WA College of Agriculture - Cunderdin has confirmed its excellence as an education provider having received commendation in this year's WA Secondary School of the Year awards presentation on December 2.

In September the College was named as one of four finalists for the award alongside the high profile city high schools, Churchlands, Perth Modern and Shenton College. The award went to Shenton College which took home $15,000. The other three received $2,500 each for having reached the finals.

The College at Cunderdin has 120 places for year 11 and 12 students from rural and metropolitan areas. Most live on the campus in modern residential facilities. Selection was based on student achievement, learning environment, quality of teaching, effective leadership, management of resources and community engagement.

Highlights in the College's record included among many accolades, having  won the 2009 Beazley VET medal and the national Vocational Education in Schools Excellence Award in 2006 and 2011, the only institution in Australia to win the award twice.

Its students graduate with an average of four nationally recognised  vocational  certificates each at levels I to III. A significant number also gain a Tertiary Admissions Rank and direct entry into university. Last year its students sitting for an ATAR received a median score of 62.7 compared with 45.4 for those at similar schools.

The College provides a unique opportunity for students to gain hands on experience with livestock and modern farm machinery and makes occupational health and safety training a priority.

Staff at the College have received numerous awards and commendations. In 2012 one of its young teachers was named a Graduate Teacher of the Year. Others have been finalists in Secondary Teacher of the Year, Principal of the Year and Trainer of the Year.

As the only agricultural college  to  have status of Independent Public School,  it administers a one line budget across its four areas of operation. These are a  working farm, modern trade training centre as well as class area and student accommodation. 

To improve its facilities it often has to lobby both federal and state governments for funds such as those used for new residential blocks, upgrade of sporting amenities and expansion of  the trade training centre. It also sources and maintains the modern machinery and equipment needed  to deliver its industry standard courses through lease and loan agreements with industry.

To help with decision making relating to the farm, the College has an active farm advisory council comprising local farmers who volunteer their time and expertise. A senior retired Principal is employed to mentor and support staff in their various roles.

Unlike most secondary schools the College has no natural catchment. To attract students it has an active, well developed marketing plan to maintain a positive public profile and strong relationships with parents, industry and the community.

As a finalist, the College was visited by the judging panel which followed a rigorous assessment process. Members of the staff, students, school board were interviewed and facilities inspected. The visit ended with a five minute video highlighting key aspects of the College's operation.

Lindsay McNeill

ABOVE: (L-R) College Principal Bernard Beattie, School Board representative Kerryn Oliver and Director of Agricultural Education, Geoff Moyle representing WA College of Agriculture - Cunderdin at the awards presentation.