Rural Schools Turn It On at Education Excellence Awards

Thirty finalists from Victorian Government Schools were shortlisted for the Education Excellence Awards in 2018.
On October 26 the winners were announced, with five individual awards and four team awards presented at a lavish ceremony in Melbourne at the Plaza Ballroom. 
Of the winners; four came from rural schools, with a further four finalists also hailing from rural settings.
What a result for Country Education!

Outstanding Secondary Principal Award

Robert Pyers, Horsham College

Horsham College principal Robert Pyers has led the school’s revival over the past five years.

Robert has turned around declining student numbers and community confidence in the college. This has happened through his vision, and by demonstrating trust, care and high expectations for everyone at school.

Robert believes that empowering and valuing staff professionalism is critical for a school. The right model of leadership and support can deliver exceptional student outcomes.

Robert established a distributive leadership structure and professional learning communities. This has created a collegial climate at Horsham College, which staff have embraced. The school’s curriculum development, teaching practices and student learning outcomes have transformed.

The school has introduced a whole-school literacy and numeracy plan. Staff have a sense of collective responsibility for student progress and achievement. The plan is based on common assessments and an instructional teaching model.

Robert has initiated strong collaborative practices. This has led to effective new evidence-based teaching and learning strategies.

Robert says the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) has guided the college’s transformation. FISO remains a critical tool in planning, monitoring and celebrating its progress.

Under Robert’s leadership, Horsham College has achieved significant gains in numeracy, literacy and VCE results.

Local community confidence has been re-established. Students and educators, alike, consider Horsham College a school of choice.

Comments from Rob:

“I am not a person who enjoys personal accolades too much.

“It is a great acknowledgement for the whole school community and the journey it has been on since I took the principal role. 

“I am certainly proud of the people that I work with — it makes me very proud … to see what we, as a school,  have been able to achieve.

“We are the highest performing regional school in about 500 in Victoria – that in itself is a great achievement.

“It is a challenge to have (that) rural and remote disadvantage and as a government school we take in and support everyone.

“To be able to do all of this and work positively with all the schools in Horsham is a positive achievement.”

Outstanding Primary Teacher Award

Kerri Smith, Fish Creek and District Primary School  

Fish Creek and District Primary School prep teacher Kerri Smith believes teaching and learning is all about relationships.

With 35 years of teaching experience, Kerri believes children learn best when they’re having fun. She establishes strong connections with her students using engaging teaching strategies.

She uses a range of collaborative learning approaches to encourage student skills in critical thinking, problem solving, team work and independence.

Kerri gives all students the opportunity to take part in STEM-based activities. These activities challenge them to be creative and solve problems.

Kerri ensures her students are always growing by setting daily and weekly goals and challenging them to do their best.  She is a passionate advocate for developing her students’ skills and talents. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with her students.

Kerri started a buddy program which pairs new prep students with a year 6 peer. She organised a “Buddy Bench” so all students feel included, and to encourage empathy and social connection.

Her colleagues say she is a lifelong learner who shares her wealth of knowledge. She is the driving force behind her school’s Professional Learning Teams. Kerri meets with staff every week to help develop their teaching practices, and shares her professional learning with them.

Comments from Kerri:

“I struggle a bit with the whole concept of being recognised as the most outstanding primary teacher because I certainly don’t believe that’s the case … I’m just another passionate teacher doing my job as best as I can and I love it … after all these years I genuinely still love it.

“The best part of being a teacher is the kids, obviously — that’s what you do it for, and when you see them grow as individuals … that’s the greatest reward possible.

“I still can’t believe I’ve won this award — I think I’m still in shock — but it is very humbling to be recognised; to know that my colleagues think that highly of me is very special to me.”

Outstanding Koorie Education Award

Bruthen Primary School

From the moment students walk through Bruthen Primary School’s front gates, the pride for its Koorie community and culture is clear.

Over the past two years, the small school of 45 students has developed an Aboriginal language and culture program. Aboriginal education and culture is evident in every classroom for every student.

A truly collaborative effort between students, staff, parents, community Elders and Koorie engagement support officers has created outstanding outcomes. They are united in their enthusiasm and commitment to explore the stories of the past and work towards a positive future.

In 2017, the school’s Student Attitude to School Survey achieved the 88th percentile for sense of inclusion. This is in no small way due to the Koorie education program’s success in teaching principles of understanding, empathy and pride.

The school has also achieved positive academic outcomes. There are notable improvements in literacy and numeracy benchmarks since the Koorie education program began.

As a result of this, Bruthen Primary is deeply proud of its Koorie culture and language program, which it puts at the core of all student learning. They also share the program’s success by working with other local schools to help establish their own culturally inclusive program.

Outstanding Business Manager Award

Chris Dickson, Warrnambool College

Warrnambool College business manager Chris Dickson has dedicated her career to government education. She values the important role of education support staff and business managers in achieving great student outcomes.

Colleagues across the greater Warrnambool school network say they admire Chris. She has in-depth knowledge of government school sector policies, guidelines and financial management.

Chris constantly shows her commitment to building professional competencies for herself and others. She organised network support and speakers for a regional professional development day. She also initiated a business managers course at South West TAFE. It had very strong attendance across Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland. This vital initiative shows Chris’s passion and hard work for all government schools in her region.


2018 Rural Finalists

Outstanding School Advancement Award
Swan Hill Cluster Professional Learning Community
(Lake Boga Primary, Swan Hill Primary, Nyah District Primary, Woorinen District Primary, Swan Hill Specialist School)

Outstanding Primary Principal Award
Peter Auchettl, Warrnambool Primary School

Outstanding Inclusive Education Award
Irymple Primary School