A TRADITION OF BRIGHT FUTURES
“Technological innovation in education can get you caught in a spin cycle of always scanning for the future thing, but I think we have to be connected at another level,” says Russell Deer, Principal of Braemar College. “At Braemar, innovation comes from teaching our pupils to be mindful and positive, giving them a mindset that allows for growth and reflection.” The private college, in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria, Australia, embraces the role that technology has to play in teaching its pupils, but ensures that school life is still rooted in a Christian ethos and traditional values.
The main building of Braemar College is a handsome Victorian wooden mansion designed by 19th-century Italian-born architect Louis Boldini. “The surrounding bush and native wildlife, along with the atmosphere of such a building, creates a strong sense of belonging and tradition for students and staff alike,” says Deer. “To this day, every young person who graduates after Year 12 signs his or her name in the tower. The journey to the top of the tower signals that students are coming to the end of their educational journey with us.”
Around 90 per cent of Braemar’s students go on to attend university, mainly in Victoria, with some continuing with post-graduate studies overseas at universities including Cambridge. The curriculum and co-curricular activities, which include cadets, music and drama, stretch each pupil to pursue his or her talents, be they within core academic subjects, sports or vocational training in areas such as hospitality.
In 2011, Braemar College was one of the fir st schools in Australia to introduce iPads for every student and staff member. In doing so, it became a regional pioneer in iPad-centred teaching, and many schools from around Australia now visit to learn from the Braemar experience. A further enhancement will come in 2018 with the opening of the new Middle School campus f or Years 5 to 8, set in 320 acres, just minutes from the current woodland site. The college’s student-operated YouTube channel features regularly updated drone footage of the development.
“The new campus will allow us to use the built environment itself as a learning tool,” Deer explains. “The open-plan design will include study nooks instead of classrooms with rows of tables and chairs so that pupils can choose to work alone or in small groups. It reflects our ideal of encouraging pupils to work at their own rate and in their own way.”
While the internet opens up a world of research resources to students, it is no substitute for actual life experiences. “This area has limited cultural diversity, so we organise trips and encourage student exchanges to expand the students’ outlooks,” says Deer. The school hosts exchange students from around the world, while Braemar’s students participate in trips to the industrial city of Tokai in Japan, to Cambodia, and to an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. “For our post-graduation celebration, I accompany students to Ghat in Nepal,” says Deer. “We work in a local school for a week before climbing to Everest’s base camp. It is a week of wonderful experiences.” In 2015, students rebuilt Ghat School’s amenities following an earthquake.
Braemar College prides itself on opening its students’ minds to the world of study and career possibilities available to them. “It’s not just about furthering a knowledge-based society,” says Deer. “For us it’s about nurturing young people who love to learn and who are mindful of their role in society.”