comprehension of 'Convergence: April 13th, 1945'. A curriculum guide and sequential lesson plans have also been published for a global audience of teachers.

'Convergence' has been downloaded more than 1200 times and is available in 51 countries. 

River Gum Primary School

At River Gum Primary School, they believe in inclusive education where every student is challenged and has a voice.

Developing an effective approach to accelerating the academic achievement and engagement of their high-ability learners, they have implemented a sustainable and engaging flipped-learning model, enabling cohorts of students to dramatically improve their outcomes and achievement levels.

Innovation is the focus for the development and implementation of the school’s 2020 flipped-learning high-ability program. Offering a combination of online and face-to-face approaches, the model is focused on four key outcomes for students: fostering creative thinking, ambitious goal setting, global citizenship and empowering students.

These outcomes are derived from the Victorian Teaching and Learning Model (VTLM).

The positive impact of this innovative program on both student learning growth and proficiency can be measured by the school’s outstanding NAPLAN results. This program has significantly increased the capability of their students to excel – especially in the remote and flexible learning period that we are currently negotiating.

Outstanding Provision for High-Ability Students – Secondary

A new category in 2020, the Outstanding Provision for High-Ability Students Award recognises exceptional teams within Victorian government schools that have demonstrated excellence in provision for high-ability students, supporting their learning, engagement and wellbeing and helping them thrive now and into the future.

Alamanda College

Alamanda College's primary aim is to develop students' knowledge, personal qualities and attitudes to enable them to face the challenges of the future with confidence.

The college has developed an innovative curriculum model aligned with the Victorian Teaching and Learning Model (VTLM). Students set their own developmental goals in response to learning tasks and actively contribute to collaborative working, peer assessment and review.

High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) encourage high-ability students to test the limits of their intellectual and physical capability and focus on developing students' attitudes, awareness and respect for diversity and difference.

At a State and National level, the college supports the priority of STEM by engaging students in engineering and design, through the curricula and through competitions such as F1 in Schools.

Appealing to students interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and coding, Alamanda's students represented Victorian Government Schools at F1 in Schools 2020, winning the National Award for Best Student Portfolio and the inaugural Women in STEM award.

Preston High School

Preston High School's innovative approach to teaching high-ability learners operating significantly above their age-group peers, rests on maximising differentiated learning and inspiring students' engagement with their education.

The school's Learner Growth Approach successfully embeds High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) and Practice Principles, both essential elements of the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO). Aligning this dynamic, evidence-informed learning approach with the Victorian Curriculum, high-ability students can learn years in advance of their age-group.

Preston High School's developmentally focused approach and curriculum creates a dynamic academic environment where each student is empowered to shape their learning by what fascinates them. In the schools' Academic Enhancement Program, students apply their learning to make a positive impact in their communities, boosting opportunities to demonstrate student agency, engagement and leadership.

Preston High School's outstanding success in achieving positive student outcomes is supported by comprehensive data, where in both NAPLAN and the Student Attitudes to School Surveys they rate well-above state and similar school averages.

2020 Specialist Award Finalists

Excellence in Physical Education and Activity Award – Primary Teacher

The Excellence in Physical Education and Activity Award recognises an exceptional primary teacher who has demonstrated leadership and excellence in teaching physical education that has led to significant improvements in student achievement, engagement and wellbeing.

Ben Clark, Antonio Park Primary School

As the Physical Education teacher at Antonio Park Primary School, Ben Clark has transformed the way that students engage with and understand physical education and fitness, significantly increasing the school's sporting achievements.

Ben develops his students' physical literacy through teaching movement skills, critical thinking and tactical decision-making. Working with their attitudes and behaviours, Ben inspires students to critically value their own and each other's abilities and to work as a team to achieve success.

His inclusive program includes many popular fitness initiatives, both online and extracurricular: the Antonio Park Running Club and Sport Training, and an online district sports competition and physical education website, are key to sustaining engagement in this remote learning period.

Creating online lessons for students to engage in structured physical education, Ben engages even the most reluctant sporting students. Bringing the school and wider community together in a time of separation, he has inspired others to re-think the way that physical education is taught into the future.

Jon McCormick, Bass Valley Primary School

Jon McCormick is greatly respected at Bass Valley Primary School for increasing students’ access to and engagement with physical education, utilising the local coastal area to develop skills that help children to negotiate and engage positively with their environment.

Jon applies whole-school initiatives such as Respectful Relationships and Positive School-Wide Behaviour as a basis for his approach, creating a resourceful learning environment where all children learn life skills and develop levels of physical proficiency that in turn, create mutual respect and wellbeing.

Jon plans for success and uses multiple forms of feedback and assessment to encourage self-knowledge, critical to a student’s ability to improve performance through practice.

Jon attained extra qualifications to teach surfing and initiated a district surfing competition which he runs for local schools. Jon’s teaching and many initiatives have supported all students at every level to achieve well-above the expected level of attainment – 99 per cent of his students are at or above the expected level in Physical Education.

Patrick Swayn, Moorooduc Primary School

As Moorooduc Primary School’s Physical Education teacher, Patrick Swayn is committed to increasing student engagement and the wellbeing of all students. Working with his school and local community over many years, he is nurturing a lifelong love of being fit and active in his students.

Patrick’s students are provided with multiple opportunities to further their skills in a specific game or activity over a two-year cycle, building their experience and confidence through practice and participation.

High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) structure his lessons, where explicit instruction and feedback successfully scaffold his students to improved outcomes.

As the leader of Moorooduc Primary School’s local sports network, Patrick sources much-needed equipment, attends weekend sports competitions and initiates many extracurricular, community and family-inclusive events. Recreation and education are taught to students in many diverse and differentiated forms, ensuring that all students in his program and those across the local network of schools, can find their passion and path to success through physical education.

Excellence in Physical Education and Activity Award – Secondary Teacher

The Excellence in Physical Education and Activity Award recognises an exceptional secondary teacher who has demonstrated leadership and excellence in teaching physical education that has led to significant improvements in student achievement, engagement and wellbeing.

Mitch Crowley, Hazel Glen College

As the Physical Education teacher and the head of sport at Hazel Glen College, Mitch Crowley believes that to increase students’ engagement with physical education you need to listen to student feedback and shift the focus from competition to participation.

Applying a range of innovative and High-Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) such as higher-order questioning and collaborative learning, his students engage in authentic learning tasks designed to engage individuals and build team development, regardless of the sport or activity.

Mitch has significantly increased the physical education participation of Hazel Glen’s large demographic of students.

Developing an extensive range of physical activities and events in the curriculum, including a new chess and mountain biking team and an elective in Personal Training, Mitch is widening opportunities for students to follow their passion towards participation.

Mitch also established and leads the successful Athlete Development Academy to provide opportunities to highly talented student athletes within their focus sport, better preparing individuals for success at an elite level.

Samantha Downward, Kambrya College

As a Health and Physical Education teacher at Kambrya College, Samantha Downward believes feedback is vital to improving performance, leading her team in developing the Physical Education curriculum to create an inclusive and engaging learning environment.

Implementing a Sport Education in Physical Education Program unit into her lessons has allowed Samantha to successfully engage students who are not as motivated to play team sport. By facilitating new roles and non-conventional fitness activities, she is encouraging students to participate in physical education by working with their individual strengths.

Samantha has collaborated with the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) on the Formative Assessment Project for Health and Physical Education and has designed differentiated assessments, including verbal and peer assessment, to ensure that each student can demonstrate their learning effectively, according to their ability.

Samantha also leads community initiatives such as the Kambrya College Athlete Development program, establishing community links with local sporting organisations to create opportunities for students beyond the college.

Joshua Godwin, Officer Secondary College

As the Professional Learning team leader of the Health and Physical Education faculty at Officer Secondary College, Joshua Godwin leads a collective focus on developing student confidence, agency and participation through physical activity.

Working closely with stakeholders across the school and local community, Joshua has developed multiple opportunities for every student to experience success in physical education.

Joshua recognises that diverse student abilities and identities need to be reflected in the curriculum and has made important decisions to further cultural inclusion, including representing First Nations peoples through integrating the game Buroinjin into the Health and Physical Education curriculum.

Dedicated to improving student outcomes, Joshua keeps students at the centre of every discussion while ensuring the conversation is supported by the rigorous use of data and research informed teaching methods.

His inclusive and evidence-based approach allows the team to make confident judgements and intervene to support students at the point of need, leading to high levels of progress for all students.

Dr Lawrie Shears Excellence in Global Teaching and Learning Award

The Dr Lawrie Shears Excellence in Global Teaching and Learning Award recognises a school that demonstrates exceptional student engagement and outcomes in global learning, including teaching of the Victorian F–10 intercultural capability and developing the knowledge, skills and global mindset required for an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

Mackellar Primary School

'Convergence' is an eBook written and published by four Mackellar Primary School students. Its central themes of tolerance, bigotry and racism derive from actual historical events in World War II. In early 2019, this work was published to reach a global audience of 51 countries.

In late 2019, the school's teaching team devised a companion study resource for upper primary and lower secondary students called the Convergence Study Guide. It was published globally in 2020 as 'Convergence: April 13th, 1945 Study Guide and Lesson Plans: A Pacing Guide and Classroom Companion for Teachers'.

It is a collection of detailed lesson plans, work samples and digital resources designed to engage students through the student publication 'Convergence: April 13th, 1945'. The Convergence Study Guide extends a broad-based performance-of-understanding relating to cultural experiences, behaviours and the beliefs of diverse people.

With a strong focus on intercultural understanding, the content has broad appeal and aptitude for direct application in classrooms globally. This resource provides school leaders with a vision and model for transformative learning and teaching in a digital and interconnected world.

Richmond West Primary School

The School Improvement Team at Richmond West Primary School (RWPS) is committed to providing their students with rich experiences of global cultures and languages, aligned to a whole-school curriculum and learning objectives.

All students are engaged in immersive language programs, including a well-established Chinese bi-lingual program, a Vietnamese bi-lingual program and an English program focusing on English as an Additional Language (EAL) with Chinese as a Language Other Than English (LOTE) subject. Students from different language programs work together in specialist subjects to build understanding across the diverse school community.

Strong community and international partnerships, such as a well-established sister school relationship in China, ensures intercultural capability is explicit within the learning for each year level and that global learning experiences are firmly anchored in the life and community of the school.

Students' bi-lingual language fluency is reflected in outstanding NAPLAN results in literacy and numeracy, indicating RWPS students will be strongly capable of negotiating a culturally diverse, global world.