Why Toorak College is one of the most innovative schools in Australia

Toorak College
Nov 17, 2020 3:18:00 PM

Innovation in education doesn't happen overnight, and it can’t be done alone. It requires collaboration, feedback and a group of professionals who are committed to providing the best opportunities and solutions for their students. Innovation is more than what you do - it’s also about how and why

Each year, The Educator Australia celebrates innovation in education through their innovative schools list and Toorak College is proud to have been named on the hotlist for 2020.

Read what our staff have to say about our unique programs and innovative initiatives that inspire students to find their voice, develop their independence, embrace new experiences and thrive.

Agile Learning

With a focus on preparing students to work in a flexible, collaborative manner with outstanding communication, critical and creative thinking skills, Toorak College designed and developed Agile Learning as a new subject for students in Years 7 - 9.  Agile Learning provides students a space to learn and apply skills in a problem based, project based learning environment. They are introduced to the Toorak College Design Thinking Process and use this to solve problems and address questions on themes such as the Power of User Experience, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainability.

Mindful of the specific need to build confidence and curiosity in our girls in traditionally male dominated fields, Agile Learning shines a light on how STEM can be used to enhance humanity. Students are supported and inspired to build their knowledge and skills in emerging technologies, learning how to code as well as process and analyse data. In addition to developing technological skills, students develop their enterprise skills, learning how to express their opinion, handle a robust conversation and collaborate. We do not shy away from exposing our girls to the many challenges they will face in the modern workforce, and as such, we challenge them to take ownership of their decisions while also knowing how to compromise.

Working closely with CS in Schools and the Academy for Enterprising Girls,  Agile Learning has allowed our students to experience long term projects where the development and progress is just as, if not more, important than the final outcome. 

Growth Mentoring

The year 2020 has highlighted the growing need for workers in any field to be flexible and adaptable. Growth Mentoring was designed and introduced as a new subject for students in Years 7 - 9 and follows the principle that learning, like all other skills, needs to be explicitly taught. It is easy to assume by the time students reach the Middle Years that they know what to do in an academic classroom to maximise their learning opportunity, however the move to discipline based learning in Year 7 means many students are overwhelmed with the information they encounter and don’t have the strategies to process and store it in an effective manner.

Taught in small groups, Growth Mentoring is focussed on explicitly teaching the students how to learn and provides individual support to students in order to leverage their knowledge across their academic program. It’s primary aim is to teach students in the Middle Years how the brain acquires, processes, stores and recalls knowledge, and therefore, how to leverage this to be an effective learner in any situation. By exploring cognitive psychology, organisation skills, goal setting, data analysis and the power of memory, Growth Mentoring builds individual confidence that learning habits can be developed and, if needed, changed over time. 

Mrs Kate Brown 

Curriculum Design & Implementation Leader (7-9)

Online Learning & Connection

When faced with the prospect of implementing a remote learning program, our classroom and specialist educators embraced the opportunity to broaden their skills and challenge their thinking. Our staff thought outside the box to find new ways of engaging, connecting and working with our students. Our staff and students were suddenly immersed in a digital landscape, filled with virtual classrooms, apps and links. 

Recently our Year 6 staff and students asked the question, “What if the PYP Exhibition went digital?” Adapting to an online environment for such a milestone event in the final year of primary school required all parties to consider the innovations required to engage with their audience. Our girls relished the chance to collaborate with each other, enhance their technology skills and confidently showcase their projects online. 

Innovation in Wardle House has not only been evident online, but also in our approaches to connecting as a community. Our Year 1 children were excited by the rainbow trails they had encountered within their local areas and wondered: How does a rainbow connect people together? What is being communicated by the rainbows at this time? Has the rainbow become a symbol? Reflecting on their investigations they explained, “A rainbow represents all the feelings and colours. Rainbows are a sign of promise. Rainbows are big things and they have lots of colours and each colour represents a big feeling. All the colours of the rainbow have a big feeling and when you mix them together it makes harmony. People might be forgetting a bit of harmony.” As a result of their questions, discussions and desire to connect as a school community, the Year 1 children constructed a rainbow bunting to welcome back all children and teachers as we returned to school together onsite. 

Mrs Naomi Linssen 

Deputy Head of Wardle House

A Home Away From Home

During a year where connection has come with distance for international students, our boarding program has pivoted, shifted and reshaped to ensure all students thrived in their home away from home. 2020 was the first time students lived in our boarding house for the entire year and our learning and extra-curricular program and weekend activities captured the hearts of our students, who were faced with homesickness, lockdowns and uncertainty surrounding a 'return to home.'  By implementing  mentoring programs, wellness weeks, online events with celebrity chefs and sport days with Olympic athletes, our boarding students forged new friendships and made life-long memories.

With uncertainty surrounding International travel and border closures we are proud to be keeping our boarding house open during the upcoming summer holidays and offering all students the opportunity to connect, grow and have fun in a range of Summer camps and experiences.

We empower our students to think big and imagine the unimaginable and are proud to be recognised as innovators in education. 

Natalie Porter

Director of International Education and Boarding 

House Spirit

Toorak’s House system is built on strong traditions of participation, connectedness and spirit. Each year is typically filled with crowded, energetic and colourful events, with students across all year levels coming together to compete for their House. As 2020 unfolded, House events were reimagined and our House Captains launched ‘House from your house’ with cross country, Masterchef, dance challenges, art activities and more!

The level of participation in the inaugural ‘House from your house’ competition was a testament to the leadership of the captains and the level of connection everyone at Toorak feels for their House and how much House is an integral part of the Toorak spirit.  It highlights how Toorak develops students into flexible problem solvers capable of creative solutions and constant innovation. 

Mr Drew Gardener 

Head of Houses

Toorak College X One Girl 

At Toorak College, we know the value and importance of education, and see how an education and positively impact girls' lives. Our partnership with One Girl was championed by students in 2018 as we began educating our community on how One Girl helps educate thousands of girls around the world. In our partnership with One Girl, we have innovated our current social justice efforts, streamlining current efforts to ensure we made a positive impact.  

Led by our SRC, our students don’t just hear about One Girl as an organisation, they actually get to directly interact with the organisation, participate in their initiatives, get educated on the importance of their work and spread this message to our school community. This has resulted in many of our students joining the One Girl ambassadors program and meeting like-minded students from all over the country and champion fundraising efforts. 

We use this partnership to encourage students to become global citizens, who understand the value of education. We know we are in a fortunate position and we have the ability to make the lives of others in our local, national and global community better. 

Ms Gabrielle Wilson 

Head of Year 9

Early Learning 

Rich and meaningful partnerships with families and the community are the cornerstone of our Early Learning programs. To further enrich this practice the ELC team of educators decided to embark on a year long in depth research project ‘Exploring the concept of Community.’ 

The year saw us reimagine our plans for diversifying and extending involvement within our school community and the wider local community. Remote learning allowed for innovative ways to not only involve family participation but to strengthen partnerships and childrens connection with the community. Our innovative daily program included saw children participate in google meetings each morning where they were able to share ideas, extend inquiries and most importantly connect with one another. 

Families were not only present during online sessions but encouraged and invited to take on active roles such as being celebrity readers, guest speakers sharing a skill or interest. Every day our ELC team found new and innovative ways to collaborate with families. Although online our children enjoyed excursions to Melbourne zoo, The National Gallery of Victoria and Phillip Island Penguin parade, each experience  provided an authentic way to further our community connections.

While the ELC teaching and learning landscape may have changed for 2020, through an innovative approach collaborative partnerships with families and communities has never been stronger!

Pat Barbieri

Director of Early Learning



Discover what makes Toorak College unique by attending our tours and prospective parent information evenings. Visit us!

Blog featured image (61)

You May Also Like

These Stories on School Choice

Subscribe to the Toorak Blog

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think