Cheryl Critchley meets Jason Bek of Charles La Trobe College

Image: Stephen McKenzie

Image: Stephen McKenzie

With 35 nationalities represented in its student body, Charles La Trobe College is well-placed to lead the way in language programs. Since Jason Bek became principal last year, the school has enhanced both its Chinese and Auslan programs. It is now a Confucius Classroom as part of a partnership with La Trobe University, which means it has Chinese government accreditation for its courses and cultural activities.

Charles La Trobe’s language program has expanded under new Chinese teacher Jiakai Li and Mandarin is taught from prep to year 10. Year 11 and 12 students can choose to study it. The move recognises the school’s diversity – it has more than 20 international students.

This year, Charles La Trobe also hosted five students and three staff from Nanjing Zhonghua High School, part of a sister-school relationship established in 2013. Local students and staff visited China last year. “It was a real highlight,” Jason says of this year’s visit. “It’s about our kids being able to show the Chinese kids their culture.”

The college has a multicultural, multi-faith and socially diverse community across four campuses. It boasts a wide range of education and pastoral-care programs, including an astronomy club, a homework club and an oral language program with a speech pathologist.

The deaf facility has more than 20 students with hearing impairments who are integrated into school classes and activities such as sport. They receive one-on-one attention, enabling them to enjoy a quality mainstream education.

This is one of Jason’s biggest priorities. He believes all children are entitled to quality schooling. “The most important thing … is to provide a balanced, holistic approach to educating children, inclusive of a strong focus on literacy and numeracy but encapsulating the arts, languages, technology, sciences, sport and PE,” he says.

Social justice is another big focus and the school contributes to the cost of student laptops. “We try to ensure that all students have equality of access,” Jason says.

Since Charles La Trobe College opened in 2011, after the merger of several campuses, it has built close ties with La Trobe University through the Uni Bridges Program.

Uni Bridges sees year 10 and 11 maths and science students participate in laboratory sessions at La Trobe University and join a tertiary entrance pathway that is not totally reliant on ATAR scores.

Suitable students create a portfolio of work that will help them gain a university place. “What it does is allows them freer access into specific uni courses with La Trobe University,” Jason says.

The college recently invested more than $120,000 to change the way students use the internet. “We will be linked to La Trobe University’s internet provider, which will provide us with almost unlimited, super-fast internet access,” Jason says.

Among Jason’s biggest focal points is preparing students for a future job market that is constantly changing. “That’s our biggest challenge, but it’s the challenge of all schools to maintain some sort of educational relevance for students,” he says.

Through the school’s inclusive programs, Jason hopes to build on its hard-earned reputation and ensure it continues to be a government school of choice in the northern suburbs.

“We deal with students holistically,” he says. “They’re all important.”

Three things I have learnt

  1. Our biggest challenge as educators in any type of school is to educate kids for jobs that don’t exist yet.
  2. The key to good student outcomes is the quality of the teaching, regardless of available resources. The quality of teaching is paramount in achieving good student outcomes.
  3. There is a finite level of resources that can be put towards anything in the state system. School budgets are flexible, but there are also certain realities.

About Charles La Trobe College

  • Charles La Trobe College is an innovative four-campus prep to year 12 government school with 680 students.
  • Its Macleod West campus abuts La Trobe University.
  • The main site has junior, middle and senior schools. It also hosts Quantum Victoria, one of six state specialist maths and science centres.



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