You say your goal for students is discipleship. What does that mean?
Discipleship for us means that we are committed to ensuring that all learning is related to Christian faith. In their discipleship, students grow in their ability to see the world with a biblical perspective, respond to it in ways that honour God, and live in service to God. No matter what your child’s gifts, we want to help develop those gifts as an integral part of their discipleship. Their challenge will be to excel in the use of their gifts for God’s kingdom.

How will you encourage my child to grow in faith?
You will have already seen that the school does not see its primary task as evangelising students. However, within a Christian school community that is communicating its educational message in a way that is consistent with the faith being expressed in Christian homes, it will be natural for Christian students to sense that their faith is being fed and grown. In this sense the family, church and Christian school work together to nurture and encourage the growth of faith in children. The picture of the growth rings of a tree can be a helpful image. Faith has been planted and nourished by faithful Christian parents wanting to see their own children experience the love of God that they themselves know. The nurture, love and encouragement of the family and many others help to grow that young sapling into a strong tree of faith.

Does the school specifically seek to grow Christian character?
Some Christian educators see the growth of Christian character in young people as their main task (see the related topic on moral values). It is important to us to see our young people grow in maturity and character. It is also important to us what that actually means and how we achieve that.
There are two views about character or moral development that MECS would not support. First, the utilitarian view that says what determines ‘right action’ is based on its consequences, e.g. one doesn’t bully because it hurts someone else. We do not support this view because it is not grounded in God’s truth. Character must be based in what God says not in what outcomes it produces. In our bullying example, this means one doesn’t bully because God says harming others is wrong, and because he calls us to love our ‘neighbour’ and to seek what is right. Second, there is a view that says ‘character’ can be taught by working through a list of virtues, a little like teaching the best traits Jesus displayed. This approach tends to be selective in its understanding of character traits, and it may fail to recognise the place of the Holy Spirit in transforming us.
MECS’ approach to character development is more holistic. We model and exercise good character in all its fullness. We do teach about key character virtues when appropriate, but not in isolation from the other things we teach. This process of living out and building a Christian ethic in the MECS culture presents healthy character as a communal practice. We pursue Christ-likeness together because this is what it means to live healthy lives. The Holy Spirit uses the virtuousness practiced by the community to build up character in children and young people.

How do you help students to understand and critique the confusing and challenging world in which they live?
The world we live in constantly confronts us with issues that can be confusing for adults, let alone children. We approach such issues with a policy of guided exposure. This means we are very careful in the way in which we deal with complex issues and we do not merely shield students from them. We want our students to develop discerning hearts and minds. Thus, teachers will tackle the issues that students will face at a time and in a manner appropriate to their age. They do so with biblical perspective and appropriate critique. We are committed to ensuring that all learning is related to Christian faith. Our students grow in their ability to see the world with a biblical perspective, respond to it in ways that honour God, and live lives in service to God.

How will sending my child to MECS make a difference?
We trust that MECS will make a difference to your child. We also hope that, having been a student at MECS, your child will also make a difference. We expect that MECS will give your child an excellent foundation for living successfully, able to transform their world wherever they find themselves. We aim to equip our students with the knowledge, skills, understanding and wisdom so that they’ll be people who make a difference in our society; so that they become citizens who make a constructive contribution to the lives of those around them, and to the places and organisations where they work. We aspire for them to be people who will see wrongs righted, to make justice and mercy prevail, to alleviate brokenness, pain and suffering, and to see creation cared for as God intended. In other words, we hope that they’ll be disciples of Jesus Christ.

How will MECS value my child?
One of our bedrock beliefs is that all children are precious in God’s sight. After all, God created them in his image, and he loves them so much that he sent his only Son to re-establish the relationship with him that had been broken by human rebellion and sin. We recognise that all people are created with a unique variety of gifts and abilities, which are intended to be used to express our love for God and our neighbours, and to take care of God’s creation.
We will not regard some gifts and abilities as more important and valuable than others. We endeavour to recognise and foster the growth and development of all the gifts and abilities of our students. We also recognise that in our society there are skills that are essential if students are to function and live effectively. While seeking to equip your child with these, we also want to provide them with various opportunities to explore and develop other gifts and abilities—whether musical, sporting, artistic, speaking, etc.—that tend to be regarded as less important, but which we regard as contributing just as much to a rich and rewarding life.

What sort of pastoral care do you provide?
The pastoral care of students is vitally important to us. Just as our approach to teaching and learning is holistic, so is our approach to pastoral care. Thus, the most natural carers are teachers. They provide the primary pastoral care for students. It is one of the reasons we limit class sizes. We also provide our teachers with professional support through the school welfare officer. That officer also offers pastoral care for children with more complex care needs. Of course, because we are in partnership with families, teachers communicate promptly with parents if there are significant pastoral concerns that may arise in the context of the school. Parents, students and teachers working together usually deal very effectively with most pastoral concerns.

How do you support children with a few extra needs?
Many students have a few extra needs (whether academic, social, and emotional). Some of this is simply because each student is different. Whatever the extra need might be, it is very helpful when parents can spend time with their child’s class teacher in order for everyone to understand the nature of the issues and to think through how best to respond. This isn’t always easy; however, open communication and a commitment to maximise the educational success for the student usually results in good outcomes.
The close relationship between the class teacher and parents, small class numbers, a commitment to working through the issues and an educational structure that understands diversity, facilitates strong support outcomes for most students. This is an area of strength at MECS.

What if my child has quite specific educational support needs?
MECS’ size, supportive environment and pastoral care approach means that frequently the school receives requests to enrol children with quite specific social, emotional or learning needs. This occurs even though the school was not established or funded with this as its prime purpose. If you are motivated to approach the school primarily because your child has such needs, you should firstly consider the school’s enrolment policy to see whether you would be eligible for consideration.
Before a student with ‘educational support needs’ commences studies at MECS a significant amount of investigation and ‘learning planning’ occurs. This work is typically undertaken between the parents and the school’s Educational Support Coordinator. Parents are requested to be ‘up front’, honest and to provide all reports from specialists at the interview stage. Parents who do not disclose the relevant information or have not sought to understand their child’s special issues would not qualify for consideration under the enrolment ‘partnership’ guidelines.
The school does have a significant number of students with extra needs. These students have been eligible for enrolment because their parents ‘qualified’ under the enrolment guidelines. The issue of the child’s special needs is not a factor used for determining eligibility for enrolment.
Various support strategies are considered so that opportunities for educational success are maximised. These include: Parent Liaison Meetings; Collaboratively designed learning plans/pathways; Applications for funding assistance; Aide support (sometimes funded by parents); and a range of other resource supports. Parents must note that the comparable funding support within State Schools is almost 10 times the amount received in Independent schools. For example, the highest level of funding available at MECS would be around $4000 per child annually; in a State School the same child would receive funding for a full time Aide.
These issues will be fully discussed after enrolment with the Educational Support Coordinator.

Are there any programs for students who do not thrive in mainstream learning?
MECS is committed to a holistic education that engages the diversity of gifts students have. It doesn’t assume that one mainstream approach will be suitable for every student.

VCAL stands for the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning. It is a program designed for students oriented towards vocational learning who do not aspire tow academic tertiary training but who still desire a Year 12 Certificate. VCAL accommodates students’ different learning styles and offers far greater flexibility of learning and assessment than exists within the VCE. Please check our website for further details about VCAL.

There is also a new and exciting option for students gifted in vocational skills. Ranges TEC is a Christian trade training centre offering vocational education and training programs to Year 10, 11 and 12 students. Ranges TEC has been established via a 3-way partnership between MECS, Donvale Christian College and Mountain District Christian School. Students are taught by passionate and experienced Christian trade professionals in the areas of Aeroskills, Carpentry, Engineering, Furniture Making, Horticulture and Kitchen Operations while completing their Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). With three purpose-built learning sites, the Main Campus in Hightech Place Lilydale, a Community Farm in Monbulk and a Hangar at Coldstream Aerodrome, Ranges TEC provides authentic spaces where students can develop their God-given gifts and grow in the knowledge that God loves them and has a plan for them.
You can visit the Ranges TEC website for more details. www.rangestec.vic.edu.au

How do you cater for gifted students?
As can be seen from many other responses in this booklet MECS views all children as gifted, though this is probably not the kind of ‘gifted student’ being asked about here. Most people asking this question have a child who is a little ‘brighter’ academically than the average child. The question then becomes how MECS will keep my gifted child stimulated and challenged, not bored and disinterested because of a program that is pitched at the ‘middle’.
Broadly, we aim to help each child identify their gifts and provide programs that will encourage them to develop and excel in the use of their gifts. More specifically, the following can be noted:
  • While we do not run a specific extension annexe program, in some specific areas ‘advanced’ groups are possible: Advanced Maths classes commence at Year 7; Instrumental Music Tuition is available throughout; an elective choice program begins at Year 7 and the VCE years offer significant opportunity for gifted extension and expression.
  • The curriculum program up until Year 9 is common to all students, except for specific alternate programs for those gifted in hands-on learning.
  • Small class sizes and a close relationship between the class teacher and parents facilitate the opportunity for greater individual responses. That being said, we do not offer long-term individual learning programs.
  • Often ‘gifted’ students shine in some parts of the academic program, but not necessarily in all. If the school cannot find resources and programs to adequately develop a student’s gifts, parents might need to find programs outside of school that can supplement the MECS curriculum.

How do you motivate children to learn?
At each stage from Prep right through to Year 12 we encourage students to take increasing responsibility for their learning. We have in mind that as students mature they can increasingly take charge of their learning task. We encourage them to become self-starters. It is also important for students to discover ways of learning that suit their gifts and abilities. MECS seeks to provide a wide range of learning experiences to assist students discover the ways they learn best. We have found that a student who can learn in a way that suits them is a motivated learner.
In our teaching, we help our students discover how to be motivated by the intrinsic worth or rewards associated with whatever particular activities or learning tasks they are engaged in. While at times it may be necessary for students to receive specific external rewards for the completion of a particular learning task or activity, we believe that such rewards should be used sparingly and wisely.

Why doesn’t MECS have a school uniform?
MECS does not have a compulsory uniform, but instead has a Guided Dress Policy. This does not mean ‘free dress’. In a country where school uniforms are fairly common particularly in independent schools, not having a school uniform is a strong statement. The discussion for and against a uniform is an endless one. There are many sound reasons both ways and neither case will ever win the argument. In the end parents need to make their choices regarding enrolment based on their core values and key beliefs. Some parents at MECS would prefer that we did have a school uniform, but over time it becomes a ‘non-issue’ for them and certainly not one that would hold them back from partnering with MECS.
MECS believes that not having a uniform affirms each child’s uniqueness and encourages them to learn responsibility with their choice of clothing. All schools make choices that will lean towards either diversity or uniformity on a broad range of issues like dress, curriculum programs, assessment, class arrangements, and so on. Most schools prefer to make as many things standard or as uniform as possible because it makes things a lot easier to manage. MECS though, would rather err on the diversity side than the uniformity side where it is possible and reasonable. We recognise that in a communal setting, there have to be many ways in which there are uniform expectations for students. As such our ‘no uniform’ approach is not a plug for individualism. The school still has many common expectations for dress. All this being considered, MECS is not saying ‘uniforms are wrong’ but that we have sought to make choices that reflect the given diversity of creation. This approach isn’t always easy and can at times make things more difficult to manage.
We enforce the Guided Dress Policy in a graduated manner. Firstly, teachers check that students are complying. Students who are not are sent to the Dress Coordinator for ‘follow up’. Responses start at the ‘explanation and reminder’ level and move through warnings; DIN (Dress Infringement Notice); removal (and replacement) of offending items; detention; a specific ‘last warning’ letter home; and lastly, suspension from class.
Please note that there are a range of schoolwear items available for purchase from the Main Office that students can use as dress options. Please click here for more information https://www.mecs.vic.edu.au/Resources/Downloads/School-Wear

What is MECS’ approach to discipline?
Parents play the most important part in their child’s discipline, and the foundations of good discipline are laid in the home. MECS works with parents to support and reinforce the standards that are set at home, and in return, we expect parents to support our efforts at school. We tell parents about any concerns we have about their child’s conduct, and we invite parents to tell us about any stresses or changes their child is experiencing. This helps us treat their child in a sensitive manner.
Discipline builds character. Rules of behaviour are never an end in themselves, but a means of helping students move beyond grudging conformity to self-discipline. We teach students to respect one another. We want to help them grow into responsible members of our community, contributing to its harmony and wellbeing.
Misbehaviour has consequences. We have rules, for example, that protect other people, their property and our school. Sanctions apply when a student disregards these rules, and we try to apply these sanctions firmly and consistently. More importantly, we have high expectations for responsible and loving conduct by students. We are committed to working with students so they adopt these expectations as their personal standards. Imparting this type of discipline works best when it is demonstrated by example, and is accompanied by discussion and encouragement.
If punishment is required to help modify a student’s behaviour, we explain why such punishment is necessary and how it might be avoided in the future. If appropriate, the student will be asked to make sincere restitution and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with the person who has been harmed.
Our playgrounds are proof of the success of our approach. We rarely see displays of shouting, fighting and bad behaviour. Our goal of nurturing and encouraging mutual respect is more than just wishful thinking. It really works.