Tuesday 25 June 2024

Contact 1800 772 679

Contact 1800 772 679

The magazine of the Public Service Association of NSW and the Community and Public Sector Union (NSW Branch)

From The Ground Up

From The Ground Up

How a community with a vision and a principal with a purpose created a thriving state school

Steven Cook
Black Inc

Albert Park College was a school in Melbourne’s inner south that the community had turned its back on.

Plunging grades and a reputation as a school of last resort for pupils others refused to teach meant the college experienced a huge drop in enrolments to the extent it was no longer viable and instead ripe for closure.

Rather than follow many of their neighbours and accept that their kids attend nearby private schools, a group of locals lobbied the State Government to turn the school around. Enter Steven Cook (pictured below with students), an experienced teacher and enthusiastic sailor hired to be Principal of a new school built on the site of the old one.

Tasked with literally building the school from the ground up after the original was demolished, Mr Cook looked at how to create a learning environment that suited the local community. Albert Park was now a blend of long-term inner-city residents in public and social housing living alongside wealthier recent arrivals and creatives attracted to the area’s proximity to St Kilda and the city.

Mr Cook emphasised school pride through strict uniform and behaviour policies, including the right to suspend and expel students. He devised a curriculum that ensured creative pursuits such as music and art, as well as modern subjects such as environmental studies, were given equal priority to maths, English and science.

Certainly Mr Cook’s efforts were aided the backing of an energetic local community that is comparatively well-off, politically connected and able to contribute resources and skills.
However, readers will not doubt his passion for public education for all, regardless of their background and bank balance.

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