Vincentia High School's new principal

Ken Bates has always wanted an appointment at a school like Vincentia High School.

Mr Bates was recently appointed as principal of Vincenta High and he loves what his new school is about.

“I always wanted to go to a community school - a genuine community school,” he said.

Mr Bates comes to Vincentia High with an impressive administration background, and going into this 30th year as an educator he is looking forward to helping his students, teachers and staff.

He had been in schools, all in the Sydney area, with large catchments and he wanted a school like Vincentia and was even prepared to head to out west to find it.

His opportunity came after Steve Glenday retired. Mr Bates said the chance was too good to knock back and comes to Vincentia High with support from his wife Karen and their children.

He did a bit of research into the school but had a fair knowledge of the Shoalhaven area in general.

Mr Bates knew of Vincentia High through its sporting background in triathlons and the Coondoo mountain bike event but the school’s links to the community attracted him.

“I always wanted to be involved in a school that had that real community base and was a hub of the community,” he said.

I love the questions that make me squirm because it makes me a better principal and makes a better school.

Ken Bates

He said Vincentia High had a massive number of students and was growing.

“There are some exciting times coming and my vision for the school is in tune with the education department’s,” he said.

“Basically my vision is to create opportunities for students to achieve the maximum benefits and outcomes they can from their educational experience.

“We are a school that does give and creates opportunities.”

He is keen for his students to have more success in the higher academic levels.

The principal said Vincentia High looks after the wellbeing of its students incredibly well.

“What we have in place here is better than I have seen anywhere,” he said.

He also enjoyed his first meeting with the Parents and Citizens Association.

Mr Bates will act and make changes when and if needed and has an open door policy for both students and teachers.

“A student's voice is important to me and you also have to have a parent’s voice,” he said.

“I love the questions that make me squirm because it makes me a better principal and makes a better school.

“I’m the one who ultimately has to make the decisions, but all my decisions are going to be collaborative.”

He added it was important for students to understand they have a voice in their own education.

Vincentia is his seventh school and he will stay as long as he has something to offer.

The early days

We still make mistakes as teachers and I have learnt some things in the last few years as a teacher which I wish I learnt 20 odd years ago.

Ken Bates

The new Vincentia High principal started his career at Kingsgrove High School as a 22-year-old.

He said the first day was not daunting as he was ready.

“I did some prac-teaching as a student teacher and had made some mistakes which is a good place to make mistakes and learn from them,” he said.

“We still make mistakes as teachers and I have learnt some things in the last few years as a teacher which I wish I learnt 20 odd years ago.”

Mr Bates is always looking for new ways to teach.

He supports the ‘flip classroom style’ which is more along the lecture style of teaching.

“We give the students notes to go through at home and then we have an in-depth discussion around the content, rather than giving them notes in the classroom and waste time as they write them down,” he said.

He said the flip classroom approach sets a student up for a university.

Teachers can learn new ways to teach

Teaching is purely about forming a relationship with the student. If you can't form a relationship with that kid and that kid does not see you as a person that genuinely wants to invest in them then they will never learn from you and you will never get anything out of them.

Ken Bates

Mr Bates is a mathematics teacher by trade and even though basic maths has not changed in decades he said the way it's taught could change.

“When teaching maths we would walk into a classroom and start with a concept and we would build on and demonstrate that concept,” he said

“We would then give the kids some questions, work around the classroom and give them some guidance.

“There might be a set of 20 questions and they will get the first five or six done in class and you say finish the rest for homework.

“The problem is the questions get harder and so they go home and they have got no support, no assistance and working at home on questions that are a lot harder.

“What I discovered, a bit by default, is if I start my concept halfway through the lesson, I give my demonstration and then I ask them to do the first five or six questions at home.

“When they come in the next day we work collaboratively in teams, groups or individually if they want, but if they don’t know how to do something they can ask the people around them.

“They have assistance from everywhere and are not working on the harder questions in isolation.”

Mr Bates said with a subject like maths students either love or hate it.

He added the reason they hate a subject might be due to rejections or failures, which is not what he wants to see.

“I turn teachers and classes around by allowing them to have success through various methods,” he said.

Once a student succeeds and enjoys that success Mr Bates said a teacher can then start extending a student’s knowledge.

What he does is always in the student’s best interests.

“Teaching is purely about forming a relationship with the student. If you can't form a relationship with that kid and that kid does not see you as a person that genuinely wants to invest in them then they will never learn from you and you will never get anything out of them,” he said.

“Good teachers form relationships with students.”

He added a student would say their favourite teacher was the one they had a good relationship with.

Love of sport

I managed a whole range of things across the state and it created a pathway for me compared to being a normal maths teacher.

Ken Bates

Sport is another one of his great loves and Mr Bates comes from a background of family members in sport administration roles.

He was sports organiser at Kingsgrove High in the 1990s when it had rugby players like Anthony Mundine, Lance Thompson, Adam Peck, Willie Peters, Dean Raper and for one day had Gordon Tallis and Nathan Brown, before the Dragons grabbed them.

They won the state rugby league knockout three years in a row and had success in girls soccer as well.

Mr Bates was also president of the Kingsgrove area sporting zone, vice president for the Sydney East school sports zone and then on the executive committee for NSW CHS and treasurer for 17 years.

“I managed a whole range of things across the state and it created a pathway for me compared to being a normal maths teacher,” he said

After 10 years at Kingsgrove, he gained selection as one of the co-ordinators of the Pacific Schools games in 2000.

“It was one of the highlights of my career and there was so much ownership involved with it,” he said.

Over 4500 athletes from over 30 countries took part in the games and he did not teach for 18 months during this period.

Mr Bates was then recruited into the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 and ran street events - race walks, marathons, triathlons and cycling and was involved with the opening and closing ceremonies.

“That was an amazing time of my life and it was a very busy couple of years,” he said.

He then we went to Picnic Point High in 2001 as a maths teacher.

At the end of 2001, he was asked to take up a position to start the Matraville Sports High School and was employed to set up programs and get coaches on board.

He stayed at Matraville for nearly two years, did a stint with the education department in the corporate relationship and sponsorship section.

Mr Bates then reached a time where he yearned to head back to the classroom.

He taught at  Jannali High School High for a period and ended up at Endeavour High in 2006 as the head maths teacher.

He left Endeavour High in 2011 went to Leumeah High as deputy principal and then came to Vincentia High.

Helping keep teachers

It's not an easy job and I think a lot of people look at teachers and think I could not do that and it takes special people.

Ken Bates

Mr Bates also did work with the department with the Teachers Make a Difference campaign which was about retaining teachers.

“Teachers leave in their droves within the first five years and it's a shame,” he said.

“Teaching is a great and noble carer but some people get disillusioned about what the career is about.

“It's not an easy job and I think a lot of people look at teachers and think I could not do that and it takes special people.”

He had a role with Southern Stars which included a 30-second segment before a television ad break where teachers explained why they love teaching.