South-West Cluster claims 2018 CEP Rural Education Award

A CLUSTER of small Catholic primary schools from south west Victoria has been awarded the 2018 Country Education Partnership (CEP) Rural Education Award.

With a scholarship value of $6000, the award was presented to the Western Trinity Cluster at the Rural Education Conference Dinner in Melbourne on September 3.

CEP Chief Executive Phil Brown said the win was recognition of the cluster’s commitment to ‘genuine collaboration to overcome isolation’, as well as their dedication to cater for every student’s need.

“The Western Trinity has grown from a group of teachers at three small schools deciding to meet once a term to plan units of work, to a fully-fledged Professional Learning Community that meets weekly,” Mr Brown said.

“The three schools have been working collaboratively for nearly three years now and in that time they’ve seen a notable improvement in student engagement, student outcomes and school collegiality.”

The Western Trinity Cluster includes St Malachy’s, Edenhope; Sacred Heart, Casterton; and St Joseph’s, Coleraine.

Their Cluster Professional Learning Community approach includes:

  • Joint planning sessions with aligned scope and sequences
  • Shared standardised testing data
  • A Guiding Coalition who meet fortnightly via video conferencing
  • Professional Learning Teams who meet weekly — (among other things, these teams write Essential Learning Standards, Common Formative Assessment Tasks for pre and post assessment, and plan learning cycles)
  • Combined swimming, cross country and athletics events at shared locations

Sacred Heart Teaching and Learning Leader, Suzie McManus, said the cluster approach had benefited students and teachers, alike.

“Each school has seen an improvement in student learning outcomes since we began working together but, equally, teachers have benefited by feeling professionally connected and supported, while also developing their leadership capabilities,” she said.

In recent times, the cluster has undertaken supplementary work helping students who have specific learning needs, but whom are ineligible for dedicated Student Support Resources.

The cluster has engaged support staff to directly assist these pupils while also supporting teachers to develop appropriate education programs.

CEP hopes the cluster’s approach will provide valuable insight for other rural and remote schools trying to cater for individual student needs.

“What they’re doing in this area and their commitment to the cause is truly commendable and it is for this reason that we couldn’t go past the Western Trinity Cluster for this year’s Award,” Mr Brown said.

“This scholarship will allow the cluster to engage in professional development for its staff and, in turn, this will further strengthen the work they are doing in support of these students.” 

The Rural Education Award was established by CEP to showcase the outstanding achievements and practices of inspirational educators, education leaders and education organisations within rural and remote Victorian communities.

The Ararat Rural Schools Cluster and Beechworth Secondary College were shortlisted as finalists in 2018.