EXCELLENCE IN THE OUTBACK
It might be one of Australia’s most remote and isolated schools, but St Philip’s College is an innovative centre full of activity and a real sense of community. Walk onto its busy campus and you will find students sitting outside and talking, studying together in the library or participating in a variety of creative activities. “Mobile phones are not allowed during school hours,” explains Principal Roger Herbert. “We want students to interact in a meaningful way and enjoy their recess, and not sit around texting the person next to them.”
St Philip’s College is a day and boarding school situated in Alice Springs, a desert town of around 25,000 people that’s more than 1,500 km from the nearest city – a physical isolation that increases the sense of camaraderie between students and teachers. The Reverend Dr Fred McKay founded the school in 1965 as a residential hostel for children from all over this vast stretch of central Australia. It now occupies 22 acres of bush land and today’s students make use of the surrounding MacDonnell Ranges for the school’s extensive outdoor education programme.
A diverse school
Beginning in Year 7, the intake is always diverse, representing the broad mix of cultures and communities that populate this part of Australia. Academic abilities vary hugely, so the school runs a specialised bridging programme to help those who may have had an interrupted primary education the chance to develop their literacy and numeracy skills as well as improve their confidence.
Many of these pupils go on to complete Year 12 and become school leaders – sought-after positions with considerable responsiblity. Each year, around 80 per cent of students head off to tertiary education institutions, while others pursue careers they have prepared for with apprenticeships and vocational courses during their time at the college.
St Philip’s College students are encouraged to be active community members who learn to serve and be of service. Those qualities are developed in the school’s well-respected Positive Education and Round Square programmes. “It helps them to build resilience and improve their ability to create, develop and foster positive relationships,” says Herbert.
Skills for life
St Philip’s College is a member of the Round Square organisation, alongside 200 global schools. Each year approximately 30 St Philip’s College students participate in an international exchange programme, experiencing different cultures and languages overseas. “It provides St Philip’s students an ability to communicate with people from all walks of life,” says Herbert. “These skills are honed every day on campus, where it’s wonderful to see how well the students all get on.” The positive atmosphere extends to the staffroom, with many teachers who have been at the college for more than 20 years.
“The college’s values of respect, compassion, integrity, persistence, responsibility and accountability are at the core of everything we do,” explains Roger. “We’ve been part of the educational fabric of the Northern Territory for over 50 years, and we offer a welcoming community to everyone. Our location in this unique and natural environment with access to people from one of the oldest living cultures in the world contributes to a beautiful tapestry of people, place and purpose. Our hope is that our students are confident and equipped to thrive in whichever corner of the world they choose to reside.”