Shooting for the stars

Hallam Senior College basketball captain Thomas Cuthbert. 231549_01 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Hallam Senior College is changing the game with the launch of four specialist academies.

Its sport, aviation technology, Microsoft IT and creative and performing arts academies are part of a push to “level the playing field” in one of the state’s most disadvantaged regions.

Students get a chance to follow their passions – and it ignites their engagement at school, Hallam Senior’s partnership manager Keith Pimblett says.

“This is important stuff – they love it in here,” he says as sports academy students enthusiastically lift weights in the well-equipped gym.

“Some of these kids are in here at 7am training. We run sessions before, during and after school.

“It gives them something to look forward to.”

The Hallam Senior College Sports Academy offers career pathways in fields like coaching, sports admin and physiotherapy.

With a fully-equipped gym, ovals and courts, it trains boys and girls in Australian Rules, basketball, rugby league and soccer, as well as netball.

It also offers a talented athletes programs for individual sports such as tennis, golf, athletics and swimming.

On hand are external coaches that provide specialist training, as well as sports science students from Deakin and La Trobe universities.

The academy looks outwards, forging partnerships. Several students train with Dandenong Southern Stingrays AFL under-18s. NRL club Melbourne Storm’s under 20s team trains at the college.

It’s in keeping with the college’s adoption of a Berry Street model of “positive education” that promotes wellness and wellbeing.

“Once that becomes a focus, the relationships between the teacher and students improve,” Mr Pimblett says.

“You view the world as a glass half-full, not half-empty.”

At the same time the sports training teaches teamwork, helps control behaviour and builds social connection.

Hallam Senior’s business manager Jason Patten, a former AFL club rehab coach, said the academies were also raising expectations within the school.

“The school provides much more to its community than people estimate.

“I’m still amazed by the amount of care the staff have for these kids – who have had a difficult time in things.”

The barriers and challenges are laid bare first thing in the morning at the college’s breakfast club. Up to 50 students a day are fed at the club, and families are supplied with grocery staples from FoodBank.

Which underlines the importance of the positive approach.

The college’s other academies include an Innovation Academy that offers higher-level chances for students skilled in trades, engineering, IT and science.

They can gain Microsoft certification in data business and cloud-based skills, IT gaming competitions and challenges such as World Skills trades competitions and a solar car and human-powered vehicle.

The creative and performing arts academy also offers career pathways in music, dance, visual and creative arts, media and marketing. It’s linked to professional bodies like Collarts.

“There’s nothing in this region with this focus on the creative arts,” Mr Pimblett says.