An Exceptional Education

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School

Today, the multi campus school boasts three locations in the Melbourne area. The Moonee Ponds Campus houses girls from Prep – Year 6 and Year 7 – Year 10. The Essendon Campus is for boys in Prep – Year 6, and the Keilor East Campus houses boys in Years 7 – 10. Keilor East is also home to the Infinity Centre, the brand new co-od senior campus where PEGS boys and girls attend classes together for the first time. “Students at PEGS are thus able to enjoy the benefits that a single sex education can provide – particularly during the years of early adolescence – as well as those of a mixed environment in which respectful relationships can be fostered amongst young men and women,” the school website reports.

One of PEGS’ most defining characteristics is its academic rigour. “We have very high standards for our students and we encourage them to rise to them,” Principal Tony Larkin explains. These high standards – and students’ willingness to meet them – have created impressive outcomes. “We are a high performing school,” says Mr Larkin. “Our year 12 results are amongst the best in the state.” In fact, PEGS’ Year 12 results have consistently been at the top of the heap for the past two decades. But PEGS isn’t resting on its laurels. “We are always looking to improve and do more and do better.”

In fact, PEGS has recently rolled out an expanded curriculum to improve its academic standing even further. The school already offered an impressive array of classes, including five different languages (French, German, Latin, Indonesian, and Chinese); now, students may choose from an even greater selection of subjects, with expanded offerings covering areas such as art, drama, physical education, and IT. “We initiated the expansion in our curriculum options with the idea that, if we better match what we offer to student needs, that we can improve engagement in their learning and with the school,” Mr Larkin explains. “And we hope that there will be positive consequences for student performance in the longer term if they are more engaged in their education.”

Student engagement is a foundational concept at PEGS, and the team is constantly working to keep students involved. “We are very strong on student engagement and student involvement with the school,” Mr Larkin reports, “and we encourage that engagement in our teaching as well.” PEGS is attempting to push current levels of student engagement even further by actively encouraging students to become more responsible for their own learning. “We are asking them to think more about their learning than in the past,” Mr Larkin explains. The goal is to have students who are heavily invested in – and enthusiastic about – their education, both now and over the long term.

While academics are heavily emphasised, PEGS isn’t all work and no play. “There is an enormous range of co-curricular programs in place here,” Mr Larkin reports. The school has an expansive sports program, for instance. “On any given Saturday morning we might have between 1,000 and 1,200 students playing sport for the school against a range of other independent schools in Melbourne,” Mr Larkin says. PEGS also has a well-established music program with a multitude of options for musically minded students to pursue. “We have over 20 different ensembles in rehearsal each week,” Mr Larkin reports. The school also boasts a large dance program as well as a very active social justice program.

Students in the social justice program regularly travel throughout the state to lend a much needed helping hand. For instance, the group helped farmers clear burnt fences after the Black Saturday bush fires and removed damaged fences in North West Victoria after the flooding that took place there a couple of years ago. Members also tutor local refugees in English or volunteer on a weekly basis in child care centres, aged care homes, and other institutions. The program is a win-win for everyone involved. “We want to support the community,” Mr Larkin points out. “But we want to expose our students to the experiences that other people have as well.”

A flurry of new construction activity is remaking the school to better suit students’ needs, as well as to encourage new enrolments. The Infinity Centre, PEGS’ senior school, is a brand new, state of the art facility completed just in time for the start of the 2012 school year. The team is currently rebuilding the entire secondary school to create a completely updated and expanded environment for learning. PEGS is also in the process of refurbishing and rebuilding its middle school for boys, a project that should be completed later this month. The upgrades are slated to continue for some time, with the next project being to convert the old senior school into a middle school for girls.

PEGS sees a high demand for future student enrolment, and these building projects will provide the additional space needed to bring more students on board. “It also means that we can attract a broader range of students,” Mr Larkin explains. “Both a positive and a negative is that most of our new enrolments are brothers and sisters of existing students, or sons and daughters of former students. And while this level of support is most appreciated, we don’t get a lot of new blood in the school. And we think that it is important for the organisation for people with new perspectives and experiences join the school. [The new construction and refurbishments] will give us the capacity to do that.”

Armed with newly constructed facilities, an extremely strong curriculum, and high achieving students, PEGS’ future looks bright. “Our challenge is always to maintain the very high standards that have been at place in the school for many years,” Mr Larkin says of the school’s only real concern. “These high standards don’t happen easily. They don’t happen automatically. They require ongoing commitment and dedication from the school staff.”

Fortunately, the school has a strong support system in place to help students stay on top. Boys and girls at PEGS benefit from a dedicated staff and close knit ties with each other, both of which help everyone to stay on track. “While we are a large and diverse school, we certainly provide a genuine sense of community for students,” Mr Larkin explains. “It surrounds them and makes their school experience a better one.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:32 PM AEDT