WEEKEND READ: Why local high school is top of the class
INNOVATION permeates the heritage precincts of Maryborough State High as it prepares to mark its 140th anniversary next year with a string of accolades and a projected enrolment of more than 1100.
Despite the pandemic cancelling two signature events which attract more than ten thousand students and spectators – the 24-hour Technology Challenge race and the Fraser Pop culture festival – the school has continued to break new ground.
In the five years since principal Simon Done has headed the school enrolments have risen from around 650 with a flexible “learning by doing” structure replacing traditional lectures.
“We find out what the students are interested in and build the curriculum around that, integrating subject streams into active involvement.”
Mobile phones are not banned in the school. “We have a very active student council and they asked why they should be banned from having phones when we expect them to act like adults. It was a good point.”
The students wrote a policy for phone use on the school ground, which expects mobiles to be switched off during lessons.
Mr Done said a tunnel or bridge solution to the Kent Street crossing between the former girls and boys schools was expected to cost $5 million “but some innovative thinking has resulted in a better flow across the street, saving $4 million”.
An Enrichment Precinct – a $5 million new wellness centre extension and extra sports fields at the eastern end of the school – is being built with the savings and will be ready for students in February 2021.
Daily classes have been changed to four 70-minute lessons “which is working a treat”, said Mr Done.
“Students have a consistent balance between practical and theory lessons and that means student timetables are a Monday to Friday consistent model. Good schools are all about balance.
“With the shorter lessons, for instance, the home ec(economics) teacher said her class barely had time to cook pikelets.”
Redesigned by the teacher, cooking lessons are now a case of “My Kitchen Rules” with the school being the first in Queensland to have an overhead camera relaying preparation and cooking to individual student monitors.
Maryborough High’s fully equipped hairdressing, pedicure and nail salon is the only one in a non-private school in Queensland. Also rare in State schools is a school canteen run by students, serving breakfast and teaching barista skills.
Manual arts students have designed and built shelters in the grounds. “A robotics classroom was designed by our teachers to suit our students. The design is unique.”
In sport the school has soccer and hockey academies. For the last two years it has had a rugby development academy in association with the Queensland Reds. Two weeks ago Maryborough High’s Under 15 side ventured to Brisbane and raised eyebrows in a game usually dominated by elite private schools, coming third overall in the Queensland All Schools Rugby 7s tournament.
Rowing has been reintroduced to Maryborough High after 30 years with Mr Done coaching the oarsmen. In Brisbane three weeks ago the rowing club also raised eyebrows, coming first, second and third in their sections.
Results of the innovative Maryborough High changes are also reflected in staff achievements, with two teachers recently voted among the top three in Queensland. Cecilia Kovacic had 100% success with students and outcomes for students; Peita Bates was a finalist in excellence in early years (beginning teacher).