The first 15 years of St Peter’s saw the school go through some ups and downs like many new schools. The last four years has seen the school develop into a high-quality school with enrolments improving nearly 80% in this time. Here we chat with the St Peter’s Principal, Mr Darren McPartland (2018 -), about how the school has developed over the last couple of years.
Were you worried for the school after the fires went through it?
I was. The school had just started to gain some momentum and I thought the fires might be that big, negative hiccup we didn’t need. However, today, looking back on it I would say that the school is in a wonderful place that I couldn’t imagine two years ago it would have been in. Our enrolments are up nearly 60% in the last two years and 80% in the last four. We now have a huge and exciting building program ahead of us.
What developments have you completed this year?
We have built a number of new classrooms and we have made some amazing improvements to the grounds. Unfortunately the fires took out most of our gardens but with enormous amount of work the gardens and grounds look better than ever. We have also created a number of areas where kids can meet and congregate and learn outside. In the Junior School we have built a specially-dedicated building for what we call our ‘Bush School’ program. It is home to our Year 3 students. It’s an off-grid building run on tesla batteries and solar panels where the kids immerse themselves in real learning in the environment. This includes the natural bushlands, rivers and ocean that make Broulee such a beautiful place.
How has COVID impacted the school?
COVID has been difficult for the school. There have been so many changes and so many requirements the school has had to adjust to. I was really proud of the staff during lockdown who worked tirelessly to provide a quality program for our students. Our parents got an appreciation for how hard our teachers work because they were able to see what was happening on screen. A number of people have enrolled in the school because they heard how passionate our teachers are and how much effort they put in during COVID. We certainly set a very high standard here in the area.
Where are the new students coming from?
They are primarily from local families, local students. Our market share is increasing. We are also seeing a number of people coming from Canberra and Sydney whose families are making the sea change. I think that will increase as more land becomes available in this area over the next couple of years.
I hear the co-curricular program is very popular with your students.
Our new co-curricular program that we’ve had running for a couple of years is very popular. The kids do all sorts of things including surfing, mountain biking, kayaking, bush walking, sports, cake decorating, creative writing, and many more. There’s a huge range of activities and what is wonderful is that the kids get to choose their own activity, which they do for a whole term. It’s a mixed program where kids from Year 7 to 10 are in the same groups. The kids make new friends that have a common interest as well.
You’ll have a new woodwork and metalwork workshop ready for February?
Yes, that’s another of our exciting new buildings. It’ll be a big space of over 500 square metres – really like a trade centre where students will do the traditional woodwork and metalwork. We’re also going to do things like jewellery making, wooden surfboard making, and we are even investigating how we might get a car and take out the petrol engine and turn it into an electric vehicle. That’s a program we’re looking at for next year.
Has the growth of the school over the last two years caused any problems?
It has certainly come along a lot quicker than we thought. There is a rush to build new buildings to accommodate the students. The school is getting close to full in the number of year groups. We are a double-streamed primary school from Prep (four-year-old students) up to Year 6. We are currently a three-streamed high school (four streams in Year 7 in 2022) and this will grow to four streams over the next few years.
I hear the students were disappointed about missing out on the school ski trip? Is that on the cards for next year?
Yes, the students and some of the staff were very disappointed. We are keen for things to hopefully get back to normal. Due to the demand and the size of the school, we will have three ski trips in 2022; one to New Zealand, one to Perisher, and hopefully one to Selwyn (which is more of a Junior School learn-to-ski program where those slopes suit that age group). Hopefully that will all be happening next year. We are also well into planning for the following year for our return to the Japanese and French trips. There will be some sporting trips too. We are looking at having a small netball tour, for a couple of teams to go and play some other schools. We will look at other trips along the way, hopefully things will open up for us next year.
Are there any other exciting initiatives next year?
With the growing numbers it’s great that we have some new subjects coming onboard. Next year we will have Engineering Studies, Marine Studies and Agriculture as additions to the academic program for Year 10 and upwards. Things are looking really exciting for the school over the next few years.