The story of a school on the brink of closure that become one of Australia's most innovative learning environments.

 

Templestowe College

 

Templestowe College (TC) has just created its new Strategic Plan for 2018-2021. In 2009, not many people, if any, thought TC would be around in 2010 – never mind 2018!


In 2009, enrolments totalled 289, the school was predominantly moth-balled – the Department of Education had earmarked it for closure and nobody would have blamed them for doing this, honestly. However, thankfully, they did not do this and a new Principal was appointed in 2009, Peter Hutton. Peter has led a remarkable change. In 2018, enrolments approximately are 1150 and the demand is much greater than TC can accommodate. Prospective students and their families tour the school every week. It is common knowledge that Melbourne is a growing city, but the increase in numbers at TC has absolutely nothing to do with that. Templestowe is an established suburb; it is not part of a growth corridor. The increase in enrolments is due explicitly to a model of education known as Take Control; a model that wants to do it better and make a difference.


Take Control puts students in charge of their own learning. The Principal took the decision to genuinely empower students to lead their own learning and their own journey in education; it is more than student voice and more than student agency, the newest term in ‘letting’ students have a say. TC conducts tours weekly for educators to come along and see how this is done. The Principal opens the doors to share with all how TC has engaged students to be passionate about their learning and be empowered to lead themselves and others through their secondary education. There are many unique points to TC that visitors witness. These things make TC the place that it is and it is special, but there is not enough space in a short blog to list and expand on all. However, there are some key, major, components that ensure students are genuinely empowered to lead their own learning and shape their own future, some of which are outlined below:


No Year Levels
Students arrive in Entry, transition to the Flexible Learning Environment (FLE) and finish their last year at Graduate level, either early, on time or late, depending on individual needs. Learning is not confined to a standard 6 years period – all are acknowledged for their specific individual needs.

 

One-Person Policy
Everybody is treated the same; nobody is more important than anybody else. Students call staff by first names; staff do not shout at students EVER. Principals do not have offices, they share spaces with students. There are no reserved parking spaces and students have the telephone numbers of Principals. TC lives the policy that students and staff learn better side-by-side, co-constructing learning, assessment and reporting.
The One-Person Policy goes much further than any Respect Policy; it demonstrates equity by actions that all are valued, all are important and all can speak openly.


‘Yes is the default’ Policy
This is the best thing EVER! Anybody that has an idea must have the idea implemented, unless it takes too much time, costs too much money or negatively impacts on somebody else. Based upon the fact that leaders and staff are present to serve the needs of every student, this policy genuinely empowers EVERY student.


Maths and English are NOT compulsory
Once a Level 8 (end of Year 8 equivalent) is achieved, students can select every subject they wish to study from a potential list of 140 subjects or courses. Students have an Individualised Learning Plan (ILP) used as a personal learning script and every student has a Learning Mentor to ensure highly-individualised counselling is available to every student every day. We believe that with the right information, students make good choices and are empowered to learn


Entrepreneurial Learning
Students are supported and encouraged to start their own business. Start-up grants of $2500 are available; business mentoring is included and this can all take place in curriculum time.


Learning and Well-being are combined
The Student Support Development Program(SSDP) is a daily program that students learn about personal and social aspects of life, combining it with current affairs, world issues, social justice and passion-led curriculum. Focussed on opening the opportunities to build resilience in every student whilst simultaneously offering the chance to learn independence, collaboration and skills that are required in a world of constant technological advancement and the onset of robotization.

 

There are many more unique aspects to TC including, but not limited to: Sustainability, TC Farm, Montessori Adolescent Program, Project-Based Learning, the Resource Centre, the Heutagogy Centre, Non-VCE (GCSE/A Level equivalent) entry to university, early and late start times, blended learning and many more, all of which create a school entrenched in an accumulation of innovation and one that is prepared to learn as it moves, develops and grows. The Principal encourages failure! Seriously, if you have not failed at something at TC then you have not tried!


TC is possible because the Principal, Peter Hutton, was brave; he decided to challenge the norm and change something that he knew was not working, not just TC, but contemporary, traditional education. Teachers do not dominate lessons; they adhere to a ten-minute rule. The ten-minute rule ensures the lessons are set up succinctly and the time is given over to students to learn in an active way. There can be multiples of ten-minutes, but it had better be relevant otherwise students will challenge its appropriateness, given it takes time away from them leading their own learning. Students are put in charge of their learning; they are empowered to learn and engage in their passions and the figures show that TC students love their school; it is theirs, after all.
Peter has since began working with world renowned educationalists and thought leaders on the Take Control model. Other schools have taken onboard the Take Control model and a growing coalition of schools is collaborating to enhance the practice of authentic futuristic learning that will serve our young people for the remainder of the 21st Century and beyond.


The current education model was established in a very different era; it served a very specific purpose. The world has changed since that time and will continue to do so. Education must change, so that it serves a future we do not yet know and in the information age this does not require highly detailed, subject-based curriculum and lecturing at students. Students can find almost anything they want on the internet, be it good or bad, so why do we, as teachers, focus on delivering content?! Well, because we’re instructed to do this! So, when are those that are responsible for an education system going to be brave and dare to move away from factory style education? I’m not holding my breath, so it’s Viva La Revolution, Power to the People or let’s just do this ourselves!


TC is brave, it is seeking to be at the fore in doing this. Its staff are engaged, committed and capable and they are motivated to make a difference, to do things differently. Maybe you can as well! If others wish to be a part of this then let us, as educators, Take Control. Get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and see how Take Control is changing education, one school at a time.


Matthew Daly
Assistant Principal
Templestowe College, Melbourne, Australia.