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‘Appetite for this style of education is growing’: Victoria’s newest schools

“It’s been easier but more complex,” Mr Fawcett said. “I used to have fortnightly site meetings with the builders and architects, I’m no longer part of that. The only real involvement in the building is being asked where to put flag poles. The expertise of the principal has been reduced.”

Homestead students Ameli Blake and Hayden Chan with founding school principal Michael Fawcett at the school grounds in Point Cook.

Homestead students Ameli Blake and Hayden Chan with founding school principal Michael Fawcett at the school grounds in Point Cook.Credit: Luis Enrique Ascui

Homestead Senior Secondary College is one of 17 schools opening in Victoria this year. Twelve are government schools, three are independent, and two are Catholic.

In the tiny town of Ryanston, a small number of years 7 and 8 students are starting at Village High School, which promises an “alternative, forward-thinking” education.

The independent school will run eight six-week cycles throughout the year rather than four big terms. Teachers will work part time, to enable them time to pursue their outside interests, and will be called by their first name. Enrolments will be capped at 120 students, to create a village feel.

Principal and founder Fiona McKenzie is an old hand at opening schools, having established nearby primary schools Koonwarra Village School and Phillip Island Village School over the past decade.

Ms McKenzie said demand was so high for the new school – in which students are encouraged to get out and about, bushwalk and go to the beach – that families were moving to attend.

“I’m really excited about school start-ups and it’s getting harder but the appetite for this style of education is growing,” she said.

Enrolments in the country’s Catholic schools fell in both 2017 and 2018, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed.

But Geelong is home to two new Catholic schools this year: St Catherine of Siena Primary School and Iona Catholic College, a secondary school.

St Catherine of Siena principal Donna Bryce said the school will offer a Spanish-language immersion program, the Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden program and a bike track, and had enrolled a higher-than-expected 135 students.

St Catherine of Siena will be a feeder school to Iona up the road. Iona principal Damien McKew has pondered what makes a contemporary Catholic school when far fewer children attend weekly mass.

For him, it is a school that puts Christ at its centre, responds to students, and is focused on making a difference.

Mr McKew said he wanted his new year 7s to be “world-ready” by the time they finished secondary school in 2025.

Some schools are not strictly new. Greater Shepparton Secondary College and Footscray High School is the result of a merger of Footscray City College and Gilmore College for Girls.

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