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There’s much more to consider than education when it comes to running a school. From financials to internal operations, there are many plates to keep spinning. But as Peninsula Grammar Principal Stuart Johnston tells The CEO Magazine, his love of learning and bringing new experiences to the table has kept the broader societal implications of his school a top priority.
“I understand the importance of the school’s role within the broader community,” he says. “We prioritize building and maintaining strong ties with local, national and even global schools and communities, ensuring the school contributes positively and responsibly.”
A principal for 20 years, with 14 of those at Peninsula Grammar, Johnston says the school’s work in fostering strong community relationships not only enhances the school’s reputation but also creates lasting, positive impacts on its wider community.
He attributes much of the success they’ve had in building this to three key factors.
“Firstly, we have teachers who are very dedicated to both their own learning and the development of student outcomes, and they love working in this environment,” he says.
“They contribute to the school wholeheartedly, to an extent that goes beyond what normal education looks like. They love being involved in the full extent of children’s holistic education.”
Unsurprisingly, Johnston nominates the families as another factor. He adds that it is inspiring to work with parents who are working so hard to give their children the greatest gift they can – education.
“Finally, we are blessed with these remarkable young people that we get to work with every day,” he says. “It’s such a happy place, there’s not a day you don’t get up and look forward to coming to work here.”
Johnston says that the current plans for the school are focused on improvements rather than growth.
“Our enrollments are buy-in, but growth for us is about improving opportunities for students, and providing meaningful career aspirations and a sense of belonging for our teachers,” he says.
“They’re the two really pivotal parts of our strategy. Sustaining our wonderful community is also very much part of our growth.”
When it comes to making this happen, Johnston says it’s a matter of constantly analyzing how to guarantee an impact, and ensuring what the changemakers advocate becomes a reality in classrooms.
“There are always opportunities to improve what we do, whether it’s in the classroom or if it’s expanding our horizons with camps and other opportunities in different parts of the world.”
Some of the more tangible innovations in recent years include improvements to Peninsula Grammar’s buildings. Among the additions are a new science center, a state-of-the-art building for senior years and the recent completion of ALATUS, the school’s creativity center.
“I think a really important part of your role as a principal is to be able to see beyond the present,” he says. “You must always have a vision for what you need in three-to-five years, and be able to plan and strategize to make that become a reality.”
Innovation-wise, technology has increasingly become a crucial part of Peninsula Grammar’s operations over the past few years.
“We have a duty to keep everything, from our staff to the buildings, relevant to the needs of the students as they come through with far more practical skills than ever before.”
Peninsula Grammar is also prepared for students of entirely different backgrounds. The school’s boarding program is primarily international, with the majority being from South–East Asia.
“We encourage diversity and inclusivity. In 2021, we appointed the Head of Respectful Relationships as a new key position to the leadership team. It’s been key in developing our culture and understanding.”
Johnston says Peninsula Grammar works very closely with the Victorian State Government to deliver an offshore program in China and Malaysia, which has expanded to five partner schools in China and one in Malaysia.
“This has provided opportunities not just for our students, but for their students to have a successful education and to come and study in Melbourne.”
Locally, Peninsula Grammar works with a variety of suppliers, some of whom come from the school community. “We’ve been very fortunate to have that support,” he says.
“We also have a strong alumni program, and a lot of those people give back generously to help generate interest in the school in the future.”
So while Johnston and his team work hard to keep Peninsula Grammar running at peak performance, he says that, ultimately, everyone is working with one accord – education first.
“There’s a goodwill that our community brings to the school, and that support is a tangible part of how we function,” he says.
“Fundamentally, we all believe that our purpose is to enrich the lives of children and their learning.”