Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli visited Coonabarabran High School on Wednesday, 9 June, as part of a two-day trip to visit several regional school. His tour also took in schools in Cobar, Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Scone.
Mr Piccoli said as a regional MP he understood how important it was to continue to visit schools outside the capital cities, and the regular feedback and insights gained from meeting students, teachers and school communities was extremely valuable.
“Sitting down and chatting about individual school issues, hearing the success stories, and listening to teachers and staff is hard to beat,” Mr Piccoli said.
The Minister was accompanied by Dail McGilchrist, executive director, Learning and Teaching, Department of Education (DEC), Andrew Stevenson - deputy chief of staff, and Leah Anderson - liaison officer, DEC. A visit to Coonabarabran High was included in the Minister’s tour due to its impressive record of outstanding Higher School Certificate (HSC) results.
“Coonabarabran High School was targeted as the Minister was keen to hear about the strategies our school employs to build excellent HSC results and, more broadly, a positive culture at the school,” said deputy principal, Mary Doolan.
Mr Piccoli and his team were welcomed by school captains, Anna Nash and Gus Elton, and Indigenous Youth Leadership Scholar, Allynta Sutherland, before meeting briefly with principal, Mel Johnston, deputy principal, Mary Doolan, staff and Mark Fosdick, past P&C president.
Guests then met with Aboriginal education officer, Alison Stanton, Mr Johnston and a group of Elders, where discussion on indigenous programs at the school took place, including the restoration of the school’s indigenous garden and ‘Girl’s Yarn Up’, funded via Federal Indigenous Advancement Strategy funds.
An informal afternoon tea followed in the library, where MrPiccoli had further discussions with school staff.
“The Minister took questions and also invited staff to share about their time at CHS and their thoughts on why our school is such a positive and successful one,” Ms Doolan said.
“For my part, I told him we are lucky to have the trifecta - good staff, great students and a supportive local community!”
Joining the gathering was former deputy principal and Technological and Applied Arts (TAS) teacher, Graham Enks.
In his 31 years at Coona High, Mr Enks recorded enviable HSC results, including his entire Year 12 engineering studies class recording a Band 6 (above 90) in the 2015 HSC.
Ex-student David Tighe, school captain in 2015, now studying Medicine at UNSW, prepared a short video clip for the Minister, setting out his thoughts on why he valued his education at CHS and how the school encourages students to set high expectations and supports them to achieve this.
“These visits help shape future education policy. It’s important to see which areas schools are doing well in and which areas can be improved,” Mr Piccoli said.
“Our goal is to ensure children at these schools have the same opportunities as other students in NSW.”
Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli (centre), with Coona High staff (l-r) Peter Morrissey, Sharelle Moore, Annette Adam, Duncan Graham, Mary Doolan (deputy principal), Brian Shand, Debbie Redden, Bethany Doyle, Elizabeth Macintosh, Jacinta Honke, Kylie Deshon, Mel Johnston (school principal).