Brisbane’s St James College, a coeducational high school catering to Year 5 to 12 students, has clinched gold at the prestigious Australian Training Awards (ATA). The school’s victory in the highly competitive School Pathways to Vocational Education and Training (VET) Award has been five years in the making, under the leadership of Principal Ann Rebgetz, who took the helm in 2019 with a clear vision: “education is liberation.”
The school’s commitment to creating “blended bespoke pathways for school students” has proven transformative. This commitment has empowered a diverse array of pupils, including those who are fortunate and equipped for advanced educational challenges, as well as underprivileged and refugee students facing barriers such as language, to transcend their initial expectations and achieve outstanding outcomes.
Principal Rebgetz emphasised the school’s dedication to providing uninhibited and free access to any beneficial VET pathway for students, ensuring that vocational education and training are accessible to all. In 2022, over 80% of St James College’s Year 12 students graduated with a Certificate II and/or a Certificate III in a VET qualification.
African college graduate, David John, exemplifies the success of St James College’s approach. At an ATA evaluation event, Mr John stated: “Moving to year 12, I completed a Certificate III in Fitness, focusing on the logical aspects of fitness, anatomy, and the human body.
“This deepened my understanding of bodily systems, such as the nervous and digestive systems, and the functions of different muscles.
“This knowledge has proven instrumental in my current studies in biomedicine at university.”
St James College has consistently demonstrated that VET is a viable pathway into university, trades, and various other rewarding avenues, reinforcing the conviction that a pedagogically non-binary approach can yield future-focused outcomes for students.
This marks the second time Principal Rebgetz has led a school to an ATA victory, having previously guided St Columban’s College, Caboolture, to success in 2014.
During her acceptance speech for the recent award, Principal Rebgetz emphasised the importance of excellence and innovation in schools and access to education.
“Our education in our school is liberating,” principal Rebgetz stated. “It is really an accolade that goes back to those students believing in themselves and thinking they can reach for the stars and achieve anything, which is what we want in our investment in education in this country, a big thank you to our team.”
Principal Rebgetz highlighted that the award demonstrates the success of incorporating vocational pathways into ATAR results and the necessity of a pedagogically non-binary approach for a flourishing society and economy.
“This Award shows that it can be done well and produce ATAR results incorporating vocational pathways,” principal Rebgetz said. “A non-binary approach yields the future focus needed for our society and economy to flourish and for our students to have the right tools to manage this future.
“Our blueprint is one that schools can use to empower and skill all students, breaking the equity gap in facilitating quality access for all,” she concluded.
Presenting the award, the Honourable Di Farmer MP, Minister for Employment and Small Business, Minister for Training and Skills Development, and Minister for Youth Justice, commended the ATA for bringing together the nation’s top training talent.
“The awards bring the best of the best of the country’s training talent together, and I was privileged to be able to be with our Queensland finalists and celebrate their fantastic achievements,” Farmer MP said.
Federal Minister for Skills and Training, the Honourable Brendan O’Connor MP, praised the ATA for showcasing passion, excellence, and extraordinary achievements in vocational education and training.
“Whether you are starting, changing, or boosting your career, never before has the VET sector offered such great opportunities – opportunities to make a real difference in both local communities and the wider Australian economy,” O’Connor MP explained.
The Australian Training Awards serve as the pinnacle national awards, showcasing best practices in VET, recognising, and celebrating excellence, and promoting the benefits of vocational education and training. Winners from each state and territory training awards compete for a national award title, contributing to increased awareness and respect for skill-based careers and skills excellence throughout Australia.