Seamless start for state’s newest school
There was a moment when the 2022 school year started that Anne Stout felt like she was finally leading a “real school”.
Appointed last June as founding principal of one of Victoria’s newest schools, Port Melbourne Secondary College, the experienced educator was for a number of months the sole employee at the under-construction school.
The ensuing period saw the establishment of everything needed for the school — which will predominantly service Southbank, Port Melbourne and Fishermans Bend — before the all-important start date.
This ranged from hiring staff, curriculum planning, policymaking, establishing vision and values, timetabling and more.
So, by the time Victorian schools began their year on Monday, January 31, it was a considerable achievement in itself.
And, for Ms Stout, the most rewarding of sights was a simple one.
“It was just fantastic to see them walking around in their uniforms,” she said.
When you see students coming in in uniform and into the community, I think that’s when it starts to feel like you’re a real school.
While students and staff had spent time at the school prior to this day, January 31 represented the first “official” day for Port Melbourne SC.
Deputy Premier and Education Minister James Merlino was there to officially declare the impressive multi-level school open, alongside local member and Health Minister Martin Foley, and Federal Minister for Macnamara Josh Burns.
Speaking with Southbank News at the end of the first school week of 2022, Ms Stout said despite the busyness of launching a foundation school, things were “reasonably normal”.
“It’s nice to have a first week and feel like we’ve got routine, that everyone knows what they’re doing … we’ve had so much really positive feedback, particularly from families saying what a great week their child was having. That’s been really pleasing.”
The former Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School principal entered her new role with significant experience with founding schools, having served as assistant principal at Albert Park College when it first opened in 2011.
This experience was likely to have been crucial in walking Port Melbourne SC’s 19 new staff members through preparations prior to the school’s opening day.
“It is very different to starting at an established school,” she said.
Ms Stout will live in Southbank during term times and considers herself as an “early adopter” of the area, having bought an apartment around 20 years ago.
She paid tribute to the wider local community support in the school’s opening days.
“We’re really fortunate. We’ve been really warmly welcomed into the community — we couldn’t ask for nicer neighbours. Local businesses have been dropping in and saying ‘hi’ and offering their help, which has been great.”
Like other schools throughout the state, Port Melbourne SC is abiding by the latest COVID-19 protocols which include twice-weekly testing of students.
But the school has a unique advantage in fighting the virus.
While it will eventually have an enrolment capacity of 1100 students, in 2022 the school welcomed only Year 7s so far, and will progress by year level thereafter.
This has meant there is a small amount of students in a relatively large educational facility.
“We’ve actually got a building that’s really well ventilated, and has lots of outdoor space. And we’ve obviously got a small cohort of students and a big venue so from that point of view we’ve got ample ventilation in that space.”
Port Melbourne SC is one of 100 new schools the Victorian Government has committed to opening between 2019 and 2026.
Previously known known by its interim name “Fishermans Bend Secondary School” during the planning phase, the school will have a strong focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) subjects according to the government.
As Fishermans Bend is still under development, the school is likely to accept students beyond its immediate catchment area in early years, including those from Docklands •