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There is a global re-imagining of schooling and education taking place, bringing ‘new’ teaching styles, pedagogical philosophies and child-centric learning into focus. Having embodied these ‘new’ ideals since our inception, we are extraordinarily well positioned in the contemporary educational landscape to respond to this re-imagining, never having been locked into the factory model approach of many other schools.

Preshil evolved out of the Progressive Movement of Europe, England and America at the turn of the twentieth century, emphasising individuality, creative and critical thinking, social inclusion and democratic ideals, and today draws influence from leading contemporary educational thinkers, such as Sir Kenneth Robinson.

We are able to deliver what so many other schools can only claim to, but are prevented from doing by their unyielding adherence to rigid traditions, authoritarian systems of control, discipline, competition and curriculum locked into the outdated delivery of subject-specific content, dominated by preparation for the VCE. Preshil has a genuine commitment to engaging and accommodating every student as an individual.

Our students are openly supported to challenge ideas, question conventional wisdom, form their own opinions and set their own goals. Academic achievement does not come at the expense of health and wellbeing, which along with a confident sense of self-worth are integral to successful personal and academic development.

Preshil is an authorised International Baccalaureate World School for the Primary Years (Prep-Year 6) Middle Years (Years 7-10) and Diploma (Years 11&12) Programmes.

Our parents, students and staff have come to know Preshil as a school that nurtures, challenges and celebrates the individual in an environment that inspires respect, curiosity and courage.

“At our core remains an unshakeable commitment to encouraging all children to set and achieve their own goals and to be respected as individuals in their own right. This is a commitment to our children to be nurtured and challenged in an atmosphere that inspires creativity and independent thinking in all areas of life and does not, overtly or subtly, use competition or punishment to motivate through the fear of failure.”

The IB at Preshil

“As global citizens we encourage an awareness of world issues and encourage effort to make a positive difference. We believe that education should prepare students to be thoughtful, peace-loving and active citizens of the world. Preshil will remain a school that puts kindness, compassion and social relationships at the centre of its operations.”

How we operate

  • We genuinely welcome all spiritual faiths and backgrounds and support inclusive social practices.
  • Students are not required to address teachers by any titles that denote superior rank or deference.
  • Our teachers are not tasked with policing petty rules or punishing nonconformity.
  • We do not have a school uniform.
  • We don’t confuse learning with discipline.
  • Our students are not ranked into hierarchies of winners and losers in their learning, abilities or personalities.
  • We don’t anoint leaders, privilege giftedness or outstanding sporting ability.
  • Students are not prevented from “having a go” in case their performance somehow tarnishes the School’s reputation.
  • The success of our School, students or teachers is not measured by discredited league tables and superficial standardised tests.
  • Individual wellbeing, engagement and self-expression are of the utmost importance.

“Play-based Learning” has become something of a mantra in most Early Years programs. But few teachers are able to articulate what this actually means or looks like in practice. Play is central to the development of thinking skills, conceptual development, sense of self and others and it forms an essential element of our programs throughout the School.

In the Kindergarten, the children together with their teachers as ‘play partners’, engage in imaginative ‘PlayWorlds’ as a platform to investigate more deeply, allowing them to develop important symbolic representation and abstract thinking skills.

But the significance of ‘play’ extends way beyond the early years. Sadly, many schools are quick to set up and perpetuate the dichotomy of ‘work’ and ‘play’, losing sight of the value and the legitimacy of play as a core human need and a key to lifelong, rich and self-directed learning. As a society we elevate ‘work’ to the serious world of adulthood and relegate ‘play’ to the trivial pursuits of childhood. We do this with such every day, unthinking directions as ‘Stop playing and get on with your work’ and ‘Stop playing, this is serious”. Froebel maintained that “play is children’s work”, the very opposite of the idea that children don’t do anything serious. Engaging in play is the basis for creativity and valuing new ideas. Playing, making believe, acting, experimenting, tinkering, improvising, all of these are forms of play and are the pathways to new connections, generative mistakes, unintentioned outcomes and life changing inventions.

At Preshil, respect for children’s play and an understanding of its significance has been fundamental to the School’s approach to learning and is based on the pioneering work of Friedrich Froebel, who was a key influence on Margaret Lyttle’s thinking.

Schools too often force play out of learning altogether – it’s something you are not allowed to do – so play becomes disobedience, subversion and finally transgression. Organised, competitive sport is offered as legitimate play – with the serious object of winning. Playing sport is rigidly controlled through rules and penalties, actually the opposite of play.

The spectacle of adults with authority ascribing enormous significance to trivial matters justified as ‘work’ and dismissing some of the most challenging and inventive learning opportunities as mere play is not just embarrassing, but creates a dangerous divide between what teachers want to teach and what children need to learn.

The long-term significance of stripping play out of education leads us to the current situation where corporations have to teach their adult employees to play – in order to activate the long-dormant creativity that schools have unthinkingly suppressed.

At both the Primary School and the Secondary School Preshil is full of sports crazy students.

Students at all levels play sport as part of the school program and in regular PE classes. As part of the electives program Preshil has offered classes in Fencing, Tennis, Tae Kwando, Swimming, Lawn Bowls, Boot camp, Rowing, Cross Country Running, Soccer.

Students play various versions of football, downball, foursquare, basketball, futsil and cricket and there is a particularly frenetic version of ‘capture the flag’.

Preshil is very supportive of all activity that leads to physical well-being, but does not use the motivation of winning, or the fear of losing, in either academic or sporting pursuits. Preshil has never been a part of the network of inter-school sporting competition, nor is there a system of inter-house sports. The school ethos does not privilege sporting prowess and does not lend itself to the idea of status accorded to champions and sporting heroes, even though these ideas are deeply embedded in Australian culture.

Many of our students do play competitive sport in clubs outside of the school, many of them at advanced and championship levels. We regularly have students take up places at tertiary institutions based on their sporting achievements and we are very happy to support students to reach these individual goals.

Students tell us that being able to concentrate on their sporting commitments outside of school, without also having to commit to participating in school sport, means that they are not conflicted in these loyalties and can conserve their energies for external competition.

We encourage all students to develop interests, friendships, commitments and connections beyond their school lives. However, for some students Preshil is quite simply not sufficiently focused on competitive sport to satisfy their passion.

Approximately half of our parents choose to have their children sit for the NAPLAN tests. While the School does not discourage parents, we do want them to know that they have the right to exercise this choice. Because the participation is low, the sample size is small and the overall picture NAPLAN produces is inconclusive at best.

We do not teach to the tests and actively avoid turning NAPLAN into a big deal. This means that our children neither fear nor ascribe great importance to them.

NAPLAN works on a deliberately narrow focus because this produces results that are easier to compare. But the trouble with this is it distorts teaching to emphasising these readily testable skills at the expense of all the rich learning that is so much harder to assess and takes so much longer to develop. These are capacities, knowledge and skills our students actually need – creativity, initiative, ethical and critical thinking, collaboration and imagination. None of these are assessed or even useful in completing a NAPLAN test.

At Preshil we place great value on developing a strong and highly personalised love of reading for all our children. Children listen to adults read stories every day throughout the primary school, they talk about books and discuss the themes and concepts the writer is developing. Children are encouraged to find their own interpretations of stories, to listen to different interpretations and to disagree. We don’t tell them what to think, They read their own stories to each other and produce beautiful anthologies of their own writing. NAPLAN reduces reading to simplistic ‘find the right answer’ written comprehension – it’s too hard to assess reading at a more complex level.

NAPLAN tests the set of techniques needed to produce a standard ‘persuasive piece’ of writing so valued by journalists. At Preshil we encourage children to focus on writing in many different genres, according to their stage of development and passions. Stories, descriptions, straightforward accounts, manuals and instructions, critiques, reviews, fantasy and wild adventure, poems, plays and letters to loved ones. We want every child to know that the English language is theirs, as well as the teachers’, to dare to make up new words and to truly understand how words are formed and meanings constructed so it can serve their needs. We want them to have access to more than the 400 or so words that make up the world of TV and tabloids.

NAPLAN results take so long to be returned to schools that they are of no use at all as formative assessment tools. The results can identify areas of the curriculum the children have not yet ‘covered’ but then the teachers already know that.

Competition is a normal part of life which is deeply embedded in almost every aspect of our society. Everyone can empathise with the joy and excitement of winning, the adrenaline rush of competing and the boost to motivation it provides.

However, to turn learning into a high stakes competition, especially for young children, is invariably damaging, counter-productive and can have devastating impact on the child’s own sense of themselves. Success in learning is key in shaping our identity and it is very sad to hear children judge themselves as ‘hopeless’ or ‘dumb’; labels that can become self-fulfilling, irreversible and a pathway to victimhood.

Judging children and ranking them against other children of the same age flies in the face of all we actually know about vastly differing rates of development, personality, prior learning and the ongoing capacity of the human brain to change. At Preshil we do not use competition to define a child’s worth, status or identity.

At Preshil we are very keen to have our students achieve at the highest levels, in pursuit of their own goals; this may or may not involve a particular ATAR ranking, depending on the particular pathway they wish to pursue after secondary school. Most of these pathways involve entry to a tertiary institution and some of them require a rigorous commitment to academic excellence in several different subjects, however, some pathways require the demonstration of skills, qualities and knowledge not able to be calculated by an ATAR ranking. Many universities and tertiary institutions are discarding ATARS altogether because they recognise that a simplistic rank from 0 – 100 is not necessarily an indicator for suitability to a particular course.

ATARS provide a very easy method for schools to promote themselves as academically rigorous and some schools choose to promote themselves with a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to the achievement of high ATARS for all their students.

Preshil doesn’t take this approach to high ATAR scores, especially when ‘what it takes’ is to strip away everything else from a young person’s life and force them to abandon the subjects and pursuits they love and are nourished by; those that give them a sense of their own self-worth and identity as human beings.

Preshil is a school which fosters a vibrant intellectual and creative culture, rather than confining our students to the rigidly academic.

There is something quite shocking about the idea that adults – parents, teachers and the media who so love those league tables – are prepared to promote this fierce competitive race, knowing full well the impact it is having on those young people, who quite simply cannot sustain themselves faced with the prospect of a 90% chance of ‘failing’ to get into the top 10% ATAR ranks.

At Preshil we think it is important to encourage all students to think deeply about the adult life they would like to live, and about the qualities they most admire in adults they know and know about. We encourage them to think about the many different pathways to their goals – the way they can continue to pursue art or drama or community service and still get to become an engineer, an entrepreneur – or an academic.

Our decision to move away from the competitive VCE to the broader, more holistic and collaborative approach of the IB is based on our commitment to these ideals.