From its campus in the regional city of Ballarat in Victoria, 90 minutes outside Melbourne, Ballarat Clarendon College extends its horizons far and wide, sending students on explorations to exciting places such as Cambridge, San Francisco, Boston, Bangkok, Cambodia, Tasmania, Germany and Japan. “We want them to see that they are part of a global community,” explains Principal David Shepherd, “and that they should aspire high and dream big.”
Clarendon is an independent, co-educational, non-selective school of 1,440 children aged between three and 18 that achieves outstanding academic results year after year. “All Year 12s sit the Victoria Certificate of Education (VCE) before university and 45 per cent of our cohort achieve above 90 – the highest possible score is 99.95,” says Shepherd. “The college is the fifth-highest performing independent school in the state for VCE results and our NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) results show that we’ve been the best non-selective school three years in a row.”
Ballarat Clarendon College achieves such strong results through the hard work of students, parents and teachers, and an unfailing belief that children can optimise their performance to achieve their heart’s desire. The school is committed to research-based instructional practice and it also analyses data to ensure best practice is being followed in every classroom. Staff at Clarendon encourage children to take part in a variety of cocurricular activities, believing that experiencing success outside the classroom will help them fulfil their academic potential.
“We believe that wellbeing is connected to making progress, and that a sense of self-efficacy comes from mastery – that’s what allows you to feel good about yourself,” says Shepherd. “Caring for students and high academic outcomes are not mutually exclusive, and we encourage our students to understand that how they think and behave affects their potential. That is why we encourage high aspirations, ambitious goal setting and persistence. Whether it’s rowing or hiking or orienteering or performing – all these pursuits influence how a young person nurtures their wellbeing, through their capacity and confidence to do things. We ask them to step outside their comfort zone in a number of ways.”
This includes a variety of trips, including annual excursions to the US and the UK.
In the UK, students visit the University of Cambridge and meet former collegians working in a variety of different industries, while the coast-to-coast US trip features meetings at eBay and Google, as well as a two-week residential course at Boston University, providing students with an immersive higher-education experience. Students are also given the chance to travel, whether through language-based relationships with schools in Germany and Japan, or participation in the World Scholar’s Cup, which has taken students to Yale, Vietnam and Bangkok.
There is also a potentially transformative annual residential stay at Clarendon’s campus on King Island, Tasmania. “Our Year 9s spend up to nine weeks living on King Island,” says Shepherd. “They can’t take mobile phones, there’s no TV. They share houses, six to a house, and have to learn how to live together. King Island is a special place in terms of its natural environment but it also has to sustain a community. We see this as a chance to show our young people they have a role to play in the future of the planet – something they might not realise from the comfort of their home. It’s rural and remote, and most of the students come back with a different perspective on themselves as members of their communities.”