Learning reaches great heights at Brentwood Secondary College

​​Learning to fly is now a VCE subject at Brentwood Secondary College​.

Brentwood Secondary College offers Aviation as an elective subject in Grade 10, thanks to their science teacher - qualified Boeing 737 pilot with a command rating, Chris Barry. ​Recently, Aviation also became a VCE subject so students can continue learning in Year 11 and 12 – and even get their private pilot licence. Students from other schools can study Chris's Aviation subject too.

Chris says this gives students a defined pathway towards a career in aviation.

'It means that when they leave Year 12, they would have either qualified as a Commercial Pilot or be very close to it,' Chris says. 'This is a remarkable achievement.'

'For many people, it means they will be flying aeroplanes solo before they are old enough to have a car licence. It all sounds too good to be true!'

'The approved VET subject still works within the VCE framework and contributes to the students ATAR score.'

Chris has been teaching Aviation at Brentwood S​econdary College for six years. The subject follows the same Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) course as specialised flying schools across Australia. He says that he wanted to teach an exciting subject to tap into a career-rich job market. Boeing has estimated that they will need an extra 637,000 pilots over the next 20 years, mostly from around Australia.

'Career prospects now have never been so good,' Chris says.

'There are so many jobs available, whether that be flying charter, commercial aircraft, cargo and freight, flying instruction, search and rescue, medivac flying, crop dusting – the list goes on and on.'

'Aviation doesn't just mean pilot training. It opens the door to many avenues within the industry including avionics, maintenance, aerospace design and air traffic control. There is a long list of jobs that support the industry.'

'When potential employers see that students come across from school with an active interest and experience within the industry, it gives them a distinct advantage.'

Hands on learning

The students also use flight simulators and mapping software. When they've mastered everything they need to know, they get to fly a real plane.

Brentwood Secondary School's aviation class
Aviation teacher Chris shows a flight simulator to two Brentwood Secondary College students

​​'There is nothing better than getting out of the classroom and in to an aircraft, putting all the skills you have learnt at school in to the air,' Chris says. 

'It's a freedom that is breathtaking, and overwhelming to nearly all students, stimulating all their senses.'

'There is nothing better than 'learning by doing' and this subject certainly ticks that box. The overwhelming feeling of achievement I see the students have after a flight makes all the hard work worthwhile.'

Chris found that teaching Aviation gave students 'the penny dropping' moment. In Aviation, students apply science, maths and geography to flying an aircraft.

 'Aviation and the theory taught is​ a lot of fun,' Chris says. 'There are so many elements incorporated into the course. Because they are presented to students who are keen and enthusiastic, I have found that the ideologies and concepts are picked up very quickly by the students.'

'The aviation course links everything students have been taught from a wide range of subject areas. It provides them with a clear picture of why we do things the way we do.'

'When you can see the point in doing something, you tend to do it better than if you haven't. Students see the practical point of what they are doing.'

Teaching a passion

Back when Chris was doing his pilot training, he was an integration aide in a school for about six years. 'From this, I witnessed first-hand how people learnt, and how many people learn in different ways,' Chris says. 'I found this fascinating.'

Chris later completed a teaching degree as a mature age student. 'I think it is also very important to have competent people teaching the subject,' Chris says. 'If everybody who had aviation experience was outside flying, there are few people in a school environment that can teach the curriculum to CASA specif​ications.'

'When I see the sheer exhilaration on my students faces after each success, it reminds me of how much I love my job and the difference I am making to that person's life.'

​Teaching is a rewarding career where no two days are the same. Find out how to teach in our schools.