Birdwood High School

By Kendrea Rhodes

There’s a vibe at Birdwood High School, one of pride and excitement—of belonging, community, and opportunity. Students go about their day with books in hand and heads held high due to remarkable improvements at the School. These were implemented in collaboration with students, staff, community, and the School’s principal, Heather Makris.

Principal and student leaders in the new amphitheatre garden

Ms Makris is in her fourth year as principal and has facilitated many changes over the past three years. These include initiating a contemporary curriculum structure following the Australian Curriculum guidelines and providing diverse pathway opportunities for the students. Ms Makris is adamant that running smaller classes creates equity and that as a teaching team, with belief in a growth mindset, school is transformational for everyone.

Student leaders said the curriculum framework, system and school life has improved immensely. Michaela Bain said that having structured lessons with specialist teachers and easy access to help has made a big difference. Mikayla Witter and Emma Mamerow appreciate the wide range of subjects available to them now, allowing them to keep their options broad and open for university and post secondary school pathways.

The School also provides Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses as a member school of the Adelaide Hills Student Pathways (AHSP). The list of courses covers trades and technology, hospitality, baking, hair and beauty, community services and health, agriculture and horticulture, animal care, and creative courses. Most of these courses are accredited to the student’s South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE). For more information please visit the AHSP website,, or phone Birdwood High School on 8568 5100.

Ms Makris said that the system at Birdwood High School is working for the students. This is evident in the significant increase in numbers of students completing SACE.

It’s not just the curriculum that has the students humming, the buildings and grounds have been renovated and improved too, adding to a general sense of wellbeing. Student leader, Jorjina Whitehead said that it used to be asphalt everywhere but now it’s green. ‘The grounds, gardens and refurbishments are really professional, and it makes you want to sit down and work!’

The School’s STEM facilities (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) have undergone a $2.5 million upgrade and, as recently announced, will undergo further upgrades. There will also be refurbishments to the gymnasium and other areas to accommodate incoming Year 7s to high school in 2022.

In July, students and staff at Birdwood High School decided to support Donate Life, an Australian Government Organ and Tissue Authority (donation and transplantation program). The students were inspired to support Donate Life when they discovered that Ms Makris underwent transplant surgery in 2019. The students created an inclusive program of events that ran like The Amazing Race on Channel 7. Student leader and Donate Life ambassador, Jarvis Neaves, said that it was a really fun week. While the focus was to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation, registering to donate and telling family of your intentions, there was an unexpected bonus. The event also raised money! The students decided to donate all the funds raised towards new machinery at Flinders Hospital.  

Year 11 Students during Donate Life Week at Birdwood High School

Ms Makris said, ‘After a challenging year of bushfires and covid-19, it was a relief to see joy. More than half the School’s students were involved in 22 teams racing around the school and having fun.’

‘Those moments will stay with me forever,’ she said. ‘The students inspire me to come to work and I want to give them every opportunity in life, knowing they will embrace them. I want them to believe in themselves and flourish.’

Birdwood High School will be taking in year 7 students in 2022, and in planning for this exciting time of change, the School will hold several community forums for the wider community in 2021. Please email to register for the mailing list. For more information please visit their website: or phone them on 8568 5100.

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