High School ( Years 7 – 12)

A Future for the High School at Perth Montessori School October, 2021


The purpose statement at the top of the page was developed by the staff of the school at the start of this term. It has helped them to restate their dreams and priorities for the school and it directly informs the thinking and redesigning that is going into the program for cycles four and five at the school.

It is clear that the high school must reflect the Montessori Principles that are serving your children so well in cycles one, two and three. To this end it must be respectful and purposeful, ordered and flexible, holistic and challenging and it must be personalized whilst also providing worthwhile pathways for students beyond school.

Whilst many students successfully move from their Montessori primary school to a traditional high school, there are those who feel alienated by the size of the school, the standardized expectations and their perception that they cannot be themselves. Furthermore, there is an increasing range of academic voices who are arguing that the current school system is becoming increasingly out of step with the needs of young people as they prepare to navigate their way through, and make a contribution to, the ever changing and increasingly complex world.

Perth Montessori School needs to re-set in a way that honors the journey of the students thus far but provides a fresh, credible pathway to the future. In common with Rockingham Montessori, we believe that pathway will be provided by adopting the design principles of Big Picture Education. Big Picture is not a curriculum but a design for learning; students in years 7-10 follow the Western Australian Curriculum and Assessment Outline but they do so in ways that are unique to them. In years 11 and 12 pathways to university, TAFE or employment are all provided but each student follows a personalized plan.


  • The Big Picture design for learning is based on students’ passions.
  • Students work to Individual Learning Plans,  
  • And they work on a variety of projects that they have designed.  
  • These might be Personal Interest Projects such as writing a novel, designing an app, staging a fund raising event, or learning about Ancient Greece.
  • Or Work-Based Projects done while oninternships with a mentor in the community. These might be building a bike, producing child care resources, devising a marketing plan.
  • Students collect evidence of their learning in a portfolio,  
  • And reflect on their learning in a journal.  
  • They regularly present their work at a public exhibition, which is the basis of their assessment.
  • Big Picture students spend their time in an Advisory of around 17 students with a single Advisory teacher, instead of travelling between classrooms to study different subjects with various teachers.   
  • As a result, they get to know their teacher and fellow students well and build strong supportive relationships at the school.

The Advisory teacher:

  • takes a holistic view of each student,
  • helps students to design their learning plan and projects,  
  • builds their skills in time management, self-direction, communication and reflection  
  • coaches them to expand or deepen their learning where needed.
  • maps the enquiry-based learning that students choose to do to the Western Australia Curriculum and Assessment Outline and to national guidelines.

Students also organise their learning around the Six Big Picture Learning Goals:  

Empirical Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Communication, Social Reasoning, Personal Qualities, Skills for learning.

In the past two years, with the support from the University of Melbourne, the International Big Picture Learning Credential has become available to students who complete year 12 in a Big Picture program. Students have already been accepted directly into university undergraduate courses on the basis of this qualification.

Families and community are involved:

  • Families are regularly welcomed in to schools to participate in Learning Plan meetings, and to attend regular public exhibitions of their child’s work.
  • Students ‘Leave to Learn’ by going into the community to do extensive internships with an adult mentor in a field of interest to the student. While there they do rigorous, authentic projects that have a real world purpose and end product.

Student choice is part of their entire school program, not an optional add-on.

The Big Picture Design offers young people the chance to:

  • design their own learning around topics of personal interest
  • test out potential careers,  
  • map out study paths, and  
  • design their own futures.

Encouraging curious, independent lifelong learners.
Empowering our children in an environment based on the values of resilience and respect.

Comments from students in other Big Picture school programs.

ABBY – Cooks Hill Campus NSW
“I can map a lot of stuff back to the curriculum – a lot of English because it’s a lot of writing,
a lot of science because it’s biology, I can do maths because I’m going to do blood splatter
pattern analysis which uses a lot of trigonometry, and yeah I guess history because I’ve
done the history of forensic science.”

Amelia- Wanniassa School, ACT
“I think it’s really good to give kids a chance to prove themselves and be like: This is what I can do,
let me show you!”

Jordan- Birdwood College, SA
“It’s very innovative in the way students learn, as if they’re not studying a sheet that’s been put
in front of them but they’re studying things they need for their chosen career path.”

Aaron- Halls Head College, WA
“That’s what it’s all about right? Getting the experience. Not just learning but experiencing what
you’re learning.”

Sophie- Hunter Sports High School NSW
“I’m still getting my science and maths and English, history, geography but it’s all relating to
my interest and passion [in physiotherapy].”

Comments from Teachers working with BP Design

Lyn Farrington- Campus Leader, Launceston City Campus TAS, 2011-2014
“We have a Learning Plan that each student develops, and that Learning Plan is mapped against the Australian Curriculum, sometimes by the teacher-advisor, sometimes by the student themselves, but always in conjunction with the parents and the mentors. So the Learning Plan keeps track of which parts of the curriculum have been covered by the projects that students are undertaking.”

Bronwyn White- Principal Halls Head College, WA.
“So it’s just a different way of looking and connecting the dots and because the dots are being connected in the students’ space, in what the students are passionate about, then they’re being connected so much more forcefully with so much more intent and purpose.”

Shelley Lavender- Advisory Teacher, Wanniassa School ACT
“It’s where teaching is growing and going into. I don’t think you can be so subject-specific anymore. I think you need to have a well-rounded view of how you deliver learning. Learning doesn’t happen in silos; science is connected to everything that we do and maths is connected to everything we do and English is threaded through everything …”

James Price- Principal, Launceston Big Picture (Demonstration) School TAS
“Because students are interested they take it to the next level, it’s not a superficial style of learning, it’s I really need to know about this because I enjoy it and I want to know how it is and how it works …”



Big Picture Learning, Australia, is the organisation that brought Big Picture to Australia close to 20 years ago now. Schools seeking to implement the intellectual property associated with the design become members of the association and draw support from them as they incorporate the distinguishers of the design into their own context.

In 2022 there will be one Advisory Class of cycle 4 students. Teachers working with this group will attend a five-day Foundation Course run by Big Picture at the end of this year or early next year. 2022 will then be a year of exploration and learning for the cycle four students, teachers and families. Students will continue to achieve the outcomes associated with the Western Australian Curriculum and Assessment Outline but will do so in a “Big Picture way”. The school will receive support from Big Picture throughout the year to help the school community to make an informed choice about the way forward beyond 2022.

A similar approach will be used to support the learning of any cycle five students who may be at the school next year. This would include accessing programs through the IDEA Academy, certificates from TAFE and courses associated with the West Australian Certificate of Education. Whilst the school will not be in a position to offer ATAR courses next year, it will be possible to prepare students for alternative pathways for entrance to university.



The website of Big  Learning Australia www.bigpicture.org.au  contains ever increasing amounts of information. 

The design is explained in a variety of ways, research reports and press releases are included and there is a collection of stories about the ways in which students are learning with Big Picture and their achievements beyond school. The International Big Picture Learning Credential (IBPLC) is also described and explained on the website.



If you have any additional questions, please contact Admin on 08 9362 3186 or email at admin@pi.wa.edu.au.

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