Thinking About Tomorrow

ELTHAM College

Who will be accepted into the university or TAFE course that they had their heart set on and excel? How many will flourish in their chosen profession and go on to have a bright future?

ELTHAM College is an independent, coeducational school situated in the eclectic Nillumbik Shire northeast of Melbourne, with a distinctly modern approach to teaching and learning. “My vision for the future of ELTHAM College is that it continues to lead the way in relevant schooling for young people in the 21st century,” says Principal David Warner. “It is a school that’s focused on young people and their future, not on our past.”

Progressive Philosophy

What do I do next? It is the question on the lips of too many high school graduates who are about to enter the world not knowing what to do. While ELTHAM College performs exceptionally well academically, the teachers aim to prepare students for life after school with more than just a high VCE score and a pleasing report card. ELTHAM College aims to equip students not just with knowledge, but also with attitudes and skills that will serve them for life.

Students are expected to play an active part in their own learning and take responsibility for their decisions. “This means that when they go into the world beyond school they are what we would call world-ready. Ready to take on university, TAFE or work and all the other things that life provides for 18, 19 and 20 year olds.”

The vibrant, creative culture of Nillumbik Shire was the perfect place to create a school as innovative as ELTHAM College. A group of community members who were seeking quality schooling for their children founded ELTHAM in 1973. They were motivated to create an above average school, one that would shape the next generation of Australians into world-ready citizens who are optimistic, resilient to setbacks and feel confident going forward.

The LifeWork Centre is central to the senior years at ELTHAM College, helping to ensure that by the time pupils graduate they know what their real passion is, what they want to do and how they are going to get there. “It has two full time counsellors whose major focus is career counselling and they start working with young people and their families in year 9,” explains Dr Warner.

Schools generally focus on helping year 12 students who are keen on attending university to get accepted into the course and institution of their choice, which is only half the battle. Once accepted, many will struggle to balance study, family and work commitments effectively. Some will find that the course is not what they had anticipated and drop out. “What we do is look to ensure that young people will get into the university course that they’re passionate about and when they get there, stay there and succeed.” ELTHAM College goes the extra mile, surveying graduates 15 months and five years after graduation to find out if they have made smooth transitions into higher education or the workforce. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from past students, coupled with excellent academic performance overall is what makes ELTHAM College anything but ordinary.

Nurturing Creativity

Any kindergarten teacher will agree with Dr Warner who believes that when children start school they are naturally creative. “Our job as a school is to ensure that creativity, that capacity to grow and be innovative continues to develop,” he says. With an engaging curriculum and co-curriculum, ELTHAM focuses on young people and their natural capacity to be creative, productive and successful. The curriculum covers all the subjects necessary to provide a complete schooling experience, while a diverse co-curriculum enables students to develop their interests and talents whether they are passionate about art, chess, drama, robotics, sport, travel…

International student exchanges with countries such as China, France and Spain offer tremendous intercultural learning opportunities; closer to home, there are trips to Central Australia that prove to be memorable and educational.

The main ELTHAM campus is set over 50 sprawling hectares and boasts a wide range of facilities including an environmental reserve, observatory and the Clarke Visual Arts Centre. While the students create impressive artworks, they also excel at sports, from basketball to swimming. Many nationally and internationally famous sports stars including V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup and Hockeyroos legend Rachel Lynch were once students at ELTHAM, which boasted the first sports centre of its kind back in the late 70s. “On Christmas day 2011 we had a massive hail storm that put our sports centre to ruins and it has taken the whole of 2012 to have it rebuilt, so now it is a modern, up-to-date centre,” explains Dr Warner.

Unlike some other schools, ELTHAM College has not banned students from social networking. “We are a very technologically apt school,” comments Dr Warner. “We have a wireless network that allows people to bring their own devices and use them for school and social work.” Parents and students have access to school reports at the click of a mouse. “We have a transparent curriculum and reporting system so since 2002 we haven’t written a hard copy report. All our reporting is continuous and online.” Dr Warner has always maintained that despite the strong focus on technological innovation, ELTHAM College is about relationships and collaborating with others inside and outside of the classroom. “Technology is a very useful resource for all of us,” he says. “We can no longer survive without it. In the teaching situation, it is just a resource to the way in which teachers and young people work together.”

Knowledge Era

The youth of today are going to build a future in a world that is a vastly different place than what it was when their parents graduated high school. “I think they’re having difficulty with a society and an economy that hasn’t come to terms with the massive changes with the labour market and the global economy,” explains Dr Warner. “What they’re confronting is a world that doesn’t have a single job for the future but rather they’re going to have a range of jobs.”

Globalisation, immigration and sustainability are just some of the issues that are changing the face of modern Australia, and graduates need to be world-ready to make successful transitions in a rapidly evolving world. “They’re going to most likely end up as independent contractors and the way the Australian job economy is going, sadly many of them are going to have to live and work overseas to make the productive contributions that they have the capacity to make.”

In the years ahead, ELTHAM College will continue to lead the way in developing world-ready graduates by providing quality education that inspires and nurtures young minds. “We work very hard to ensure that we give as much attention as possible to young people becoming emotionally and socially mature individuals who are self directed learners.” Together with teachers and staff, Dr Warner has focused on taking what was always a good school to new heights. “What we’ve done is transform this school into a great school for the 21st century. Central to it are relationships and how people work together.” Dr Warner credits his colleagues for their commitment to the education and welfare of students who will go on to become the future of this country. “I think they’re a great bunch of people.”

At the end of this year, Dr Warner will be retiring from ELTHAM College but will take many fond memories with him from the course of his career. In 2006, the Australian Council for Educational Research published his book ‘Schooling for the Knowledge Era’ which highlighted the urgent need for schooling to transform in the global knowledge economy of the 21st century. There are memorable moments on a daily basis that Dr Warner will cherish for years to come. “Just two weeks ago I went with the preps and I took two frying pans, and eggs, flour and butter and we spent an hour making crepes together. Now you don’t get the opportunity to do things like that in other jobs… just being able to work with and relate to young people.”

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?

September 26, 2018, 10:02 AM AEST