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Governor of Victoria recognises the impact of Schools Plus

2 May 2019 

(L-R) Michael Devine, Sarah James, Rosemary Conn, Angus James, the Governor, Tim Richardson MP, Christine Jackson, Peter Jackson

(L-R) Michael Devine, Sarah James, Rosemary Conn, Angus James, the Governor, Tim Richardson MP, Christine Jackson, Peter Jackson

The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, has acknowledged and celebrated the impact of Australian Schools Plus in the state and nationally at a reception at Government House Victoria.

Since it began fundraising four years ago, Schools Plus has added more than $13 million into the Australian school system, financially supporting more than 550 school projects to benefit over 157,000 students. Of this total, over $1.8 million has been directed to more than 100 school projects in Victoria, benefiting more than 20,000 students.  

“This organisation brings together two things that as Governor I know … as being central to the success of Victoria: that’s education and philanthropy. Victoria is the education state, so we well understand the transformative effect of education as the means of underpinning the prosperity of our state. But we also understand that as a community, we’re only as strong as our most disadvantaged members,” the Governor said.  

“Education provides the most potent of all opportunities for a young person’s future. So Schools Plus, borne of the Gonski Review, recognises the role that education can play in providing opportunities for some of our younger people who might not otherwise have them. But it also reflects the extraordinary generosity in our community.” 

The reception, hosted by the Governor, was attended by about 80 guests, including the Parliamentary Secretary for Schools, Tim Richardson MP, donors, and students and staff from schools supported by Schools Plus.

Schools Plus CEO Rosemary Conn said: “We are truly honoured and delighted to have had the opportunity to work with so many remarkable schools, communities, teachers and leaders in education over the past four years, and look forward to driving transformational change within the industry in the years to come. Schools Plus is all about connecting people and organisations that really value education, to ensure that no student in Australia is left behind simply because of their environment. In the past 12 months alone, thanks to our passionate donors, we have almost doubled the number of students benefitting from our school projects and are continuously finding new and creative ways to empower schools that need it the most.” 

Rosemary Conn and the Governor with Belle Vue Park Primary School studentsSunshine College was the first school in Victoria to receive a grant through the charity. The school used its initial grant to fund professional development for young leaders to improve their leadership and team-building skills.  

“The learnings from this professional development for our emerging leaders was fundamental in building their confidence and skills in taking on responsibilities associated with leading staff and improving outcomes for our students. As a result, a number of participants are now in positions of responsibility ranging in roles from Campus Assistant Principal to those managing Key Learning Areas,” Sunshine College Principal Tim Blunt said.  

Other projects in Victoria include: Carlton Primary School’s pre-school program that caters mostly to refugee children and their families by empowering parents to be their children’s first teacher and increasing literacy interaction at home; and the Wyndham Schools R.E.A.L (Robotics Enhanced Applied Learning) program – funded through Schools Plus since 2015 – where students create and program their own robots. 

“Thanks to the ongoing support of Schools Plus, the Wyndham Schools R.E.A.L robotics program enables students to develop their capacity and skill in research and design, problem solving, computer programming, coding, and team work. We have grown from 10 students and one teacher in 2015 to over 15 schools, including 200 students and teachers, in 2019. Our program has also become one of four regional events in the Australian FIRST Lego League robotics competition,” Wyndham Park Primary School Principal Laban Toose added.  

In addition, as part of the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards, Schools Plus has celebrated the work of four outstanding Victorian Teaching Fellows. Sasha Mildenhall from Taylors Lakes Secondary College (2019), Greg McMahon from Doveton College (2018), Paul Kenna from Belle Vue Park Primary School (2018) and Michael Devine from Western Port Secondary College (2017) were recipients of the 12-month Fellowship which includes professional development, opportunities to develop and influence teaching practice, and funding for a major project at their school. 

While this is a strong list of achievements in such a short time, the charity has only just scratched the surface. More than 4,600 Government, Independent and Catholic schools – including over 900 in Victoria – are eligible for support through Schools Plus, and they have received 50 applications from Victorian schools for the latest round of funding. 

Ms Conn said Schools Plus was more than a funding source for schools and their communities, through its leadership coaching and work in sharing knowledge of best education practice. It collaborates with principals and teachers to amplify the benefit for students, staff and school communities. 

“We want to partner with other stakeholders in education and the not-for-profit sector to share what we are learning from the many schools we work with, to drive policy and shift practice.”

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