A foundation year at Brinbeal Secondary College - Education Matters Magazine

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A foundation year at Brinbeal Secondary College

When new Melbourne school, Brinbeal Secondary College, opened its doors in Term 1, 2024, foundation Principal Simon Haber was there to greet its first cohort of students. He speaks to Education Matters about leading a new school.

Brinbeal Secondary College in Tarneit opened at the beginning of the 2024 school year in response to the continuing population growth in Melbourne’s west. In its first year of operation, it has opened to Year 7 students only, and will progress by year level thereafter. Simon Haber was appointed as the first principal of the new school.

The school was known by its interim name, Riverdale Secondary School, during planning and design. Brinbeal Secondary College was chosen as the new school’s name following a two-week community consultation. Brinbeal (pronounced brin-bill) is a Bunurong word meaning rainbow.

Brinbeal Secondary College is a supported inclusion school, which is a mainstream school with additional professional capabilities and facilities designed to cater for a higher than usual proportion of students with disability. Students with disability receive enhanced support and high-quality, evidence-based educational provision alongside mainstream students to the greatest extent possible in a safe, accessible and supportive environment.

Brinbeal Secondary College Principal Simon Haber. Image: Simon Haber

Foundation Principal Simon Haber has been an educator for more than 20 years and a principal since 2018 prior to joining Brinbeal Secondary College.

Throughout his career he has taught and led within a range of schools both regional and metro. Simon is passionate about creating safe and inclusive schools that ensure all students can maximise their learning outcomes and meet their pathway dreams. His leadership is underpinned by creating schools that focus on the learning and wellbeing needs of all students, while simultaneously developing student agency and voice for learning.

What is the school’s philosophy and how does it guide you and your staff?

Brinbeal Secondary College is committed to providing a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for all students, staff and members of our community. Our school recognises the importance of the partnership between our school and parents and carers to support student learning, engagement and wellbeing. We share a commitment to, and a responsibility for, creating an inclusive and safe school environment for our students. 

How does the school differ from other schools?

As a supported inclusion school, we share a commitment to, and a responsibility for, creating an inclusive and safe school environment for all our students.

At Brinbeal Secondary College, students with disabilities are provided enhanced support to receive high quality, evidence-based educational provision alongside mainstream students to the greatest extent possible in a safe, accessible and supportive environment.

Brinbeal Secondary College has capacity for 1,300 students, including 100 places for students with disability. Image: Brinbeal Secondary College

How do you provide support and leadership to your staff?

As principal, I firstly ensure I am providing a safe and supportive workplace for all staff where they feel they are valued, where they have agency and voice in decision making and future directions and priorities.

As a new school, we want to ensure all staff, teachers and education support are actively involved in the creation of a positive school culture that supports the learning of all students in a safe and orderly learning environment and delivers high quality curriculum options for students to achieve their personal goals.

How do you encourage wellbeing among your staff and students?

Students have access to a range of qualified wellbeing support staff. The college runs a variety of wellbeing learning and programs both within the curriculum and as additional extra-curricular opportunities – this includes utilising groups such as Reach and local youth services.

We acknowledge that every student can and has the right to learn, we acknowledge the individual needs of all students, and we celebrate the strengths of every student.

In terms of staff wellbeing, we focus on collaboration among staff, where staff work in supported teams to share the workload. We focus on professional growth and risk-taking to help staff build skills. All leaders at Brinbeal have an open-door philosophy and are approachable. We ensure staff maintain work/life balance and provide structure and time to ensure teachers can focus on the work that matters.

Students have access to a range of qualified wellbeing support staff. Image: Brinbeal Secondary College

What role do you play in the day-to-day activities of your students?

I take a hands-on and highly visible approach with our students. From coaching various sporting teams, spending regular time in the yard during breaks to regular classroom observations. As principal, I want to ensure I am not only approachable to staff but also to our students and families.

What are some of the challenges faced by teachers in the secondary sector?

The key challenge for teachers in the secondary sector are around time. Time to plan, assess and report on the learning within each of their classes for their students. Secondary teachers teach an average of 80-100 students each week. The needs of students can vary and therefore teachers need to be able to make regular adjustments to the learning to meet the needs of their students. As schools, we need to ensure we have adequate supports and structures in place that allow teachers to focus on the work that matters – student learning.

What has been your most memorable moment either as a teacher or specifically in the role of principal?

The opportunity to open a brand-new school this year has been a very unique experience. The opportunity to create everything from scratch – as a new school we have no history – therefore we have the opportunity to establish every element of the school and consider new ways of supporting and achieving quality outcomes for all our students.

Victoria’s Minister for Education Ben Carroll (centre) officially opened Tarneit’s new school. Image: Brinbeal Secondary College

What are your feelings about NAPLAN and its effectiveness?

Like all assessment, the effectiveness of NAPLAN is about how we use the data. The move to an online and adaptive test gives us greater understanding of student achievement and learning growth. 

NAPLAN helps teachers identify students who require greater challenges or additional support while also enabling the college to identify strengths and if any, gaps in teaching programs and to set goals in literacy and numeracy.

What traits make for an effective and successful leader in education today?

To be an effective and successful leader within education today, principals need to ensure they are high quality instructional leaders who exhibit exceptional interpersonal skills and professionalism. 

As leaders we need be reflective, hold ourselves and our staff accountable while creating a safe and welcoming climate. 

We must ensure we are approachable to all our community – staff, students, families and the wider local community. 

As principals we need to have an unrelenting focus on improving teaching and learning to ensure as a learning community we are making significant impact on student achievement.

We also need to ensure we are creating a workplace culture where all staff, teachers and education support are valued, see the purpose in their roles and responsibilities and are driven to provide students with the best learning opportunities available.

The school is designed to be environmentally sustainable and easy to manage. Image: Brinbeal Secondary College
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