From the Principal

Choosing not to be educationally disadvantaged

Port Macquarie is a unique place for many reasons. Great beaches, clean air, great coffee and food – a popular tourist destination that is rapidly becoming the destination of choice for people who want a better lifestyle than offered by the big, metropolitan cities.

For decades, Port Macquarie was known as a sleepy coastal haven where retirees could while away their later years fishing, playing cards or ambling along the beautiful coastline. Even before the pandemic transformed retiree hotspots around Australia into real-estate catnip for city slickers, the Mid North Coast town at the mouth of the Hastings River had done a mighty fine job of shrugging off its senior-citizen image. From its edgy boutique breweries to a fresh crop of cool cafes, restaurants, bakeries and bars, there’s a vibrancy to Port Macquarie (or just Port, if you’re a local) that might surprise newcomers. The pandemic turbocharged changes already afoot, as more out-of-towners – including Sydney and Canberra buyers – decided Port Macquarie offered the perfect mix of lifestyle and job prospects. Port Macquarie has been the most searched town or suburb in NSW outside Sydney for more than 12 months, according to searches of homes for sale. The local government area’s population growth rate in 2020 (1.7 per cent) was more than double the regional NSW average.

Unfortunately, there has been an assumption that, despite the area’s attractions, the education offered to new residents would not be of the same quality as that offered in metropolitan schools.

“Rural educational disadvantage exists in many countries. It includes inequalities in educational outcomes, such as test scores and high school graduation rates, as well as inequalities related to educational opportunities and experiences in schools.”

Despite data that shows that regional and rural schools academically lag behind their city cousins, schools like St Columba and others have been achieving excellent academic and social results for some time.

Research has shown that some of the ways to lessen this educational disadvantage is to:

  • improve planned professional learning to ensure high quality curriculum delivery;
  • provide students with a wide range of curriculum choices and learning opportunities;
  • supply state-of-the-art technology to support flexible curriculum implementation; and
  • support stronger partnerships with higher education providers, vocational education suppliers and local industry.

We believe we have secured these improvements and ensured that they are a part of our normal school life.

“I think it’s a very nurturing school. The teachers are all very passionate and enjoy their jobs . I also love that the children are given many opportunities to grow and find their way in life.”

St Columba believes that it can offer an education, facilities and academic results that are up there with the elite schools but not at the same cost.

This often comes as a pleasant surprise for families relocating from metropolitan centres like Sydney and Melbourne.

Potential new families walk through the school, see the facilities, observe the quality of the staff and students and understand that we are offering something special.

As the famous quote from The Castle says:

This “vibe” began when the school chose not to accept that being a regional school meant we would be limited to providing a second class education.

It has continued because we have never conceded that we are not capable of being as good as any other school – urban or regional.

It will continue because this sense of obligation to provide the very best in education to our community is embedded in all we do.

While I have enjoyed The Castle as much as the next person, I have a personal affection for its sister production The Dish – the story of how an Australian scientific institution, in a sheep paddock, played a key role in the first moon walk, showing that not all excellence and intelligence exists outside regional areas.

“The world watches in silent awe as man sets foot upon the moon, and the video feed is coming from the dish.”

That sounds like the kind of thing St Columba students could achieve.

“Failure is never quite so frightening as regret”. The Dish

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