A Review of Education and Training Service prepared by the Shire of Collie, in association with the former Liberal government, stated that there were unwarranted negative perceptions in the community held by some parents who sent their children to schools in Bunbury. These parents believed that their children could get a better education.
Two years ago, Collie Senior High School, with a cohort of under 600 students, took the recommendation made in a review by the WA Department of Education to heart, and planned how it could raise its profile in the community and show how its students could wear their blue uniform with pride.
The WA Department of Education’s independent review in 2015 said that the school had demonstrated “above expected performance in many areas and a positive learning environment that was a credit to its leadership, staff and students”.
The review praised the previous principal, Domenic Camera, who was greatly responsible for giving the school a “reputation for high academic and non-academic standards and a positive learning environment.”
“It has successfully dispelled the negative perception held by some community members and is well-placed to sustain and improve its current student achievement levels,” the report said.
Positive Behaviour Support Program coordinator and deputy principal, Adam Blackmore, said that the program was a positive step in supporting the school’s culture.
“We have seen a large increase in positive behaviours among students with great feedback from the community,” he said.
Blackmore played a leading role in two of the six ANZAC tours run by the school. This year the campaign raised $130 000 for a school trip to Vietnam.
“It makes me feel proud how the community supported us as part of a legacy of bringing school and community together in the ANZAC spirit,” he said.
Principal Dale Miller says that 65 Aboriginal students are enrolled in the Mila Foundation program, which was co-founded by former Collie student, Taylor Hayward. Hayward was a finalist in the 2017 Young Achiever Awards.
Hayward enrolled in Indigenous History and Heritage at the University of Western Australia and led the Mila Foundation to be recognised as a charitable organization.
Miller says that the Mila Foundation selected some students to receive a delegation from China as part of a friendship, culture and language program. Participants speak in Chinese and Aboriginal languages, and can learn how language transcends cultural barriers.
The school’s deputy principal, Jodie Hanns, a member of the Shire of Collie’s Industry Reference Group and shire councillor, is a key figure in making the school’s vocational education and training program successful- 75 percent of students come to Collie because of the VET opportunities offered.
She says that a memorandum of agreement between the adjoining South West Institute of Technology and the school to share a Trade Training Centre on the school campus increased opportunities for SWIT and school students to complete Certificate II in Engineering and Electrical Trades.
“We had 14 students secure apprenticeships or full-time employment that is one of the highest in the South West Region of WA,” she adds.
The independent review report was impressed that the school achieved 100% of ATAR students entering university in 2015, noting it was now above "like" schools.
“We provide undivided attention, have students prepare study plans using apps and review the way we are teaching,” Miller explains.
When parents said that they did not know how to help their children at home, due to changes in Mathematics, the school organised classes to coach families, Miller says.
The School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) coordinator, Jenny Griffiths, organises a program for 20 students in Years 11 and 12 to use online learning that prepares them for university, where they'll be responsible for their learning.
“I am the go-between student and teacher at SIDE, by providing support for students in their work each week,” she says.
Emersen Dewar, a Year 11 SIDE student is studying ATAR-level biology, and is the third generation of her family to attend the school, where her grandfather was a former economics teacher.
“You meet some really awesome people here and the teachers make sure that you leave school gaining what you want,” Dewar shares.
Griffiths says she worked with 26 Year 10 ATAR-bound students in career education using twenty-first century skills of problem solving, technology, time management and life skills.
“We use an electronic calendar to plan as it is the way of the future where students could be organizing their lives from their iphones,” she adds.
Miller notes that from Year 9, students are individually counselled about choosing appropriate pathways. As many as 98-100 per cent of the cohort choosing to transition into Year 11.
“The secret of ensuring that every child has success and chooses a course that meets their needs is to counsel them at an early stage,” she says.
Part of her early-start philosophy is to have Inclusivity coordinator, Corry Blurton, meet every principal from feeder primary schools and arrange primary/secondary induction sessions, with house leaders playing a vital bonding role.
“We make sure that primary students have a fresh start and build new relationships moving forward,” Miller says.
This was so successful, that in 2016, the school attracted 100 per cent of primary students from its feeder primary schools.
However, the transfer of some services from Collie to the regional town of Bunbury, about 60 kilometres away, has removed essential government services and is a loss felt by the community.
The economic downturn in WA has led the school to look to its house leaders for wraparound services to give children care.
Support is Collie Senior High School's stock-in-trade when facing challenges.