2020 award winners

The winners of the 2020 Victorian Education Excellence Awards were selected from a shortlist of 41 finalists from government schools across Victoria. Five individual awards, six team awards and three specialist awards were presented to recognise outstanding endeavour and achievement in improving student outcomes.

In addition, the Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education was awarded to one overall winner whose contribution was judged to be the most outstanding to Victorian school education.

Congratulations to all of the 2020 Award winners.

Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education

Andrew McConchie

Mordialloc College

Andrew McConchie

Andrew has demonstrated a commitment to public education through not only his quality teaching practice but also in his advocacy for the Education State initiatives, turning these into action by delivering targeted literacy interventions to improve student outcomes.

As an active member in various professional development networks, Andrew shares his exemplary practice with his colleagues across the school system through presentations at key events, facilitation of peer network groups and leading work in developing high quality curriculum for students of English.

Andrew believes pedagogy can be used to inform young people of their rights and responsibilities, develop their critical thinking skills and equalize their opportunities. He implements his beliefs in to action by consistently creating opportunities for his students to undertake rigorous learning around ethical, social and cultural issues that link in with these capabilities within the Victorian Curriculum.

As the winner of the Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education, Andrew will expand upon his existing contributions to system-wide improvements by developing a framework for teachers of literacy to self-evaluate the fundamentals of English teaching, provide mentorship to his peers in public education and create resources for teachers to further enhance their quality literacy teaching practice to impact student writing skills.

Individual Awards

Outstanding Business Manager Award

Matthew Smitten, Bacchus Marsh Primary School

Matthew Smitten

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.

Outstanding Primary Teacher Award

Averil Mitchell, Hampton Park Primary School

A Mitchell

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.

Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award

Andrew McConchie, Mordialloc College

A McConchie

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

Esme Capp, Princes Hill Primary School

E Capp

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

Jill Laughlin, Camberwell High School

J Laughlin

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.

Team Awards

Outstanding Education Support Team Award

Latrobe Valley Flexible Learning Option

Latrobe Valley

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

Kangaroo Flat Primary School

Kangaroo Flat PS

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

Outstanding Koorie Education Award

Swan Hill Primary School

Swan Hill PS

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

Cobram Primary School

Swan Hill PS

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.

Outstanding Provision for High-Ability Students – Primary Award

River Gum Primary School

Rivergum PS

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 we negotiated this year.

Outstanding Provision for High-Ability Students – Secondary Award

Preston High School

Preston HS

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.

Specialist Awards

Dr Lawrie Shears Excellence in Global Teaching and Learning Award

Richmond West Primary School

Richmond West PS

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.

Excellence in Physical Education and Activity Award - Primary Teacher

Ben Clark, Antonio Park Primary School

Ben Clark

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.

Excellence in Physical Education and Activity Award – Secondary Teacher

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.