The little school that could: small school in paddock a VCE star

A small school in a paddock has outperformed highly regarded Melbourne state schools this year based on typical student scores.

East Loddon P-12 College in Dingee, about 48 kilometres north of Bendigo, had only five year 12 students in 2020 but recorded some of the best VCE results of government schools across the state.

East Loddon P-12 College VCE English teacher Sarah Clare (third from right) with year 12 students (from left) Hugh Cartwright, Ella Rowe, Hayley Ramskill, Jasmine Condliffe and Sophie Hay.

The school's median study score was 34, and almost 14 per cent of its study scores were 40 or above.

The median score is a good measure of typical student performance. It doesn't capture individual students who achieve results far above or below their peers.

Sarah Byrne, the school's year 9-12 co-ordinator, said the success was inspiring more success.

"I'm getting a sense that our kids are looking at the older kids and wanting to do the same, that there's an increased level of motivation to do well and be part of that success," Ms Byrne said.

"It's awesome to see kids walking into an exam with that confidence and walking out so happy with what they've done."

While the best-performing government schools were Melbourne select-entry schools – Mac.Robertson Girls' High School, Melbourne High School, Nossal High School and Suzanne Cory High School – small country schools from lower socio-economic areas had some of the best median study scores.

These include Tyrrell College in north-west Victoria and Mortlake College and Casterton Secondary College in western Victoria.

Tyrrell College achieved a higher median study score than highly regarded Melbourne state schools Balwyn High, McKinnon Secondary and Melbourne Girls' College.

Smaller schools have fewer students enrolled in VCE compared with their city counterparts, which means that the median can fluctuate greatly year on year based on the performance of a handful of students.

But this should not discount these schools' performance – East Loddon has demonstrated statistically significant improvement over the past decade and won The Age's Schools that Excel award for government schools in regional Victoria earlier this year.

An Age analysis in 2019 found more than half of all regional and rural schools had recorded a slump in their VCE results over the past decade.

Mortlake College principal Danny Forrest said while a "lot of things are thrown around about disadvantage in the bush, I'd like to say we've got a lot of advantages too.

"The big advantage is our students are in very small classes and we have a ripper bunch of VCE and VCAL teachers," Mr Forrest said.

"We're very happy and proud of the kids."

Independent school Ballarat Clarendon College in Ballarat continued its stellar run this year. It achieved one of Victoria's best results and had a median study score of 38.

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