HISTORY

In the late 1970s artist, visionary and Director of the Victorian College of the Arts, Mr Lenton Parr had a vision


He saw a need for a secondary school where students with talent or potential in music or dance could develop their talent, irrespective of their socio-economic status. 

In the late 1970’s the Australian Ballet School was taking students from the age of about fifteen to receive highly specialised classical training. Ballet Victoria had just recently gone into receivership and had provided an alternate training venue, although most parents had to use private dance or music tuition. In contrast, the VCA Secondary School was to be government run, non-fee paying, with entry based entirely on a successful audition.

This vision resulted in the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School being established as the secondary school of the Victorian College of the Arts and a 'School' of the VCA in late 1977. The first intake of students was in 1978.

The initial suggestion was that the school be annexed to another school but Parr did not want this to happen. Jack Pitt was principal of South Melbourne Technical School and was appointed as Founding Principal at the end of 1977. The school opened in 1978, so they had literally two months to prepare.

The music program was organised by Mr Keith Field and Ms June Ralfe, while Mr Jan Stripling and Ms Patty Cox established the dance program, commencing dance classes at the Ballet Victoria Studios in Fitzroy. The academic staff was drawn from excellent teachers Jack Pitt knew from South Melbourne Technical School.

VCA staff were very supportive of the secondary school and VCA Secondary School now names its three most prestigious awards after these Founders of the school. The Senior Academic Award is called ‘The Lenton Parr Award’, the Senior Dance Award ‘The Anne Woolliams Award’ and the Senior Music Award ‘The John Hopkins Award’.

Establishing the school was an exciting challenge; there were no buildings, classrooms, books or blackboards. Mobile chalkboards were wheeled around and five portable buildings were placed on the college car park. In 1980 the school moved to ‘Lanes Motors’ in Sturt Street before returning to the portables and ‘Matron’s House’. Even Roy Grounds' former offices at the National Gallery of Victoria were used for teaching.

In 1981, the school was incorporated as a Secondary School under the umbrella of the VCA – as a fifth school of the College. The name was changed from the VCA Technical School (VCATS) to the VCA Secondary School (VCASS).

In 1985 the building now known as the Elizabeth Murdoch Building was refurbished by the Education Department and the secondary school was given an office and teaching space there. 1993 saw the removal of almost all the portables and in 1997 the secondary school was allocated an additional building, ‘I’ Block.

Plans for the construction of a permanent and substantial building to accommodate the school developed under principal Sylvia Kolarik progressed in the 1990s and early 2000s..

Under Colin Simpson's leadership the Victorian Government approved a permanent and substantial building on Miles and Moore Street Southbank for the VCA Secondary School in 2004. Architectural firm Williams Boag worked closely with the school and created the whole building approach, with internal street ways, shopping mall design and flexible learning spaces. The school moved from the former VCA site in June 2009.

Our dance and music facilities are now considered to be among the best in Australia. The VCA Secondary School was ranked in the best sixty new schools in the world by the OECD CELE’s 4th Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities in 2011.

The school commenced its Specialist Visual Arts Program for Year 11 and 12 in 2013 and in 2016 commenced its Specialist Theatre Arts Program, also for Year 11 and 12.

Heather Leviston was a founding teacher whose passion for the arts and education played a central role in the early development of our school and served as the school’s first librarian. On her retirement, council named the Library in her honour.

A 21st CENTURY ARTS SCHOOL - A REVOLUTIONARY CONCEPT

The five pillars of our school, Academic, Dance, Music, Theatre Arts and Visual Arts continue to be well supported by our outstanding Student Services area. As well as meeting the needs of VCA Secondary School students, our school is now also the academic provider to highly gifted young people from the Australian Ballet School and Gymnastics Victoria.

Principal Colin Simpson says that VCASS has embraced and developed Lenton Parr’s vision but in a modern context.

“The reality of our school far surpasses the vision and the founders, key staff and Principals and all have contributed to the hugely successful school we see today,” Mr Simpson said.

PRINCIPALS

1977 – 1985

Mr. Jack Pitt, Foundation Principal

1985 – 1992

Mr. Graham Goetz

1993

Mr. Alistair Gunn

1994 – 2004

Mrs. Sylvia A. Kolarik

2004 - 2016

Mr. Colin Simpson

2017 - current

Ms. Hilary Bland

 

 

35th Year Reflections of VCASS

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