Specimen Hill Primary School principal Di Craig, Bendigo Special Developmental School receive Victorian Education Excellence Awards

THE SKILL and dedication of Bendigo educators has been recognised at a state level.

Specimen Hill Primary School principal Di Craig and Bendigo Special Developmental School were among the recipients of this year’s Victorian Education Excellence Awards.

Winners were announced in nine categories, from a pool of 28 finalists, at a ceremony in Melbourne.

Ms Craig was the recipient of the Outstanding Primary Principal Award, while Bendigo Special Developmental School was jointly announced with Baltara School as recipients of the Outstanding Inclusive Education Award.

“It was an honour to congratulate so many hard working principals, teachers and support staff who have gone that extra mile to get the most out of their students,” Education Minister James Merlino said.

To Ms Craig, the accolade represented the efforts of her entire school community.

In the eight years since she became principal of Specimen Hill Primary School, student numbers have grown and NAPLAN results have improved.

Another classroom will be added to the school next year, as enrolments reach about 320 students.

She said the achievements were the result of concerted efforts by all members of the school community, from students and their families through to the staff.

“It’s about that home and school partnership,” Ms Craig said.

“Parents want to come up to the school and talk about their children. They’re part of their child’s education journey.”

Staff were also actively involved in sharing their knowledge with other schools, Ms Craig said.

Bendigo Special Developmental School was recognised for a knowledge-sharing program.

Principal Kirshy McAinch said the Melbourne-based Baltara School highlighted a need for support for mainstream schools in the Bendigo area with students at risk of disengagement.

She said Baltara had been receiving a large number of referrals for its outreach program from Bendigo schools.

The two schools subsequently started working together to deliver a Bendigo outreach program. 

“We have been supporting a range of mainstream schools throughout the course of the year,” Ms McAinch said.

“We want to build the capacity of schools to support students with disabilities and additional needs so they can stay in their school of choice.”

The Bendigo outreach program is funded by the two schools.

“It’s sort of a new model of ways special schools can operate as centres of expertise,” Ms McAinch said.

She said the school was thrilled by the award, and would use the prize to investigate ways to continue and expand the program.

“It’s really validating and it’s great recognition of the skills of our staff,” Ms McAinch said.

Central Victorian award nominees included David Sutton from the Maryborough Education Centre, for the Outstanding Secondary Principal Award; and a partnership of Lightning Reef Primary School, Specimen Hill Primary School and Eaglehawk Primary School, for the Outstanding School Advancement Award.