Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Measure of Success

Today my school got a nice little piece of publicity in the Herald Sun.

In a nutshell, the median score for all our VCE study scores (out of 50), was 35 – a truly great median for a no scholarship, take all comers, encourage everyone to finish year 12, government school. More importantly on the data spectrum, we were the most improved school, with our median shooting up 5 points from last year.

We’ve had halcyon times like this before. Occasionally we have some ‘lean’ years but It’s not a new thing for our VCE kids to do well. Back in 2007-2009 we had medians well above the average and our students have always ‘batted above their weight’ when it comes to success in academics, in sport and in performance skills.

So while I’m happy for us to bask in the (momentary) glory of high academic achievement, I think its important to recognise that it’s the not the most important measure of our school’s success and definitely not the most important measure of this group of kids. In fact, not all the kids in this photo contributed to that median. The numbers are derived from all the Unit 4 study scores and that included quite a few year 11s (who will get their chance at ATAR glory next year). Some of these kids didn’t even sit exams but they are no less successful in our eyes. Some are successful just because they finished year 12, some combined VCAL with VCE, Shona is the VETis plumber of the year (2 x in a row). Lachie is a state junior cricketer, Jake a state level high jumper and Gerald, a national equestrian. Cooper published his 2nd EP and got a perfect score in VET Music, a subject he studied at Emmanuel College because if we can’t offer a subject ourselves, then we’ll find someone who can. Chloe finished VCE with VCAL certs in 3 different disciplines. Breeanna, our dux, had three scores over 40 and she won’t even turn 18 till next May. All of them combined student leadership duties with their studies, becoming role models and ambassadors. At some stage, each and every one of them has performed in the school play, with 4 of them gaining admittance into our Performing Arts Hall of Fame.

I first met this group when they tumbled, full of personality, into year 5. There were lots of them then, a big class by our standards, covering the whole gamut of academic ability. They were larger than life kids, all different but all willing to turn their hand to any task. By year 7 it was clear they were going to be a successful cohort. They competed with each other and with themselves on a daily basis, in sport, in class and on the stage. We watched them grow from enthusiastic youngsters into skillful teenagers. Almost all of them came to NZ on camp with us and they soaked up every moment and made the most of every experience.

And then bit by bit the group started to shrink with a lot of the kids going off to bigger schools in bigger cities. Those who remained here struggled a bit. They missed their friends, and I think they felt a little bit deserted, with a sense that while the others were off having new adventures, they were stuck in the seemingly boring sameness of their run down rurality, with teachers who knew them so well that there was nowhere to hide. They became burdened by the high expectations we had of them, sometimes doubting that they could match those expectations with their own lofty ambitions and the work load that lay ahead. Some of them fought the demons of physical and mental health issues and just getting to school each day became a victory.

Like the surrogate parents that teachers often become, we cajoled, chastened, promised, pleaded, threatened, tutored, guided and bribed, and as loyal co workers do, they responded by doing their very best, by believing that if they dreamed it they could do it and choosing to step up rather than stepping aside.

And now, here they are, big fish in anyone’s pond. The survivors and the victors, ready to embrace their ‘real’ lives with the same passion and persistence that’s got them through year 12.

What a lovely bunch. Well done and good luck to you all.


  1. Beautiful words Anne - honest and true x

  2. Anne I enjoyed reading this so much! It brought back fond memories of my time completing VCE at Mortlake College. So many advantages to attending a small school I still look back and feel grateful that I had teachers that genuinely cared.
    How lovely that the students will have this post to look back on!