To Know Our Story

of our heritage is to appreciate our proud past, understand our dynamic present and anticipate our bright future.

St Helena Post Primary school was established in 1984 in response to enrolment projections for the area and on the back of significant community support and political pressure. It was to be a new breed of secondary school combining the best of the high and tech school systems.

Foundation principal, Ken Cunningham, developed the vision for a comprehensive curriculum that would cater for all students. He planned for the development of a rapidly expanding school, which was just as well because within a few short years it was the largest in the district. It boasted modern facilities and equipment, designed to enhance the contemporary learning experience. Careful design meant that students with additional physical needs were also easily accommodated on the site.

The original relocatable complex was hastily constructed on the Calendonia Drive corner of the site in just three months following the purchase of 9.5 hectares of land by the Education Department on 2 November 1983.

The school opened its doors (one day late) in 1984, with 185 students and 18 teachers (appointed from 250 applications). Form groups of 20 were accommodated in 8 general purpose classrooms, 2 Science rooms, 1 Art/Craft room, 1 Woodwork room, administration and staff areas, the canteen and a toilet block. The Metalcraft room arrived later.

The comprehensive Year 7 curriculum included English, Humanities, Mathematics, Science, Italian, Classroom and Instrumental Music, Physical Education, Home Economics, Woodwork, Metalcraft, Art and Graphics.

Planning for the permanent buildings on the other side of the site proceeded immediately. Despite enormous challenges and setbacks, three years later – soon after the start of the 1987 school year – 800 students occupied the new facility. The building plan was a ‘core plus’ arrangement with subject specific rooms constructed around a large open courtyard – the Agora. This was a central meeting place for students. The 38 teaching spaces were designed for 700 students so some of the relocatables were integrated into the new site. They also allowed for further expansion.

The original relocatable complex became Glen Katherine Primary School. A playing field was constructed between the schools for joint use. The gym, including two indoor basketball courts, was also shared. (Ref: Chris Lavender, “The St Helena History”, Nov 1999)

The fact that a group of our foundation staff – many from ‘the first 18’ – still meet for coffee on the first day of every school year in honour of their association with the school is a testament to their treasured lifelong connection with us and us with them.

St Helena was visionary in 1984, and we’re visionary now.

We’re still:

  • innovating to improve student outcomes
  • a leader in personalised learning, data driven targeted teaching, pathway choice, values and respectful relationships education
  • providing a mini-school structure that fosters learning, wellbeing and connectedness
  • learning and leading in contemporary pedagogies and IT delivery
  • a strong public system contributor.

Our cultural heritage…

Community Spirit

Parents, educators, community leaders and politicians came together in a number of working parties to ensure the establishment of St Helena and then to contribute to its ongoing positive development.

We owe a debt of gratitude to those who labored tirelessly on behalf of students in the early 80s on the initial Steering Committee, School Project Committee and Interim Planning Committee. We wouldn’t be here without them.

School Councillors and Parents Association members then took up the mantle providing wonderful support to the school’s respective leadership teams.

From the outset, parent consultation characterised the decision making process. Input was invited and respected in relation to the buildings and curriculum – particularly the language choice, uniform and the homework and assessment policies.

The School Theatre, named after Sue Dyet, honours our first school council president who played a vital part in the development of the school’s permanent building.

The Parents Association also started strongly in those first years under the leadership of president, Peter Crampton. Interested, active parents worked together through this forum to help solve problems, attend working bees, develop the grounds and establish a vibrant school community. They perpetuated the tradition of family barbeques started by Ken Cunningham with the Sunday 27 Nov BBQ held on the temporary school site in 1983.

Sub-school system

Ken instituted a sub-school system to facilitate student learning and wellbeing when the school doubled in size in 1985.

It was a vertical structure made up of two or three forms from each year level up to Year 10.

There were about 200 students in each sub-school. They were named after the waterways of the area: Plenty, Diamond, Karingal and Yarra.

Teachers taught mainly in their sub school and across subjects [Maths/Science; Humanities] so students and parents were well known.

Sub schools were also the basis for the organisation of Outdoor Ed and whole school sporting events.


The decision for a common curriculum for Years 7-10 determined the future direction of the teaching and learning programs and clearly distinguished St Helena from neighbouring schools.

It was guided by the Manifesto for a Democratic Curriculum [‘The Australian Teacher’, Feb 1984] and embraced 10 principles. The curriculum was to be: common, premised on cooperation, worthwhile, coherent, systematic, reflective, moral, inclusive, practical and doable.

At St Helena the common curriculum was organised into three faculties:

Language/Humanities – 10 p/week

Mathematics/Science – 8 p/week

Practical Arts – 12 p/week 2 and 3D art, practical technology subjects, performing arts, music, PE.

In 1985 David McRay, wrote an article in ‘The Victorian Teacher’ entitled ‘Manifesting the Curriculum’. It lauded the common curriculum implemented at St Helena describing it as a new concept that may point the way ahead for the future of secondary education.

Our School Logo…

In 1999 the logo was updated but retained many of the original symbols.

The addition of the student faces highlights our commitment to co-education and our student-centered philosophy. The concept of four diamonds making up a whole signifies the multi-faceted approach the school adopts to achieve a single vision.

The original logo, a diamond with trees, a mountain range and water was designed by student competition winner, Kristine Hendry.

The diamond represented the school’s location in the Diamond Valley, the wavy lines represented the local waterways and the trees represented the rural nature and environmental sensitivity of the area.

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