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Country schools scoop poll

Jul 15, 2014News

Schools in regional Victoria have turned their close-knit communities and local networks to their advantage, punching above their weight at this year’s Victorian Education Excellence Awards.

Local partnerships that bring expertise into the classroom were key to Warrnambool East Primary School’s award for curriculum innovation. The school has a thriving collaboration with Deakin University marine science staff, says principal Lindy Sharp.

“They accompany us on excursions, so we have access to that expert knowledge. We’ve received advice on how to set up our marine touch tank. Partnering with Deakin also opens pathways for students into university.”

Victoria University asked the school to participate in a project where students shoot a photographic history of vulnerable coastline to help the local council in its maintenance work. “We never let an opportunity go by,” says Sharp.

In the spirit of sharing, the school is running a Dive Into Science day for primary schools in the area. Schools in the region have formed a strong network and usually meet every month.

Up the road, environmental teacher Britt Gow at Hawkesdale P–12 won the prestigious Lindsay Thomson fellowship for using technology to engage science students.

“Our isolation makes us develop innovative ways of using technology,” she says.

Gow teaches VCE environmental science online, using Blackboard Collaborate, Skype, video, blogs and a Facebook page, to students at schools unable to offer the subject due to lack of numbers or suitable expertise.

“We use wikis and blogs to bring multicultural awareness to our students (who) share their work with the world and get comments from other countries.”

Elsewhere, best school leadership team went to Warracknabeal Secondary College, and primary teacher of the year was Kate Phoenix of Avenel PS near Seymour for her exploration of new oral language strategies to boost reading and writing.

“Research and consultation with experts led me to try lots of enquiry-based learning where students ask questions, investigate, and talk about what they’ve found,” she said.

Phoenix developed individual plans for each student. “As a small school, we know our students well. We’re a close-knit community, and we have good relationships with parents who want to be involved.”