Testimonials

Testimonials from Students


The video linked below was produced by a student (Max) and posted to YouTube. It gives some of the atmosphere of the school.

Max wrote: After having spent [6 months of year 7 at another school], I was in dire need of a supportive environment, good people and most importantly; a fresh start. My brand new day came in June, I spent a week at Alia and knew it was the place I would be spending the next 6 years of my schooling life. This video is dedicated to the people who made that transition not just possible, but so enjoyable. Thanks guys, and a very merry Christmas to you all. I'm forever grateful. December 13, 2009

Click here to go to youtube to see Max's video

Max's other video on YouTube also features mostly Alia students




Some student comments:-

"Going to my old school felt like a chore. Here I look forward to coming to school." Giselle f year 7.

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"I feel free to express myself without the worrying about peer pressure." Josh m year 7.

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"It feels like the teachers and students are equal instead of teachers thinking that they're more superior. And you get to call teachers by their first name." Francesca f Year 8.

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"It's similar to my primary school but more fair. In primary school we only had meeting once a month and they had a morning prayer. They did appreciations but not concerns." Paul m Year 8.

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At my old school they had all these silly rules about socks and buckles. Out of school you don't have those sort of rules so it's not real. It's less hypocritical here. At my old school there were rules about having your hair up and no shoe strings, but the teachers did." Ella f Year 8.

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Testimonials from Past Students




[From a past graduate while at university in the year after leaving Alia. She spent about 2 years at Alia.]
Dear Bob and the rest of the gang,

I just wanted to say thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to attend Alia. If it hadn't been for you guys, I'm not entirely sure where I'd be, but I know for certain that I would not be nearly as happy as I am now. I consider my move to Alia as one of the best choices I've ever made, and will always consider it as one of the happiest memories of my (still very short) life. You guys provided me not only an education I could actually enjoy, but it also provided me with a community, a sense of belonging and some much needed chicken soup for my soul.

If you ever need any help with the school, please let me know and I'll do all I can to help. I'm loving Uni, and I wouldn't be the person I am today, or where I am today, without your efforts and visions ... so basically, thankyou, with all my heart.

Love and tickles,
[...]



[From a year 10 student on her last day before moving interstate.]
Dear Bob,

I thank you for the most important thing in my life: who I am.

Without the school you have created I would be lost. If I hadn't found Alia I'm not sure where I'd be today.

So what I ask is to keep Alia running the way it has for me in order to make other young people like I was bloom into the amazing people they have such potential to be.

Thanks
♥ from Ella



Dear Bob etc.

I just wanted to write a letter to let you know how much I appreciate all that you and Alia did for me as a person and as a student.

When I came to the school in 2003 I’d had such a hard time at my previous three schools that I felt Alia would be my last hope. I was so disillusioned by the useless conformities of such things as uniforms, detentions, etc. that I’d experienced with the other schools. They seemed to serve no other purpose than to squeeze us all into a mould, to make it easier for the teachers to teach us as a group. So often I would finish my work early or, find the work we were doing too easy, and the teachers had nothing to offer me in terms of further learning. I would just sit there aimlessly until the end of the period only to do the same thing in the next class. When I would approach a teacher about not being challenged by the curriculum they had no idea what my problem was, seeing as I was getting top grades. None [of] it made any sense to me and no one was willing to explain to me why things were the way they were.

But Alia changed all of this. From my first day walking into the school grounds I knew things were going to be different. As is tradition at Alia, we all gathered for a meeting in the Great Hall. All of us that were new were introduced to the group and, though I went red from embarrassment, it also gave me a very warm feeling. The meeting consisted of important announcements, any concerns people (students or teachers) wanted to raise and a lot of storytelling about people’s holidays. I felt so comfortable and a part of something.

I spent my last three years of high school at Alia College. Almost from the first day I began getting involved in things such as organising musical productions, school camps, etc. I felt so liberated by the freedom and trust we were given by the teachers to pursue our own projects. But this is not to say that the freedom didn’t come without responsibility. I remember once a friend of mine was organising a camp and it came to the day that we were meant to be leaving. There were approximately 50 students with their luggage and parents milling around in the car park waiting for the buses which were already late. When the bus did finally arrive we realised they’d sent something not sufficient to take all of us. Me and my friend ran inside and, with the receptionist, began calling bus companies frantically to see what we could rustle up last minute. Eventually we organised something and were off to camp only about 2 hours later than planned. We never screwed up the buses again for the whole time I was at Alia! This was just one experience that shows we were given the room to learn from our mistakes the hard way, not unlike adult life. In the end the teachers were always there to back us up and offer support but it was very important that in some ways they kept their distance and didn’t baby the students so that we were able to learn some life lessons earlier than most.

Throughout my time at Alia ... I had a lot of family issues. I feel that having been at Alia during this period was very important. A lot of children/teenagers see their parents go through divorce but I feel [my] experience was in some ways a little more difficult than your average. The first year I was having these problems at home I was at my third high school. I did about 4 months of counselling with the student counsellor there and what did I gain? A bunch of pamphlets and phone numbers. The only reason I kept going was because it was slightly better than the classes where I was learning nothing. I can’t even begin to explain how different Alia was in this respect. It truly felt as though I was surrounded by a group of wise and generous friends who I knew would always listen when I wanted to talk. Often I would spend a whole lunch time speaking with a teacher about these things, definitely not something in their job description. A few times I cried but I wasn’t at all embarrassed, there was no awkwardness between teacher and student. I guess for me this exemplified another very valuable trait of Alia College. I realised from my very early days there that for the teachers on board they were not there simply to ‘do their job’. They came to school with an open mind and open ears and were always willing to try something new or do something extra to help a student achieve all that they were capable of. This is something I have never seen or heard of from any other school.

And I haven’t even got to the learning [side] of things! Classes at Alia were so invigorating and engaging that many of us would go early and finish late because we got so caught up in them. This was especially the case for me in math where Bob taught me. I had never been particularly good at math. That is not to say that I failed but, at my other schools, I had passed by learning the formulas instead of gaining a genuine understanding of the material. When I’ve spoken to students of other schools, 90% would say that that IS what math is. But here, once again, is where Alia differed. Alia’s main goal was never purely for its students to get good scores, but for them to actually learn something. This may sound like a silly distinction, that these two should go hand in hand, but believe me they don’t. Bob and I spent countless hours outside of class time going over and over things in a million different ways because he was determined for me to see the logic and practicality of math. He would always relate it to a real life situation which made a big difference in understanding a page of numbers and formulas for a student whose strength has always been the humanities. ... He invoked in me both a passion for learning and the realisation that nothing is impossible, as long as you want it bad enough.

... I achieved an ENTER score of 92.25 and also gained some valuable life lessons and a group of indispensable friends. Alia is an example of [one of] those few institutions left that is able to cater for both the individual and the group and I feel that, in all parts of life, this is very important. Once I have my career established and a stable enough income, I plan to donate as much spare money as I can to Alia to further its mission in the education system to do things differently and get it right.

I am very happy for this letter to be read by any prospective student as I only want Alia to continue to grow. Yours faithfully, Danielle
(f) 2005 Graduate

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Alia College changed my life and renewed my belief in education. - Published in the Herald Sun, Friday, June 8, 2007

Kat G. (f) a student at Alia from 1999 to 2003.

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Another student testimonial focussed on Japanese language is in the Languages page.


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Testimonials from Parents



Many of the following comments contain information which is a bit too personal or interesting, so the names have been coded.


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To Alia College Staff,
Thank you. For the first time since starting Secondary School, two years ago, my son was smiling when I dropped him off for school. [My son] has been a constant target for bullies most of his primary school years and all of his time in secondary school. He is a very sensitive child and suffered severe anxiety due to the bullying.

[My son] is an extremely intelligent boy but was having trouble succeeding due to his fear of attending school.

I have had him to several psychologists including the school refusal program which have helped on a temporary basis.

Since starting his trial at Alia, he has become a different child. He is happy, relaxed and eager to get to school.

I would like to thank all at Alia for allowing [my son] a chance to concentrate on his education rather than just the fear of attending school.

You really do have a great school and I now have hope that [my son] will be able to grow as a productive member of society and not an anxious child living in fear.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Kind Regards
DG

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Hi Bob, Just dropping you a note to say that you and your staff are doing a fantastic job at Alia. DDD is continuing to grow mentally and emotionally. I wonder if he will ever want to leave Alia.
[ ... admin matter ... ]
I look at DDD and know that he is so happy at Alia and when I talk to the other friends whose children are at other schools I'm so grateful we found your school. ...

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I thought you might be interested in a progress report of [my son's] achievements and progress since arriving in Perth, which I believe came about because of the confidence and self belief you instilled in him during his 1 1/2 years spent at the school.

[My son] auditioned for a drama and music theatre scholarship at John Curtin College of the Arts, which is not only a very sought after, but prestigious placement, that over 2000 students apply for every year.

He was chosen as one of 50 only students to be able to secure a placement and now has a busy schedule in addition to his academic studies of singing, drama, dance and instrumental tuition.

If this was not enough to be elated about he has excelled in his academic studies to the point that he has risen from pathway 2 to the gifted student AEP program in math and science within first term.

Whilst in pathway 1 for humanities, consideration is also now being made for entry to the AEP program. [My son] had indicated to me that he felt less than challenged academically and he questioned the learning approach to subjects, as it was so boring, in his words, in comparison to Alia.

I must admit I never quite realised the level of accellerated learning, the teaching style and the encouragement of student inquiry that was the basis of Alia College. [My son] in all subjects has indicated that he did much of the work at present with you last year.

The feedback from [his] teachers is one of a student that loves to learn, endeavours to achieve his best and whilst loud at times (this is no surprise) is a breath of fresh air in the classroom. [VH]


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As we think you have discovered he is quite a bright kid, who has never found any difficulty coping with schoolwork. As such it is gratifying to see him being challenged and so enthusiastic to boot! (He has expressed genuine disappointment at not being able to attend school during the holidays). [SSM]

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"I haven't seen him happy like this for years. He's now talking so much at home. I wish I had found you sooner." [KZ]

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Since beginning at the college less than four months ago our son has regained his thirst for knowledge. He left his previous school at the end of last year feeling lost within the education system. He had little respect for most teachers, little respect for the education system and was losing respect for himself.

He was a bright boy, intellectually and personally, until approximately four years ago.

Since coming to Alia College at the beginning of the year [our son] has become much happier. He once again reads for pleasure. I am not sure if you can appreciate how I felt when one afternoon I could not find him, he was not at the computer, in front of the TV or at the Playstation. I went looking for him and found him in his bedroom READING A BOOK. I was even more delighted when I found out he was doing it for pleasure and not because we it was a required text for school. He had probably not read a book for pleasure for about three or four years.

He now enjoys school, he is happy to go to school each morning and he no longer begs for a day off. He respects teachers because they respect him and the other students. He has much more interest in his school work. He is much more talkative at the dinner table - he even tells us what he did at school and we find it interesting. (I must confess that I am sometimes jealous because I am unable to attend the classes.)

I truly believe that [P] would have been lost and discarded within the state education system. His previous school had thought him to have a learning disability and to some extent he did. It was boredom combined with a sense of injustice in the way that teachers responded to certain types of students and the way the teachers were demanding respect but did not give it. [P]'s "learning disability" was also born out of not being able to fully express himself, which now thankfully at Alia he is encouraged to do freely.

I finish this letter by thanking you for providing a place of learning that encourages and respects diversity and that teaches our young people respect for themselves, their peers and their teachers. Yours in gratitude and respect. [jw]


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Going to school has always been an irksome duty for my son [Q] until he transferred to Alia College. Now he is happy to travel an hour each way to attend school. The students at Alia are remarkably friendly, open and well adjusted. The teachers have each student's best interests at heart and educate them with encouragement, enthusiasm, humour and wisdom. The atmosphere is one of cameraderie that fosters in the growing child, positive self-development and a desire for learning. Discipline is gentle but firm and the school promotes high academic standards.

[Q] has a [minor but very noticeable deformity] and at his previous schools he was cruelly teased because of it. Over the years the cumulative effect of this was to seriously undermine his confidence and his self-esteem. There has been non of that at Alia College. The students have all accepted and welcomed [Q] into the group.

I believe Alia College provides an excellent educational experience for its students that will help them to "find their way" in life and to succeed in whatever they choose to do. yours sincerely, [FIQ]

[PS: Q was later able to have corrective medical treatment for his physical problem]

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My son, SS, is currently at Alia. His primary school education was at BBB where he was self-assured, happy and received a great early education. At the instigation of the School Inspector his IQ was tested, he was considered to be “gifted” and it was recommended that he moved up two grades.

At the conclusion of primary school, he enrolled at WWW High School. There, he found a culture of bullying, lack of respect and lack of control by staff.

At SS’s request, in Year 8 he enrolled at XXX Grammar to join a close friend. XXX was the opposite to WWW to an extreme. Far too hierarchical, too authoritarian, too much pressure and too much depression amongst pupils. SS virtually “crumbled” under this environment and became unhappy and “withdrawn” to such a degree that he required weekly psychological counselling.

On the recommendation of his clinical psychologist, SS enrolled at Alia mid-term in Year 9. SS’s transformation has been remarkable.

In an open and positive environment, he is now confident, self assured and focused. He says that this is the happiest year of his life.

Alia is not a mainstream school. However, it does offer a wonderful opportunity to a minority of the population (who wish to pay for it) for their children to be educated in a positive, open and caring environment without the boundaries of discipline which need to be applied in a larger mainstream school.

We are not laissez faire parents. My wife was a teacher at a Melbourne secondary school and frequently calls at Alia and meets briefly with teachers and students.

I have always maintained a strong interest in the educational system through having four older children involved in the profession at a professional, principal and teaching level and being a participant in several parent organisations. Yours faithfully,
Parent 2007


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Dear Bob,

As an associate of the school through projects at the local community radio station 3 SSR (2000-02), and as a tutor to one of your students, I feel I can speak as a close observer yet with a suitable detachment.

I support your philosophy of common sense and engagement with pupils over ‘black letter law’ type rules. Not all students are suited to the freedoms Alia provides, but for the majority it is an intellectual and moral growth promoter. Alia is a fine example of what a school system with diverse philosophies and practices can produce.

‘Horses for courses’ is a fine aphorism, it applies very well to education. There is a need for a school like Alia – with high academic standards, a focus on self-discipline and encouragement in building the pupil’s own moral compass.

If you or the school require any forms of support or endorsement I would happily sign up. Please feel free to quote from this letter.
I remain,
Yours Sincerely,
T.E. Warner
Secretary of the Australian Adam Smith Club

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