Australian School of the Year shares secrets to success

Australian School of the Year shares secrets to success

In 2010, principal Steven Cook stepped into Albert Park College for the first time, before him was a blank canvas. The school had no furniture, no staff or students or even a name.

While this might be daunting for a foundation principal, to Cook it was an opportunity to reimagine how teaching and learning looks.

“We had a chance to create a school that was an exemplar of education, we understood how privileged we were,” he recalls.

From this, the values ‘Lead, Create, and Inspire’ were born. Today, the school takes this motto just as seriously as when it was first conceived, and in the space of 11 years, has expanded to three campuses that include world-class learning hubs incorporating some of the most innovative technologies with ground-breaking wellbeing programs.

On Friday 3 December, Albert Park College was recognised on the national stage when it was named the Tes Australian School of the Year at the Australian Education Awards 2021.

Cook said the Award is “a wonderful vindication” of the hard work the College has done since 2011 “to create a new school over the foundations of the old”.

“I see it mostly as a testament to the quality and depth of our instructional leadership and the ability of the school to convey its strengths to the local parents, who have stayed the course on our journey from creation to maturity,” Cook told The Educator.

“It proves that with the right approach, public schools can provide the sort of education the whole community is looking for. The award gives us the confidence to stick to our path.”

Cook said the College’s success over the past year has been underpinned by the College’s strong belief in creativity and innovation.

“Our senior students are recording excellent results, especially when you consider we are a non-selective school, but it hasn’t been done by turning the place into an exam factory,” Cook said.

“Our music, dance, drama and visual and digital arts programs are grabbing the attention of students and overcoming the common problem of student disengagement.”

‘A cutting-edge institution’

Cook said the College was already ahead of the digital education curve and effectively online before the lockdowns came, meaning its students took the move to remote and flexible learning in their stride.

“We have reorganised the school around positive education, creating an atmosphere of kindness and personal self-confidence. This is a cutting-edge institution,” he said, adding the College is steaming ahead with some “extremely exciting” new projects for 2022.

“We have begun work on a new campus – The Community Arts Hub – in partnership with the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School.”

This world class performing arts centre will have two theatres as well as rehearsal and teaching rooms to find and train the creative students of the future.

“It's extremely exciting. It adds to the Visual Arts Campus -- Studio 120 -- which we opened this year, modelled on an art studio we saw in Manhattan,” Cook said.

“We're always thinking creatively and looking to improve, even after winning such a fantastic award as this.”