Proud to be Small
With an enrolment of 21 students, the Myrrhee Primary School in the King Valley region of North East Victoria proudly identifies as being ‘small’.
Teaching Principal Ash Graham has been at the helm for almost five years now and says, in that time, it’s been plain to see how much the local community appreciates its little school and all that it continues to achieve.
At Myrrhee, being ‘small’ is something to rejoice – and it makes all the difference when your core objective figures around the adage to ‘leave no child behind’.
So, it was with this small school pride fresh in mind that, earlier this month, Mr Graham set about dispelling a certain myth suggesting that kids in small schools are ‘missing out’.
Missing out on what, he asked?
“I think in the wider Wangaratta region there have been phases where parents have started to believe the notion that a bigger school must better or that by paying more money the education must be better … and that’s sort of how I came to write my blog on Myrrhee,” Mr Graham recalls.
“When I started out … I knew there were quite a few students from this school who had gone on to do very interesting things … and then I found myself looking at this old photo, which just sits up in our staffroom.
“With the help of another teacher, who has been here a lot longer than me, we started going through the kids in the photo, looking at who was who and what they’d gone on to do, and what we discovered was really impressive.”
And here’s the blog …
Myrrhee: Small School, Big Opportunities
Check this photo out…
In this photo from Myrrhee School, you can see a future forensic psychologist, marine biologist, architect, mid-wife, viticulturist, engineer, builder, electrician, teacher, author, a senior consultant and a senior Ovens and Murray football coach.
This is what a quick bit of research has uncovered, and I’m sure there are plenty more interesting career paths from the other students in this photo. And to be clear, this photo was not just a gathering of the clever kids. The students not in the photo who attended that year also included a future myotherapist, ambulance officer, plumber, engineer, disability support worker, and a WNBL player.
This photo sums up what we all believe and have known for a long time at Myrrhee; A Small School + Authentic Learning = Endless Opportunities. It also equals confident, resilient, life-long learners ready to take on the world.
This photo was taken in the mid-90s, the then principal, Geoff Lacey, and teacher Di Morrison, in a local winery picking grapes with the students and families as part of the ‘Vine to Wine’ program. A program designed to tie literacy, maths, and science together with local industry. In education circles, this is now labelled ‘STEM’. Back then though, it was just called ‘learning’. And it still is. At Myrrhee, we know that learning in context engages students and makes learning relevant to children. This photo is evidence of this. No NAPLAN scores could ever measure the success of these students, as well as their careers, have.
And to be sure, this photo isn’t a shining example, there are plenty more. Albums and albums of photos with kids learning through doing, engaging with community and learning! If you don’t believe us, come and have a look. You’ll find kids who have gone on to be doctors, veterinarians, computer engineers and small business owners.
Of course, attending Myrrhee School alone doesn’t give a student an automatic ticket to their chosen career. A lot of hard work, family involvement, and continuous learning are needed as well, to achieve success, but the point is, none of these children went under the radar in our small school. They were nurtured, encouraged, taught resilience and patience, given responsibility and given projects that they cared about.
Many schools around now sell themselves on their new buildings and their “blazers and ties”, promising their children great academic results. However, none of them can match the learning seen at Myrrhee School and many of the other rural schools in the area. None of them can match the close-knit community that ensures all students get the attention they deserve both in their academic learning and their social wellbeing. Every student matters and is important at our school. Our ratio of teachers to students demonstrates this.
Small rural schools offer so many wonderful opportunities for children but so often we see people choose a large school over a small school due to fear they won’t have access to a broad learning. Worried that sending their kids to a small school will limit their potential. Have another look at that photo and look at those kids having a great time, picking grapes and learning along the way. Did it limit their potential?
Looking now at our most recent photos of the ‘Vine to Wine’ program, where students are weighing grapes, checking their pH levels and designing labels. It’s hard not to wonder what exciting future lays ahead of these very fortunate students.