The big improvers: the schools jumping up the VCE rankings

When Alan Marr arrived at Dromana Secondary College in 2008, he found a school that had lost its way.
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“It was not orderly,” the principal said.

“There was a lack of focus on educational achievement, and a greater focus on wellbeing services.”

His task was to turn it around. iFrameResize({checkOrigin:false},’#vce-school-results’); var frame = document.getElementById(“vce-school-results”);

He asked staff to reflect on their teaching and hired data coaches who pored over NAPLAN, VCE and General Achievement Test results.

This helped the school understand its strengths and weaknesses.

It led to a raft of changes at the school, notably 7am enhancement programs for students who wanted to extend their science, dance or athletic skills.

Fast forward nine years and these reforms appear to be paying off.

The school has recorded its best-ever VCE results, achieving a median study score of 32.

This compares to 28 in 2012 and puts the school in the same league as many high-achieving private and state schools.

“We are a school and we are here to provide an education,” Mr Marr said.

An Age analysis of more than a decade of VCE performance data has identified 10 standout schools, including Dromana Secondary College, that have improved their results over that time.

The median study score is a strong indicator of the average student performance, and is not distorted by a small number of standout achievers or students who struggled to complete their studies.

VCE subjects are marked out of 50 and a study score of 40 or above indicates students are in the top 10 per cent of the state.

Small schools have been excluded from the analysis because their medians can fluctuate considerably from year to year.

Unlike many high-achieving state schools, Dromana Secondary College does not have many children from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Its 1500 students are predominantly Anglo-n and the school has an index of community socio-educational advantage of 989, which means it’s considered disadvantaged.

The school’s 2017 dux achieved an ATAR of 99.05 and has applied for a chancellor’s scholarship to study biomedicine at Monash University.

Among governments schools, there has been a marked improvement in the study scores at Elwood College in Melbourne’s south-east, East Doncaster Secondary College in Melbourne’s north-east, Thornbury College in the inner-north and Hoppers Crossing Secondary College in the western suburbs.

Elwood College and Thornbury College have achieved the “magical” study score of 30 this year – an important benchmark for schools aiming for a solid academic reputation.

The performance of non-government schools does not tend to vary much year to year, but the data shows a few standout improvers.

Mentone Grammar School is celebrating an impressive median study score of 35 this year, up from 33 in 2014.

Principal Mal Cater said the school had always been a strong VCE performer, but had decided to bring it up a notch in recent years.

“We have set high standards across the school,” he said.

“We ensure that there is quality teaching in place in classrooms and that is underpinned by having strong working relationships between staff and students.”

St Kevin’s College already has a reputation as one of the state’s top Catholic schools, and this year it achieved a median study score of 37 for this first time.

The Toorak school recorded particularly outstanding results in English, with almost half of its year 12s achieving a study score of 40 in the compulsory subject.

Other strong non-government performers included the co-educational Catholic school Saint Ignatius College near Geelong and the Islamic boys campus of Sirius College in Broadmeadows.

Balcombe Grammar School in Melbourne’s south-east, which was founded in 2007 and had its first group of year 12 students graduate in 2012, has also seen considerable improvement during its short lifespan.

The Mount Martha school has achieved a median study score of 31 for two consecutive years, following four years of results of 30 or below.