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Simply the best – Blue Haven Public snares national award

A public school that shot from the bottom of NAPLAN to the top in two years and a principal whose school has defied unemployment trends have been named among Australia’s best.

Paul McDermott

Australia's best public primary school principal: Paul McDermott from Blue Haven Public School.

When Blue Haven Public School principal Paul McDermott arrived at the school in August 2016 nobody would have predicted the school being named best government primary school in the country. The school was struggling and sitting in the bottom 10% of NAPLAN results.

This morning the school was buzzing, after the NSW central coast school was named ‘Primary school of the year – Government’ at the Australian Education Awards on Friday night.

“The community response has been fantastic,” Mr McDermott said.

The school’s 2018 NAPLAN results placed it in the top 10%, a result Mr McDermott attributed to hard work and a team effort from students, staff and parents.

“Some kids came to school today wearing badges that say ‘I go to the best school in Australia’. Everyone is really proud of our turnaround efforts,” Mr McDermott said.

In addition to the school’s accolade, Mr McDermott was recognised for his leadership as ‘Primary school principal of the year – Government’ and was highly commended in the ‘Australian school principal of the year’ category.

In Sydney’s west, two high schools were recognised for their hard work preparing the next wave of Australia’s leaders.

Plumpton High School principal Tim Lloyd was named ‘School principal of the year – Government’. The school, which takes in more than 800 students from the two lowest socio-economic profiles, has seen massive growth in the number of students accessing post-school study and career pathways.

More than 60% of  Year 12 students in 2018 received university offers and the remaining one-third were in work or training three months after leaving school. Just 1% of their cohort was unemployed as at March 2019, compared with the youth unemployment average for Mount Druitt of 25%.

Mr Lloyd said the award was a recognition of the “massive shift in culture” that had taken place at Plumpton.

“We designed and implemented a supportive, innovative, creative and stimulating educational environment focused on building intellectual capacity, positive relationships, strong self-concept, leadership capacity and high-quality reflective practices,” Mr Lloyd said.

“As a result, our students can solve complex real-world problems either individually or collaboratively and are the leaders of tomorrow.”

The title of ‘High school of the year – Government’ went to Liverpool Boys High School, where the school is shaking up the traditional high school structure. Students in Years 7 to 10 engage in project-based learning, where they work across the curriculum to combine knowledge from multiple subjects.

Kurri Kurri High School teacher Lisa Scobie rounded out the public school staff recognised on the night, taking home the title of ‘Education rising star of the year’.

Ms Scobie is a teacher-in-residence at the department’s Catalyst Lab Innovation Program, which helps schools utilise cutting-edge innovations in their classrooms.

For Mr McDermott and the staff of Blue Haven Public School, the award will not change their approach to improving student results.

“We don’t do what we do for the accolades; as with all teachers we do it to make a difference in our kids’ lives,” Mr McDermott said.

The full list of NSW public schools winners from the Australian Education Awards are:

  • Education rising star of the year – Lisa Scobie, Kurri Kurri High School
  • School principal of the year – Government – Tim Lloyd, Plumpton High School
  • Primary school principal of the year – Government – Paul McDermott, Blue Haven Public School
  • Primary school of the year – Government – Blue Haven Public School
  • High school of the year – Government – Liverpool Boys High School
  • Best student wellbeing program – Mount View High School
  • Australian school principal of the year, highly commended: Paul McDermott, Blue Haven Public School.

Educators’ innovation sparks national recognition

NSW Department of Education staff also make up 10 per cent of the “movers and shakers of Australian education” according to The Educator’s 2019 Hot List.

Education Futures and Governance Deputy Secretary Leslie Loble was recognised for her work leading the team addressing how the department equips students to learn and thrive in a world of yet-to-be-invented technology, artificial intelligence and future innovation.

Granville Public School principal Gregory Grinham made the list for his work leading the growth of community languages programs in his school, while Sue French was recognised for her role in creating the education program for the 2018 Invictus Games.

Rounding out the five thought leaders on the list were two highly accomplished and lead teachers, Melinda Haskett and Jean Scott, recognised for their work in supporting other teachers and improving teaching and learning across the department.

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