Mr Kenneth Harbottle
And change it has.
As principal, I naturally wanted students to enjoy their time at the school. But our fundamental aim had to be to have students successful both in developing themselves as people and in having the opportunity to access meaningful options in life.
I was well aware of Thomas Sergiovanni's thoughts that if this was to be achieved we needed to be clear about, articulate, and strengthen those enduring values and cultural strengths that define the school. We needed to be aware of the "stuff" of a school's culture - the customs, understandings and shared assumptions that bring cohesion and success to any school. The successful history of Strathmore meant that this culture was in place but needed to be affirmed and brought into a contemporary setting.
It is fundamentally important that students identify with the school and feel a part of it. We need to provide programs, which recognise individual difference, encourage choice and give opportunity for extension and support. The physical environment of the school must be attractive and conducive to learning. These are some of the themes I have sought to incorporate into the evolution of the culture Strathmore had developed in its first 30 years.Perhaps the most important introduction of the last 20 years has been our student team structure. In the principal's bulletin of 30 November 1988 I wrote an article, which introduced these arrangements:
"Changes to Student Coordination Arrangements for 1989.
We have been reviewing the arrangements we have in place for coordination of students. As you will be aware we currently have a coordinator for each of the year levels and that person is generally responsible for the operation of that level. There are, however, difficulties with these arrangements. Many of the levels contain too many students for one person to really provide individual contact and guidance for all the members of the level; in the past, coordinators remained at a particular year within the school so they spend the calendar year with the group then pass that group to the next year level, just as they had their best knowledge of the group: we have also had far too many teachers operating at a particular level - this makes it very difficult for coordinators to maintain a uniform and consistent approach to the running of the school.
For next year, we are proposing changes to this scheme. We ore intending to operate on smaller teams of teachers working with a particular group of students. Under this approach, a team of approximately 10 staff will provide the core subject teaching for a group of students. The coordinator of the group will then work with the staff to provide for the needs of that group. In addition, this arrangement has the advantage of staff being attached to an area of the school for a large section of their teaching time and so provides them with a clearer view of their position within the school. To advance this sense of involvement even further we are proposing the students will remain within the particular teaching group for 3 years. This has the clear advantage of both the coordinator and core staff knowing students wellbeing aware of their progress over time and understanding the particular needs of that student. In addition, parents will be more familiar with the people responsible for the student's progress at the school and should therefore feel free to seek any information or to make contact wherever they think is necessary or desirable to do so. An added bonus of this approach will be interaction of students from a variety of year levels. We will be organising various activities which will see students operating as a group and thus break down the sense of separation the year levels currently exhibit. One of the activities the group will undertake will be a camp during the year and these camps will replace the year level camps, which have previously operated. Overall, I feel sure that the proposed changes to the coordination of students will greatly improve both the operation of the school and the identification of students with it. The arrangements provide students with an identifiable area of belonging for what are generally considered the most difficult and least well catered for years of schooling."
Thus, our student teams were born and they have become central to the culture of the school.
At first we had four teams covering Years 8 to 10. The teams assumed names within their first year of operation. Two of the teams, Argyll and Stirling, revived names from Strathmore's four earlier sporting houses. Chisholm, of course, was named in honour of Caroline Chisholm (1808 - 1877). Dunlop in honour of Sir Ernest Edward "Weary" Dunlop (1907 - 1993). Some years later Year 7 was added as the teams took their current structure of Years 7 to 10. In 2005 the structure was extended to our senior school and a further team (Burnet, named in honour of Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet (1899 - 1985)) introduced from Year 7 to deal with an increase in student population that had occurred since 1989.
Our teams are designed to provide students with a sense of place and belonging. This emphasis on student welfare is further highlighted by the priority we have given to extending support services available to students. Over the last 10 years we have expanded this area of the school so that it now includes a Student Welfare Coordinator, Psychologist, Chaplain, Youth Worker, Vocational Education Officer and Learning Needs Coordinator. These are all non-teaching staff dealing with the individual needs of students and working with families to support students and their learning.
A second area of significant change has been in the physical fabric of the school.
The underlying philosophy within this change has been to provide students with an attractive learning environment, one which promotes a positive approach to learning and appropriately supports the teaching program. In achieving this there have been two key elements which reflect the balance between self-reliance and appropriate government support. Locally, the college community has provided the school with tremendous financial support over an extended period. Parents have been steadfast in their willingness to provide resources to either support the teaching program at the school or to fund improvements. In November 1988, then Council President Rosalie Bromley reported on behalf of the College Council Finance Committee. She outlined the need for seeking the financial support of parents:
" ... In the past we have covered shortfalls through the use of locally raised funds. However, this means that we only ever struggled to cover costs. We were unable to use the locally raised funds for the things they should be raised to do, that is, to fund new initiatives within the school, to improve our facilities, to expand the range of curriculum offered to students and generally to arrest the inevitable decline that constant cutbacks carry with them.
In the current financial climate, it is inevitable that the school will have to become increasingly responsible for providing its own funds. If we want the school to remain at all vigorous in the pursuit of a quality education we will have to financially support that endeavour. To that end, we are asking parents of all students to contribute towards those costs. As a result of this approach we can direct our locally raised funds towards new initiatives, new curriculum offerings, towards consideration of improving what it is we are doing. Our aim is the efficient and effective use of money but we have not lost sight of our fundamental goal which is to provide the students of Strathmore High School with an education of real quality."
It has been this approach which has allowed the school to meet the challenge of development with some confidence. However, there are bigger financial commitments that can only be made by Government.
The 1983 orientation handbook contains a section entitled "Know Your School". It gives a quick summary of the physical development of the school: 1957 Stage 1 completed.1958 Stage 1 occupied.1959 Stage 2 started and completed.1964 25m pool built.1965 Science block built.1971 Assembly Holl and Gymnasium built.1973 Library completed.1983 New canteen completed.
The new canteen referred to was an addition to the school assembly hall. This locally funded addition aside, there was no change to the permanent buildings on the site after 1973; rather, as the final entry says "portable classrooms added at regular intervals from 1971 to 1983". By the early 1990s, the school was in poor physical condition. Not only had major maintenance not kept up with need, the permanent facilities were inadequate and even the relocatable stock was poor.
Other major problems faced students. There was an almost complete lack of covered areas outside the buildings. Students literally lined up for class in the rain when the weather was bad. The outdoor area contained little seating or amenities space. The toilets had not changed at all since 1958. Movement around the school was difficult as corridors were severely narrowed by lockers lining the main buildings. Arrangements as they existed were unacceptable.In 1995 a joint project between the school and the Education Department saw replacement of the substandard relocatable buildings, appropriate positioning of new relocatables, provision of covered spaces and landscaping in the area surrounding the relocatables. The Department also funded a major maintenance program but it was 1997 before any definitive future planning information was provided to the College. Simon Thornton was employed by the Council to analyse what was on the site and compare it with the school's entitlement. Notes from a December 1997 meeting with the Department officially summarised the situation thus: "the school has self-funded a School Master Plan in the hope that development projects can be identified. It was clearly evident that the condition of the school indicates substantial upgrade is required. The school building was constructed over 30 years ago and is basically substandard with a shortfall of core facilities and inadequate curriculum support." The Master Plan was approved and, given the significant amount of work involved in moving from what existed to what was proposed, a three-step upgrade was prepared. Between 1999 and 2003, the school we currently know took shape. As well as dealing with the lack of curriculum support and shortfall of core facilities the changes contained a number of critical qualitative elements. Corridors were returned to their original dimension by constructing locker bays at various places in the school. This dramatically reduced crowding and congestion. Study centres were introduced as the school diversified the spaces available for seniors. Student toilets were brought into the main building and built to a standard appropriate for the times. Specialist facilities such as the gymnasium, music, drama spaces and theatrette became available.
The theatrette brings a connection back to the early years of Strathmore High School. In 1964 the school had built and paid for an in-ground pool. This was a great gesture of hope and faith in the future. The mechanism used to achieve this outcome was the Strathmore High School Cooperative Society. Shares in the society were taken up by parents, the Cooperative borrowed money to fund the project, the school council repaid the loan and the Government paid a subsidy to cover some of the interest costs on the loan. The Cooperative Society was again used to fund works during the major building program of 1999 to 2003. Specifically, it supported expansion in size of the theatrette to make that building more flexible in use as well as the construction of the seating area at the front of what would have been a canteen, to allow design of a cafeteria. Both of these buildings have subsequently become central to the life of the school.
The cafeteria in particular has been significant in fostering an important cultural shift at the school. It was clear from the start that it would not be possible to fund an area of seating that would hold the whole school, but that was not the objective. The cafeteria was intended to be a place where senior students could go during free periods - as they would when they subsequently moved to tertiary studies. It provided a different sort of space on the site, one that students and staff would share with obvious benefits. The full potential of the cafeteria only began to be realised when the college council took responsibility for running the area in 2002. Until the mid 1990s the then school canteen had been run by a manageress supported by parent volunteers. This was true in the original canteen; it continued in the "new" canteen of 1983 but was clearly unsustainable by the 1990s. Societal changes (especially the increasing number of families with both parents at work) meant that a new approach was needed and so school canteens were routinely contracted to specialist companies. So it was with Strathmore's canteen. Construction of the new cafeteria precipitated a change. We wanted something different, we wanted an area more like a cafe that staff and students might use in the city for example; we wanted good quality food; we wanted an end to the pie/lollies/soft drink tuckshop mentality.
Contractors said they couldn't do it. The school decided this was a priority and took control of the cafeteria. Since then the college council has completely reconceptualised this area of the school. It is now recognised as the leader in school cafeterias and has won awards for three years in a row from the school canteen group. Most importantly, the facility serves a cultural function in signifying our beliefs about food and about the sorts of spaces that should exist in schools. This has been achieved thanks to the Cooperative Society and the vision of the college council.
Work on the physical nature of the school did not end in 2003. Landscaping of the school continues as we look to enhance the learning environment; a synthetic sports surface was built in 2006; a major upgrade of the library will occur in 2007. A rapidly emerging theme of current discussions is that of the environment and how we might deal with the questions of energy and water. These discussions will no doubt lead to new initiatives.The largest single change to facilities occurred in 2005 when construction of the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) got underway. This was a major project overseen by architect Gregory Burgess. It moved the school to a central position in the promotion of science education in Victoria and elsewhere. The evolution of VSSEC will impact on the development of Strathmore and its practices and direction.A third area of change is less visible than the first two but has been equally as significant for the operation of the school. Victoria now has one of the most devolved education systems in the world. A great deal of decision making and responsibility has shifted from various levels of the Department of Education to the school. This change has significant implications for the school council and principal. In my time as principal, I and the school have been extremely fortunate in the calibre of representatives - parents, staff and students - who have contributed as school council members.
School council now carries significant responsibilities for the financial operation of the school, for its policies and practices. Equally, the principal faces a significantly different set of responsibilities from those that operated 20 years ago. I would pay particular tribute to the six college council presidents with whom I have worked: Rosalie BromleyJohn MacCuspieGreg HallSandra RipperChristine RydbergJenny Owen Each and every one has had the good of the school and the community as their objective. They should be applauded for willingly accepting the work and responsibility of office. The present success of Strathmore owes much to their involvement and support.
Three areas demonstrate the extent of the changes we have seen.
First, local selection of staff. When Neil Baudinette left Strathmore at the end of 1982 and Rex Cairns became principal. Rex was selected for the position because he was the most senior person who applied. Well into the 1980s the Department of Education compiled lists of teachers and administrators based on seniority and used these lists as a cornerstone of decision making. Schools had little say in who taught at the school until well into the 1990s. Now, selection of all staff is on merit and carried out at the local level. In addition, management of all personnel functions (granting of leave, checking salaries, administration of sick pay, superannuation, police checks) are all done by the school.
Second, operating budgets are now a major responsibility of college council. In 2007, the school is given a per capita allocation which is multiplied by the audited number of students enrolled at the end of February, a further amount, essentially for cleaning and utilities, is added and this money is used to run the school. There is no guarantee on the number of teachers, no consideration for the pay levels of individuals, no direct link with teaching conditions. Manage your budget is the requirement. To give an impression of this change, the college council operating budget (excluding excursion, camps, cafeteria takings -general in and out amounts) for 1988 was $226,000. In 2007 the equivalent figure including VSSEC was $11,000,000. The first figure of course contains no salaries, allowances, superannuation, etc. because these were not a school concern. Third, accountability. When Strathmore was established it was visited each year by a board of inspectors who would write a report covering the school's operation. For some decades from the late 1960s, this type of accountability disappeared. Now a clear and comprehensive set of strategic plans, annual implementation plans, compliance reports and annual reports are part of the school's operation. These changes have had a profound impact on the school. It now must be run on sound business principles within legal and financial legislative requirements. However, whilst this is being done, we must never lose sight of the reason the school exists -our educational purpose, our students.
Each of the changes to administrative responsibility has brought a mix of implications. Local selection of staff has also brought with it responsibility for professional reviews, overseeing teacher registration and deciding upon (and selecting) promotion positions. Schools are also expected to be able to balance contracts and ongoing positions. This involves the personal impact of this question and the need to work within budgets over time.
Another area of change which has only been possible with local control of budgets has been the balance between teaching and non teaching staff numbers. Until quite recently schools were very poorly served by the provision of non teaching staff to support the teaching program. Over the last 10 years, we have sought to develop a more balanced arrangement, shifting tasks to non teaching positions where that was appropriate and allowed the person to concentrate on the defined task. Thus we have employed trained librarians, vocational education officers, youth workers and now personnel officers and enrolment officers. A particular area of growth has been our use of technology and the need to adequately support that expansion through the provision of technicians. All of this has allowed teachers to concentrate on their central task of teaching and learning.
Strategic planning for the school also sits under the responsibility of the college council. This has been a major challenge over the last two decades. The late l 980s and 1990s saw dramatic changes in the nature of secondary education in our region. In particular the question of "provisioning'' has been present for virtually all of that time. In 1990 and 1991 the Department of Education was strongly supporting the establishment of multi campus schools formed through the amalgamation of existing schools. Several proposals involving schools from our region were put forward and debated. In March 1991, Strathmore’s college council expressed its opinion that the qualities and character developed by Strathmore over the previous 34 years, qualities valued by its community, must be preserved. Discussion continued and following a failure to reach any agreed position council concluded that it "did not see joining a multi school amalgamation to be in the best interest of the community" and in August 1991 voted to remain a standalone Year 7 to 12 school. This was, at the time, a brave decision given the push to achieve amalgamations. Council acknowledged this saying "Given that the school now faces a challenging future of retaining its established position within the district, council is currently developing on action plan to direct the long term development of the school." In retrospect, the decision has proven to be the right one for Strathmore. A significant factor for Strathmore stemming from these provisioning changes was that many of our surrounding schools closed or relocated. Five of our neighbouring schools: Coburg West Technical School. Essendon Technical School, Hadfield High School, Oak Park High School and Coburg High School all ceased to exist. As a result, the neighbourhood area for Strathmore expanded. In 2003 the Department of Education varied the boundaries of Strathmore's neighbourhood area to include much of Strathmore Heights. The cumulative effect is that the college has been under great pressure for enrolment and has restricted its Year 7 intake to "local students". When one now looks at a map displaying the distribution of where enrolled students live the scattering of dots is clustered firmly within the college's neighbourhood area. This diagram is probably very much like that which described the residence of students in the college's early years. The school's student population has also increased over the last decade.Strathmore’s student enrolment first reached 1000 in the early 1960s. It hovered around that figure until the early 1990s from which time it has gradually climbed to its present figure of 1400. Perhaps surprisingly, the major difference between the total enrolment figure of the 1960s or 1970s and now results not from a marked variation in the number of students entering the school but rather from the significantly greater number of students who complete secondary education.
In 1965 the total enrolment of Strathmore High School was just under 1100 students. Enrolment at junior school levels reflected Year 7 intakes in excess of 200 for each of the previous 4 years. The number enrolled at Year 12 was 76. In 1976 total enrolment was 1018. Year 7, 200 and Year 12 for the first time reached 100 students. The Year 12 numbers slipped back to below 80 for much of the first half of the 1980s.
In 2007 the Year 7 intake of 225 was similar to that of 1965, however, the total enrolment of 1400 contains nearly 200 Year 12 students. An extremely high proportion of our students complete their secondary education. Strathmore's retention figures are well above average state rates and are above those achieved by the "like schools" with which the Department of Education compares Strathmore's performance. There are undoubtedly important school cultural elements -student identification with the school and with one another, a strong sense of safety, classroom behaviour and learning confidence that contribute to this very positive result. It does mean that we are catering for a much broader range of senior students than was the case in the past. This has required both curriculum and organisational change.
Many aspects of the school have changed, however, other important features remain.
Strathmore has been unusual in its ability to maintain a consistently high level of school performance; the school had enjoyed strong parent support and parents have high expectations of the school; the school has an ongoing commitment to connection and experiences beyond the classroom.
In 1964 a board of 11 inspectors headed by Mr T J Ford visited Strathmore High School to carry out their annual review. They produced 12 pages of closely typed text dealing with each of the school's curriculum areas. In the Board's general remarks they made the following comments:
"The tone of the school continues to be excellent and the quality of the children continues to be most impressive. These pupils, in class, respond well to stimulating teaching and display courtesy and cooperation in all class activities. In 1963, senior pupils were well rewarded for their scholastic efforts. examination results ranging from good to excellent in various subjects. Beyond the classroom, extra curricular activities received particular attention. The headmaster continues to lead his large school with careful organisation and attention to detail. Very active parent's organisations provide valuable assistance and a large staff of interested and loyal teachers serve their school capably."
The comments about the parents' organisation's strong support shows that the community has continued the involvement shown in the campaign to have the school established just a few years before.
This theme of high performance is there again 40 years later in Strathmore's most recent assessment carried out at the end of a three year charter period and performed by a representative of the University of Melbourne on behalf of the Department of Education. In his report the representative wrote:Overall findings:Strathmore Secondary College has completed a successful and demanding triennium. The College's self assessment document is very detailed and includes data well beyond the requirements of the review process. All indicators have shown that its high level of performance both within the curriculum and in co-curricular activities has been maintained whilst significant reform of the curriculum has been carried out. Post school outcomes for students have continued to be very positive.
Curriculum - Student Achievement Strathmore has maintained high standards in student learning during this period. Generally the school has obtained learning outcomes which exceed state benchmarks and match those of its like group from Years 7 to 12. Indeed VCE results appear to be even better than the CSF assessment might predict. In view of the very high levels of student retention from Years 7 to 12 and the achievement levels obtained the expectations of students and their parents when entering the school are well reworded. Parents hove a strong and positive view of the teaching and learning program offered by the school."
The lives of parents are now very different from what was common in 1964. Most families now have two parents working and the call on any free time parents may have is great. A continuing observation though is that parents retain a keen interest in, and high expectations of, the school. This was expressed in the early editions of Glamis Gazette (produced by the Parent's Association) and is now evident in the desire parents hove for the school to be open to contact and requests, to be responsive, to provide information and to actively seek to keep the community informed.
These expectations encourage us to look for an increasingly diverse approach to fostering a more personal connection with the school's community.
A continuing port of the culture of the school is Strathmore's belief in the importance of having students pursue education beyond the classroom. Excursions have been a major feature in the teaching program so too have camps.
In his principol's report of 1969 Mr Barker under the heading of Cultural and Educational wrote the following:"As in previous years our students in Form 4 were given the opportunity of spending a week in Tasmania. Air transport was used on both journeys, the boat trip being cancelled at the last minute. With the broadening of the curriculum students are expected to get first hand information for themselves, so an increasing number of excursions are necessary to fulfil requirements. In English, History, Science, Art and Geography film nights, lectures and visits to various centres including the old goldfield areas are avenues of education enhancing what is gained from the classroom.
Our Biology students were given the opportunity of an extensive excursion to Point Lonsdale. This visit included Show Day as well as 1wo school days. This popular excursion combines both work and recreation. For the second year matriculation students and a number of teachers visited the Grampians and spent four days at the Methodist Youth Camp. This has been voted the most popular outing of the year by our senior students and the members of staff who participated."
In the early years of the school the Year 10 Tasmanian Camp was a feature of the program. Almost all Year 10 would take part. There might be as many as three trips in a given year to accommodate those taking part. Later, as the Tasmanian trip disappeared, Year 10 trips to Central Australia became a fixture. There were day trips to the snow for senior students, a short lived "swap" arrangement with Drouin High School and in the 1980s the much anticipated Year 11 Biology Camp to Kennett River.
As well as the enormously wide diversity of excursions that are part of the school's program, Strathmore now offers an unprecedented range of opportunities for students to take part in camps with different objectives. All Years 7 and 8 students attend their team's orientation camp, usually held at the start of the school year. In addition each team offers a major camp every second yeqr which usually involves Years 9 and l O from that team. These camps travel to central Australia. Queensland, Tasmania and now to New Zealand. Shorter camps may be offered on the alternate year. Next. an array of subject based camps are offered. Performing Arts take their performance groups away for intensive rehearsals; Physical Education run outdoor education and surf camps; Science go to Kangaroo Island. Our most ambitious camps are of course our international tours. The LOTE department runs trips to Japan and to Italy every second year; Science travels to the United States of America on Space Camp; the Arts have recently visited France and are to travel to New York; students have the opportunity to challenge themselves and to be involved in and contribute to another society via expeditions to Nepal and now Borneo. These opportunities reflect a commitment to promoting within students an expanded worldview, to having them see themselves within the global society they will inhabit as adults, to fostering a sense of connection beyond national boundaries.
A further recent change has been our involvement with international students in the senior years. The opportunity to meet students from a range of other countries, to study beside them, to become familiar with their beliefs and hopes allows our local students to look beyond their own community and experience.
It's no coincidence that I finish with the most significant continuing feature of the school - the quality of our students.
Strathmore has been blessed with what is now two generations of excellent students. Cheerful, responsible, thoughtful, involved, talented, optimistic - just a few of the descriptions that come to mind as you look into their faces, know their achievements and challenges, their stories. It is their energy, belief in, and hope for, the future that has given the school its life and purpose.
As Neil Baudinette said in 1972 "the real purpose of secondary education [is] to enable young people ... to develop their potential." We have indeed had the good fortune to work with a fine group of young people in meeting that purpose.They have our heartfelt thanks.