Seven years ago, St Joseph’s College Echuca was not happy with its academic results. Now, it’s one of Victoria’s most improved schools.

The Catholic secondary school took a series of steps to identify and address gaps in learning.

St Joseph’s College Echuca students Jack Anderson, Greer Thomson, Kajini Karunanayake, Coby Morgan, Jamisen Knight, Dermot Ritchie and Callum Walker with principal Anne Marie Cairns.Credit:Jason South

These days, each lesson has clear learning intentions and success criteria. To improve literacy among years 7 to 9, it introduced 75 minutes of reading for pleasure each week. The school overhauled year 9 and 10 subjects, and put year 12 teachers into lower-year levels to help prepare them for VCE.

”Rather than having general science in year 10, we might have chemistry, biology, physics, environmental science, so they are better prepared for VCE,” learning leader Rhys Leslie said.

The school has also prioritised professional development, through staff doing further study and collaborating with other schools. The number of St Joseph’s College Echuca teachers who work as VCE exam assessors has grown from 1 to 15.

The work has paid off. The school’s median study score has risen over the past decade and its percentage of students with a study score of 40 or above has been increasing.

These improvements have led The Age to name St Joseph’s College its Schools that Excel winner for regional non-government schools.

You can view the full list of winning schools, and explore the data for your secondary school using this year’s Schools that Excel dashboard:

Leslie said the school had shifted its focus from achievement to growth. “We want to celebrate any students who can demonstrate growth in any area,” he said.

“We want to see someone that’s gone from getting a C to an A and go, ‘Wow, how did you do that? What was your mindset change?’”

Year 11 student Jack Anderson said the school offered a range of activities that prepared students for life after school and teachers were willing to go the extra mile. “If you ask for it, they will put in the time with you,” he said.

Principal Anne Marie Cairns said there was a hunger for improvement among teaching staff. “We are as good as any other, if not better,” she said.

St Joseph’s College Echuca will open a new campus to accommodate growing enrolments. Credit:Jason South

St Joseph’s, which was founded by the Brigidine Sisters in 1886, is building a new campus to accommodate growing enrolments.

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