Presented by the Victorian Minister for Education, the Hon. James Merlino, winners of the 2017 CEP Rural Education Award were the Pyrenees Cluster of rural schools in North Central Victoria.
In recent times, you may have read in ‘Bush Voices’ about some of the collaborative endeavours of the Pyrenees Cluster- their work on clustering as five small schools for the purpose of strengthening the learning opportunities and outcomes for their students, has featured in a couple of our previous articles.
Following a conversation with the Pyrenees cluster about a STEM initiative that they have been developing over the past two years that is based on the ‘Energy Breakthrough’ initiative, the cluster decided to submit a nomination for the annual CEP Rural Education Award. Announced at the Rural Learning Summit in Melbourne on August 25th, the Pyrenees Cluster were the winners of the Rural Education Award.
They were one of three finalists identified from 15 Expressions of Interest for this years CEP Rural Education Award. The other finalists included:
- Carly Maree Clark on behalf of the Swan Hill Cluster of schools
- Euroa Primary School
Outlines of the finalists will be provided in the next education of Bush Voices.
The Pyrenees cluster comprises five small schools who have come together to provide the learning opportunities that they couldn’t provide if they operated as a single setting education provider.
They have developed a number of creative approaches including the development of a common strategic plan, and cluster Annual Implementation Plan, shared learning programs for students, the development of a portfolio leadership structure across the cluster and the sharing of staff across the cluster which has not only provided valuable opportunities for their students, but also opportunities for staff to work together and develop their professional skills and capacity.
In recent times, STEM learning was identified as a key area of need, so to accommodate this need, the cluster developed a STEM leadership role which Lloyd Kennedy (principal of Natte Yallock P.S) has provided. It has been through his extensive STEM skills and knowledge, that all students in the cluster have been incorporated in highly engaging learning – utilising the Energy Breakthrough initiative as a framework for this learning. Such a program has linked in local community expertise and the opportunity to becoming involved in STEM based programs through Monash University.
The Pyrenees Cluster data results have shown that absenteeism has halved over the past five years and their student survey results show a significant improvement across the cluster through their approach.
After being successful in receiving the Rural Education Award, the cluster would like to utilise the scholarship that accompanies the Award to:
- provide professional development for all staff focusing on STEM,
- supporting the STEM education leader to work alongside cluster staff in building their STEM expertise;
- strengthening the partnerships that the cluster has developed with universities, especially the students;
- strengthening the involvement of local engineers in student learning;
- linking with schools outside the cluster to share learning’s and gain new learnings
Congratulations Pyrenees Cluster on being awarded the 2017 CEP Rural Education Award. We wish them luck in the next stage of their work and will update you on their progress as they continue to develop and strengthen their cluster initiatives.