History

Bacchus Marsh Grammar was established in 1988 and has quickly established itself as a school with a strong reputation for catering for individual difference, personal development, academic growth and pastoral care.

Foundation Of The School

2013 marked the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the school. It was thought that it would be fitting to provide a brief historical outline of the school.  This is not meant as a definitive history, but outlines some of the major points in the growth and development of the school.  A larger and more detailed collection of material has commenced which will enable the school to start the process of developing a sense of its early beginnings and the road it has taken to be the successful school it is today.

Bacchus Marsh Grammar commenced operation in 1988 under the Foundation Principal Mr Graeme Blyth.  Graeme had with the assistance of a small but dedicated group of families felt the need for the establishment of an independent school in the town of Bacchus Marsh, to support its growing population and that of surrounding areas.  The school was by its nature to be non-denominational and not tied to any particular faith or the teaching of any particular creed or doctrine.  Its early foundation had indeed been hampered by the development of a separate rival plan based around the establishment of a low fee Anglican school. This failed to commence because of a failure to attract sufficient students. Equally a plan to join the two ventures into one was unable to be successfully negotiated.

The school commenced at a site in Halletts Way and its early years were particularly tough, due to a lack of Government funding and difficulties in attracting  and maintaining  enrolments.   Particularly important in those early days was the work of a dedicated School Council (led by Life Member Mr Peter O’Day and the hard work of many of the schools’ original families.

 

Move To Our Permanent Home

In 1992, through the involvement of Mr Bill Wilson (both Bill and his wife Jill are also Life Members    of the Association) the school was able to carry out a “land swap”, which saw them leave the school’s original site in Halletts Way and move to the former administration workshops and storage site of Maddingley Brown Coal in South Maddingley Road (the school’s current site).

The enormous difficulty of operating an independent school without appropriate funding caused significant tensions within the school community.  In 1995 the Foundation Principal Mr Graeme Blyth resigned and after a period in which Mr Kevin Nicholson acted as Head of the School, Mr Baxter Holly was appointed as the school’s second Principal.  Baxter had been the Head of the Knox School and before that a senior member of staff at Scotch College. Baxter’s principle task upon commencing at the school was to secure appropriate funding for the school. In 1998, after significant lobbying by him and the School Council, appropriate funding was secured when the school joined the Victorian Ecumenical System of Schools.  In that year Baxter was offered the position of Head of Kingswood College in Box Hill and left Bacchus Marsh Grammar in July 1998 to take up that position.

 

Community Consolidation And Development

Some mention must be made of the enormous contribution during this period to the operation of the school made by the Parents and Friends Association.   In particular the work of Raelene Hawkins and Marcia Gage in raising money to basically provide for much of the day to day operation of the school.

In 1998, Mr Andrew Neal who had been Director of Curriculum at Trinity Grammar, Kew was appointed as the school’s third Principal.  He saw that his primary role was the establishment of a sound curriculum and securing the enrolment base of the school. This included a major thrust to change the school to see itself being both equipped and willing to provide an education that parents across Western Melbourne would find attractive.   This approach was not without its detractors and the early years of his Principalship saw an uneasy relationship with some members of the School Council.  This situation reached a head during 2000, when the question of the direction of the school and the appropriate relationship between School Council and the Principal was resolved.  Significant individuals in the resolution of these matters included Peter O’Day, Sheryl Tunnecliffe, John Cooke, Andrew Dickson, Andrew Conolly and Bruce Marshall. Equally important was a clear desire from the majority of parents and staff that the Principal be allowed to get on with the management of the school, unhindered by organisational politics.  This was assisted by the establishment of a virtually completely new School Council.

 

Drive To Maturity

In 2001 Andrew, with a new management team of Deputy Principals’ Elizabeth O’Day and Kevin Richardson and Business Manager Greg Gough and a supportive School Council dedicated to introducing an achievable Strategy Plan commenced in earnest; the hard work of moving the school forward.  Both Council and Management have been ably assisted in that process by the enormous contribution  made by the Principal’s Assistant  Michelle Graham, whose work has been at the centre of many of the discussions and issues that have occurred over the last fifteen years.

In a relatively short period of time the policy changes in relation to curriculum and an outlook that was more expansionary, coupled with a consistency bought about through a stable management and Council began to produce significant results.

Bacchus Marsh Grammar has grown from being a school of fewer than 500 students in 2000 to one of 1800 today.  The school now serves a broad catchment on the Western Plains beyond the Melbourne metropolitan area towards Ballarat and Geelong. This has been facilitated by an efficient private and public school bus provision.

Academically, the proportion of students achieving at the highest levels has increased dramatically and it offers one of the most extensive Year 12 programs of any school.  Significant curriculum consolidation,   development and innovation has been made across the rest of Senior School and in Junior School.  This has been coupled with a significant growth in the range and quality of the school infrastructure, the size of the Maddingley campus and a flourishing of the school’s co-curricular program.

In many respects the school has come of age.  It should never be forgotten that what we have today has not been obtained easily and has involved an enormous effort on the part of many people. In particular the dedication of long-standing members of staff and parents who have been willing to often “make do” because of a strong belief in the moral and philosophical foundations of the school.

 

Future Expectations

As we move towards adulthood as an institution we have a great deal to look forward to. The best still lies ahead as the school enters into its second 25 years secure in its long-term future.  Further curriculum development, growth in staff, land acquisition and enhanced infrastructure will position Bacchus Marsh Grammar to be at the forefront of schools serving the Western Plains and permit our students to achieve to their very best and select appropriate pathways beyond school.