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The Brisbane School of Distance Education

Sunday, 4 December 2011
Library in Brisbane School of Distance Education

The Brisbane School of Distance Education (BSDE) is located in the quiet suburb of Coorparoo, not far from the legendary Gabba cricket ground.  When Barry Phillips of Sero recently visited, he was welcomed to the BSDE by the Executive Principal and introduced to two visitors on a fact finding mission from the Department of Education of the Chinese province of Jiangsu. BSDE is an Education Queensland (the educational arm of the Queensland Government) distance education school which supports students from prep to Year 12 and which also includes adults in its Year 10-12 cohort.

The first revelation for Barry was the school site. BSDE has just moved into a purpose-built, Aus $30million, new facility...a brand new school comprising both junior and secondary schools with playgrounds and classrooms, family rooms and even a library which would be the envy of some new build physical schools in Europe and elsewhere.

What differentiates BSDE from traditional schools is the large ‘distribution centre’ which is required to manage the substantial amount of materials provided to support learners and their families.  BSDE is by far the largest distance education school in Queensland with over 300 staff members (215 of whom are teachers) educating over 3800 students. The Executive Principal also plays a leadership role with the other 6 schools of distance education, which are located across Queensland.   Most students study almost fully online but they, and family members, also attend the school at least once a term or attend workshops and activities held in Queensland regional centres. Parents are encouraged to become ‘home educators’ and are offered support to achieve a recognised vocational qualification as such. In common with other Australian states Queensland has a system of rotating staff around its schools and all teachers are appointed to schools by the state - so there is no ‘cherry-picking’ of staff by the school. BSDE has had to prioritise staff development and is now recognised for its expertise in this area.

No proprietary online materials are used by BSDE. All materials are OER and/or teacher created. BSDE employs a Curriculum Development Team of specialists - graphic artists, developers etc. All online materials are then provided through the Queensland state learning platform ‘One School’. BSDE’s results match, and exceed, those of the best schools in Queensland and the school has evolved from “...the last point of call, to leading staff” across the entire state. Queensland is at the forefront of the development and testing of the Australian national curriculum - and BSDE is leading the state through ‘wrapping’ the new curriculum and providing it for schools state-wide.

The Principal invited Barry to the Queensland 2011 Showcase Awards for Excellence in Schools to be held on the evening of his visit. I was unable to attend but suffice to say that BSDE was the outright winner of the Excellence in the Senior Phase of Learning award.

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