Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

In the email that began our series on Armidale Secondary College, Principal Bree Harvey-Bice promoted the work being done on ‘codesigning a new vision’ for the troubled high school, but it appears that there is no codesign process.

In her email on the 14th of August, 2023, which belittled a senior student for speaking out about issues at the school, which she apologised for in the school newsletter a few days later, the Principal referred to the ‘codesign’ work underway to make improvements in key areas. Then, in the Principal’s message in the September newsletter, she referred to it again, thanking staff for embracing the process.

However, the Department of Education – given months and multiple opportunities to provide positive and detailed information about this ‘codesign process’ so the community can understand what is being done to rectify the situation – have confirmed this week that there is no codesign process.

In the ‘Appropriate Communication’ email Harvey-Bice wrote:

“As a staff we are currently beginning work on codesigning a new vision for our school into which we will invite contributions from our students, P&C, AECG as well as others from the broader educational community, The Office of Regional Youth and the Department of Regional NSW. The goal of this codesign process is primearily (sic) to address three key improvements that we have identified in our school; systems, processes and communication, student behaviour and staff morale.”

In the September newsletter she wrote:

“I thank all our staff, teaching and non-teaching for embracing wholeheartedly our codesign process in which we are evaluating and making necessary changes to our systems, processes and communications, wellbeing and student behaviour.”

Two parents we have spoken to told us that they had met with a consultant by the name of Dean Besley, whom they understood was working on the ‘co-design’ of the new vision for the school.

However, the Department of Education says that only staff of the school are working on the process, no one outside the school is involved (that is, there is no ‘co-design’ process) and no external consultants are part of the co-design work, and the consultant was hired by the Office of Regional Youth, not ASC or the Department of Education.

“During 2023 staff at Armidale Secondary College have been collaborating on ways to improve school processes, including communication and student behaviour,” the spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education said.  

“The department is supporting this work, which is ongoing.” 

“Earlier this year the Office of Regional Youth funded a consultant to provide advice to the Armidale community around youth behaviour in the town, including the public school.” 

The Department refused on multiple occasions to provide any detail about the work being done to improve the situation at Armidale’s only remaining public high school, only repeating the above sentiment that there is ongoing work to improve school processes. Specifically, they refused to provide any detail on the steps of the process or a timeline for the process.

It is not clear why Harvey-Bice lied about the codesign process, or if her vision for bringing the community and others into the planning was over-ruled or cancelled by the department.

A number of parents and students who have spoken to the New England Times over the past 4 months of our investigation have commented that Harvey-Bice, the school, and the department were all more interested in reputation and positive media coverage than actually doing something, and the repeated rejection of offers of help – including from UNE education academics – was very concerning.

“We are parents that have really tried to go into the school and say, look, we’re here to help. What can we do? We’re really interested in our kids academic achievement and progress,” one parent said.

“We keep being told the only we can help is to ‘write to the minister’, and we have, and nothing happens,” another said.

“They don’t care about the kids or their education, they only care about their reputation and what people are saying about the school,” a student said.

A number of parents and others in the community have already called for Harvey-Bice to resign as Principal, and for Murat Dizdar, who was very dismissive of concerns, to resign as Secretary of the Department of Education.

The New England Times has sought an interview with Adam Marshall to discuss the issues at ASC on multiple occasions and has received no response.

This story is part of a series the New England Times is working on about Armidale Secondary College. Reports of violence, bullying, and other issues within the school are not dying down. We want to hear your stories – the good and the bad – whether you’re a student, parent, teacher, or other interested member of the community. 

Email newsdesk@netimes.com.au or DM our Facebook page if you’d like to tell your story. The names of all parents and children in personal stories is being changed to protect the children involved.

Some of the content in these stories is distressing.  If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact:

Image: New England Times Graphic with inset image of ASC Principal Bree Harvey-Bice (NSW Department of Education)