LOVE LOCAL - Meet Evan Savage, Principal of Armstrong Creek School | Ashbury Estate

LOVE LOCAL - Meet Evan Savage, Principal of Armstrong Creek School

LOVE LOCAL - Meet Evan Savage, Principal of Armstrong Creek School

March 2023 | Events & Local Area

In just a few short years, Geelong’s newest suburb of Armstrong Creek has transformed from grassy paddocks to a thriving community, including the development and opening of some fantastic new schools just a short hop, skip and jump away from Ashbury Estate.

One of these is Armstrong Creek School, a co-educational primary school serving children from prep through to Grade 6, in combination with a Special School Education program running from prep to Year 12. The new community’s first government school, since the Armstrong Creek School first opened in 2018 it has grown in leaps and bounds and is currently attended by some 630 students.

So, we were delighted to chat with Principal, Evan Savage, to learn a little more about the School and what the future holds for its students in 2022 and beyond.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be heading up Armstrong Creek School.

I’ve now been involved in teaching and Education for well over 20 years. Across this time, I’ve worked in a number of school settings including mainstream Primary and P – 12 Schools and Special Schools. I’ve always been a passionate advocate of inclusive education and in creating learning environments in which ALL children are able to learn, grow, thrive and succeed. So, when I first heard about Armstrong Creek School’s unique enrolment provision combining Primary and P – 12 Special School Education, I knew it would provide an amazing opportunity to lead the establishment of a truly inclusive school community. And then I was fortunate enough to be appointed as the School’s foundation principal – although I actually started in the role in 2017 to oversee the final stages of the campus’s establishment before it officially opened in 2018.

Tell us about the School? When was it established, the students and communities it supports, its educational offering?

The School opened at the start of 2018 with just 175 students from years P – 6, and about 20 staff. Since then, we’ve now grown – a lot! Our current cohort comprises over 630 students and 95 staff!

From the outset, we’ve worked incredibly hard to establish a strong culture which is inclusive. We’re also firmly committed to ensuring that student learning meets each individual’s point of need and that ALL students have access and opportunity on the same basis as their peers.

Like many things, our success has been the result of an incredible team effort, and it was fantastic to see our work recognised in 2021 through two award wins at the Victorian Education Excellence Awards – for Most Outstanding Inclusive Education Award and the overall Lindsay Thompson Award (awarded to the category winner deemed to have made the most significant contribution to Victorian Education).

Tell us about the Special School Education program.

First up, we don’t tend to refer to what we do as Special Education. Rather, we see ourselves as a wholly inclusive school that happens to have a specific enrolment provision. So, while we’re the local government primary school for families zoned to this area, our enrolment provisions also enable us to accommodate students from Prep right through to Year 12, drawn from a much wider geographical area if they have an intellectual disability.

The Department of Education and Training has recently invested significantly in the Disability Inclusion Reform – one of its biggest yet, the intention of which is to build the capacity of schools to implement inclusive practices and communities. Armstrong Creek School is already regarded as a leader in this area, and we’re very proud to be considered as an exemplar model of Inclusive Education.

The past two years have been incredibly challenging ones for schools generally. How did Armstrong Creek School meet the challenges posed by successive lockdowns and remote learning?

It’s certainly been a challenging time – almost half the total period we’ve been up and running has been during the pandemic, with lockdowns and remote learning commonplace. However, thanks to our wonderfully committed team of staff, backed by a highly supportive and positive community, we’ve been able to successfully navigate our way through, regardless. And while we would never knowingly wish for this set of circumstances, I’m extremely proud of the way our whole community has responded over the past 2 years, and I know we’re stronger for it.

What’s on the agenda for Armstrong Creek School in 2022? What new initiatives and developments can students and parents look forward to at the School this year?

Well, first and foremost, hopefully a new sense of normality! But really, we’re looking to 2022 to build on the strong foundations we’ve already established in our first 4 years – and especially across the pandemic.

This year has started amazingly well, and we’ve welcomed a large number of students, families and staff to Armstrong Creek School. We’ve always really focused on learning success and achievement in Reading, and we’ve enjoyed some great successes in this area. So this will continue to be a key focus, while we simultaneously strengthen our approaches in teaching and learning in Mathematics and Writing.

We’re really excited by the addition of our new school-based assessment and screening system so we can track and respond to student learning needs in a more effective manner. And we’re also to making up for missed opportunities over the last couple of years, through the introduction of many new and improved extra curricula activities, plus the roll out of various school activities and events which will enable the greater involvement of our families.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of the role so far and what have been your major successes? 

There are so many wonderful aspects to my role, but now we’ve commenced our fifth year of operation, one of the most rewarding has been seeing how successfully we’ve managed to embed the vision, values and practices that we set out to establish back in 2018 in everything we do.

While we’re always looking to improve, it’s great to be able to step back for a moment (just a moment) and acknowledge that we’re a thriving school community with so much opportunity and so much to be proud of. And of course, the recent award recognition has been the icing on the cake!

What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

Easy! Welcoming all our students, families and staff back on campus! There’s nothing like the energy that comes from a school full of students learning, playing and having fun. We’ve missed that so much, and for too long. So the start of 2022 has served as a welcome reminder of the invaluable learning environment that schools provide for children, and the enormous privilege of working in schools that that we experience each and every day.