5218 Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School (formerly Shield Street school)

Originally established within the grounds of  Caloola Institution in Sunbury in the third term of 1977, Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School began as an annexe of Broadmeadows Special School.

The founding Head  Teacher  was Dale Gordan and the annexe supported just 7 students. Enrolments grew to 14 in 1978 as students from F2 ward enrolled, the ages of students ranged as students could maintain enrolment beyond 18 if they had not had more than 10 years of formal schooling.

In 1979 portable buildings were placed on land in Shields Street, at the bottom of the hill that defined the grounds of the Institution and by 1980 the appointment of Peter Tarr as Head Teacher was made and Sunbury Special Developmental School was established. It was not long before the school became Shield Street School and it would remain so until 1998 when the school established itself back in refurbished buildings of the Institution and it was renamed Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School.

The irony is not lost on those who visit the magnificent heritage listed buildings with their majestic views that extend into central Melbourne , the incredible architecture, bluestone buildings, pressed metal and leadlight and all the majesty that historic buildings behold that  once these walls held a not so proud history .Where now our students thrive in a teaching and learning environment that offers every student the chance to be the best they can be, with passionate and dedicated staff ,with the  latest technology and all the mod cons that 21st century living offers once these same young children would have been living within the Institutional walls with all of the limitations that social policy of the time dictated.

Peter Tarr remained at Shields Street School until 1985 when Annette Graham was appointed Head Teacher and she remained with Lyn Tarr as her assistant until 1991 when both took up other positions and Maureen O’Rourke was appointed acting Head Teacher.

Marcia Harriman was appointed Head Teacher in 1992 and was followed by Ruth Davidson in 1994 and then Susanne Zinedar.

The process of planning for de-institutionalisation was well underway for Caloola in the late 1980’s and by 1991 the process had begun and the students who resided within Caloola, were being prepared for the closure of the institution and placement into the communities of their birthplace.

Student numbers declined and when Peter Redenbach commenced his  Principalship in 1995 student enrolments had fallen to 18 and community consultation and planning for the building and land use of the Institutional Buildings was a major local and state government priority.

Shield Street School was definitely in a vulnerable state with student enrolments down to 18 and operating out of dilapidated portable buildings there was much joy when the approval was granted for a new school to be developed in refurbished and purpose built buildings within the Heritage listed buildings and grounds, that was to become Circular Drive, Jacksons Hill Sunbury.

Within buildings, some of which were established in 1860, emerged a magnificent school, renamed Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School , students moved in in Term 4 1998 and it was officially  opened on the 21st of May 1999 by the Hon Phillip Gude, Minister of Education.

Peter Redenbach supported by Philip Illman as Assistant Principal had their challenges ahead of them to build community confidence in the new school that for most of the Sunbury community was known to be ..”the lunatic asylum on the hill” or just “The Hill”. The institution was by far the largest employer of the time, local traders benefited and pockets of the community had strongly resisted the impact of clients moving into the Sunbury community to reside within Community Residential Units.

33 students were enrolled in 1998 but by time the school was officially opened in 1999 enrolments had grown to see the school of 5 classrooms at full capacity and planning for the second phase of growth commenced that saw the refurbishment of an additional wing open up in 2005.

The school had undergone a transformational change in its physical environment but in a curriculum sense changes were phenomenal. Peter had a strong affiliation with the education system within the United Kingdom and teaching exchanges to the UK saw him establish a Sister School relationship with Glynne Gap School and a strong alliance that ensured that SMRSS were leaders   in curriculum innovation and best practice throughout Special Education in Victoria.

The mantra of “ Consistency, Credibility and Continuity” was not just written but practiced and soon the broad community came to recognise that “The Hill” was no more and community confidence rose to such a point that within 2 years the student numbers had increased to such a point that facilities were once again inadequate. Heritage Victoria approved a time limited placement of a Mod 5 on site and an old house on the grounds, that for a short while was a campus of Victoria University, was able to be temporarily leased.

After identifying a soon to be closed Primary School in Bullengarook in 2006 that was located within the designated transport area,  negotiations with the Loddon Mallee Region began and SMRSS was eventually successful in gaining the right to establish a second campus on the grounds of the closed Bullengarook Primary School .

Philip Illman was duly appointed Principal in 2009 having held an acting role from 2006. Philip was instrumental in guiding the establishment of the secondary campus .

Curriculum innovation remained a priority but the single most significant change to the school came with the introduction of Foundation level VCAL in 2005. The appointment of  Brendan Nolan as VCAL co-ordinator saw the consolidation of an outcomes based curriculum.  13 students undertaking VCAL became the  founding students at the new Bullengarook Secondary campus in Term 2 of 2008 . The dilapidated grounds and facilities of the former Bullengarook Primary School that closed with only 5 students have now proudly been transformed into a wonderful rural learning environment where horses graze in adjoining paddocks and native wildlife enhances the beauty of the landscape. An additional Mod 5 was added in 2010 and further facilities including a large materials technology centre and food technology  have been added to enable a broad range of curriculum options to meet student needs.