Albert Park College inaugral Year 12 students (left to right) Nicky Tzouvanellis , Jasper Blake, Campbell Rider, Chelsea Saw and Katie Lewis. Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.Campbell Rider is one of thousands of students in the public school system who watched on, as news of the VCE results achieved by Victoria’ top private schools rolled in.
The 18-year-old student is one of about 150 students who were the first to graduate from Albert Park College, which opened in 2011.
Enrolling in the fledgling school in Year 7 was a “risk”, he admits.
But Campbell has finished school with an ATAR of 99.2 and is among 20 per cent of his year level that achieved an ATAR over 90 – the top 10 per cent in the state.
The school’s median subject score was 31 and the dux ranked 99.6 – their results rivalled some of the high performing private schools.
Campbell said the stellar grades at the new government school set an important precedent for the rest of the sector.
“No one would leave this school without a sense that public education is something we need to stand up for because this [the school’s VCE results] proves that … government schools should be supported and protected,” he said.
“Albert Park College shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the benchmark … all these articles coming out about the elite private schools or select-entry schools which get these exceptional results, well, of course they do, no one is surprised by that.” .
There is plenty to learn from Albert Park College, a zoned school that is bursting at the seams, taking students from Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Middle Park and St Kilda West. In five years it has grown from 150 to 1100 students, and has 430 students applying to enrol next year, despite only having room for 230.
Steven Cook, principal of the school, which opened a new campus on Bay Street this year for year 9 students, said there has been a steady year-on-year increase in demand of about 100 enrolments.
When the school was founded, it was one of the first to see teachers and students shift their curriculum online and adopt a “Mac only” approach, said Mr Cook, who introduced iPads for students in 2011, soon after the 2010 release.
“iPads seem mainstream now, but at the time it was quite radical,” he said.
The school, which offers two SEAL classrooms in each year level, has prioritised arts and creativity, said Mr Cook, by promoting subjects such as philosophy, sociology, music (a third of the students play an instrument), dance and performing arts throughout secondary.
A highlight for many students is the “Da Vinci Project” – a program for year 9 students wherein they tackle environmental issues over the course of the year and come up with solutions to the global problem.
Mr Cook said the graduating class were the guinea pigs for these new school initiatives.
“They were our first group, everything we tried was a new experience for them so to achieve the results they have speaks to their strength of character.”
Education Minister James Merlino also promised in October to expand the site to accommodate another five classrooms.