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Peter Hutton challenges the system

Peter Hutton as Principal of Templestowe College has been a long time challenger of the hidden grip of status quo by showing school does not have to be what we are told it has to be. Peter, his staff and parent community have jettisoned many of the traditional structures in order to turn their focus on things they considered more important. This has included shifting the focus from test scores to whether students feel they have mastered a subject or needed skills, and critically, putting a focus on all students driving their own learning. 

Peter Hutton is adamant that in Australia, we have reached the point where education in schools is no longer fit for purpose.

Currently in Australia around 74 per cent of students finish their 13 years of schooling. According to Hutton what that means is that there are 81,000 individual stories of students who do not go onto complete their secondary education.

“What we are actually saying that education still has an acceptable failure rate, and I don't think that is correct,” Peter Hutton said.

He challenged the parents in the audience who have beautiful failures to stand up to politicians and say this is not acceptable any longer, and I cannot do any more.

“We cannot wait for education to change itself. There are too many vested interests that will delay and impede that change. It really is over to parents and to those students who are in the position to lobby and to insist that there is change because our current system is not acceptable.”

Peter Hutton has overseen extraordinary change at Templestowe College. He has taken it from the school of last resort with 200 students, to 620 students in 2015, 820 students this year to over 1,000 in 2017.

The reasons for the expansion are manyfold but effectively centre on the philosophy of stopping doing education to students and instead put them in charge of their own education.

“We decided to break down all the hierarchies we had in the school and introduced the one-person policy, where each person is a human being and regarded with the same level of respect regardless of age, or particular role within the school,” he said.

Templestowe College has no year levels, each student has her own individualised learning plan, and there are no compulsory subjects.

“If a student does not like something about school, they actually have the opportunity to change it. It is pretty hard to be disappointed and uncomfortable in a system when you are actually in control of it,” Peter Hutton said.