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Templestowe College

Whose education is it anyway?

A whole school community founded on the philosophy of empowering students to manage their own learning and turn their ideas into reality. At Templestowe College "Yes" is the default.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Web presence






August 2017
Templestowe College is a learning community of over 1200 people who are focused on meeting our vision of 'to co‐create high quality learning experiences within an inclusive and supportive community'. Templestowe College, or TC as we call ourselves, is a Victorian State school in Australia that is regarded internationally as one of the most innovative progressive schools focused on student empowerment and student centred learning. We are a school that has moved beyond student voice to enable our students to show true empowerment and action relating to the way in which the school runs and that they have had the opportunity to have Taken Control over their learning.

About the innovation

What is Templestowe College?

Many final year studentsaround the world leave school believing that their education was “done to them” and as a consequence was of little relevance and value.

Within this context Templestowe College's (TC) student population had fallen from 1000 to fewer than 300 students. With only 23 Year 7 students, this Australian public school was under a real threat of closure only a decade ago. They needed to find a way to engage students and staff in their education system once more.

Now named one of the top 100 most innovative schools in Australia, Templestowe College has revolutionised itself by putting students (and staff) in charge of their own learning.

The school’s '“Yes” is the default' policy means that any request or suggestion from a student, parent or staff member has to be answered “Yes” unless it will take too much time, too much money, or has a negative impact on someone else. This has given enormous scope for all members of the community to Take Control of their on learning, and indeed anything that affects them at school.

TC has now grown to over 1000 students each with their own ILP, individualised Learning Plan. When students start at TC students choose one third of their own learning program, but once they reach functional levels of literacy and numeracy then they can manage 100% of their own learning curriculum.

As the school has no year levels, students interact and collaborate within mixed age classes. A student's journey through school may take between 4 to 8 years.

They have the freedom to explore their own passions and interests in depth and this personal agency leads to exceptional levels of engagement and achievement. Based on student consultation, TC offers over 150 electives each year for students to choose from.

TC has used the '“Yes is the default' test as a means of approving or rejecting student, staff and parent requests or suggestions for the past eight years. By having set codified language that is well publicised it gives all members of the community a way to talk about and evaluate proposals and has helped to create a sense of fairness, confidence and impartiality in how the school makes decisions.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


A whole school community led by student empowered learning. Mixed classes, flexible hours and ambitious project based learning: TC’s Take Control philosophy looks different from other schools.


TC currently has around 1000 students. Around 500 students have already completed their education at TC. Students are better equipped to Take Control of their own learning at university and early data suggests far higher tertiary retention and completion rates than the Australian average.


It can scale up quickly and doesn’t cost anymore than usual schooling. The model has already been adopted by four other schools in Australia.


Implementation steps

Explore the possibilities
Discuss with the Leadership Team and School Governance Body to get agreement.

Explore potential suggestions that people may raise and how they might be dealt with under a “Yes” is the default policy. In reality most (but certainly not all) of the rules that exist within schools are there for a reason, and removing them would breach the “Yes” is the default policy’s restrictions of “too much time, too much money or negatively impacts on someone else”. Remember that the “Yes” is the default policy applied to not only students, but also to staff, parents and even potentially members of the wider community.

Agree upon a timescale for atrial period to assess the impact of the policy is an option, with the duration of any decisions limited to that period of time.

Spread the idea and gain consensus
Share the concept with the staff.

Have them work through the same process of working through suggestions that students could make at a classroom or school yard. As an exercise, have them think about their own requests, assess them against the restrictions of “too much time, too much money or negatively impacts on someone else”. You will find it actually forms quite a robust test.

Implementing the '“Yes” is the default policy' at TC did not require extra funding or building. Teachers were enthusiastic because they went from teaching students who had no say in their learning where many students didn’t want to be there, to a class comprising significant numbers of self-empowered learners. Teachers themselves also felt more empowered because they were also permitted to “Take Control” of their learning and have their suggestions objectively assessed against the same standards.

Build the learning community
Bring in members of the wider school community.

Share the policy with students and parents. Emphasize the benefits in terms of increasing motivation, agency, autonomy, self-determination, engagement, empowerment and encouraging thinking creatively about coming up with solutions where people get what they want without impacting others.

TC staff, students and parents report extremely strong feelings of connectedness to the school with general satisfaction in the 98th percentile when compared with other State Schools.

Empower the students
TC has exceptional levels of engagement and achievement because of the students’ freedom.

The challenge of the '“Yes” is the default' policy is that it forces decision makers to apply the test fairly and objectively and in some cases approve proposals that the decision maker personally does not agree with. It reverses the “burden of proof” meaning the decision makers must justify why the request should be denied rather than the proposer making the case as to why it should be approved. The subliminal message is…”It is your education, not ours” and our job is to get in your way as little as possible. The good news is that knowing this clear test, most people carefully consider their requests in regards to “too much time, too much money or negatively impacts on someone else” before they ask, which is a great example of self-regulation.

Some students in particular are too harsh on evaluating their own suggestions, particularly in regards to “too much money”. The test does not require that the suggestions will take no money at all to implement. Schools have large budgets and some money should be allocated to enable student and staff self-determination. Some students will not put a suggestion forward because it might cost $200 to implement but could potentially benefit several students in a significant way. Encouraging this type of thinking does encourage more shared and responsible ownership of scarce school resources.

Spread of the innovation

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