Melbourne school’s online incubator turned lockdown into a positive

The Haileybury Incubator Program (HIP) hatched some great ideas.
Jun 22, 2021
Remote learning mirrors the way tech companies operate.

Start-up incubators are notoriously difficult to get into but Melbourne students got a taste of how businesses are being created and how work in the future will be done while the city was locked down last year.

Whatever form work takes in the future it’s guaranteed that it will be asynchronous, creative, team based at times and self-dependent at others, and through the Haileybury Incubator Program (HIP) the school’s Year 9s across all four of its campuses received some valuable experience of modern workflows which will serve them well at university and as they create their own unicorns.

Fortunately enough, learning in lockdown mirrored the way technology people tend to operate and the school took advantage of that when it formulated the HIP.

HIP is a stand-alone program and was developed by a cross-curricular team of Heads of Department, including the Head of Entrepreneurship, Head of Digital, Head of Creative Industries, Head of Personal Excellence, Head of Music, Head of Performing Arts and Head of VET.

“2020 saw a dramatic change in how we learn, live and work almost overnight. We know that both in their present and future, our students need to learn more independently than ever, work more collaboratively than ever and, most importantly, feel comfortable in the uncomfortable.

“The 2020 Year 9 students, like all students their age and across the country, lost traditional learning opportunities that add to their academic and interpersonal growth. We wanted to inspire our Year 9s to find their love of learning and give them the agency to choose and develop a project based on an area of interest for them personally, at a time where they were desperately in need of advocacy,” says Sabine Partington, Head of Teaching & Learning (Senior School).

Working with like-minded people, across campuses, students built a project around their areas of interest. And HIP 2020 gave students the opportunity to learn from, and connect with, industry professionals who shared their stories and advice on what it is to be future ready. Over the course of one week, they planned and created some outstanding projects.

Students were organised into cluster groups; The Artisans, The Performers, The Movers, The Carers, The Technologists, The Designers, The Speakers and The Influencers.

“These cluster groups were inspired by the Foundation for Young Australians report The New Work Mindset. We adapted these slightly to better suit our context. Each student attended a keynote presentation for their chosen cluster which gave them the opportunity to hear from, and be inspired by, industry experts who had made successful businesses or careers from their passion,” Partington says.

The program was run completely online in 2020 with 450 students across all four Melbourne campuses in the digital space and it was so well received that HIP will be repeated this year.

“HIP gives our Year 9s an opportunity to explore their creativity and ideas in a project they are personally interested in. It has given students agency and choice – and that freedom has been a development opportunity for some! They have learnt to work in a wide range of modalities which will prepare them for university and work beyond school. They have collaborated with familiar and unfamiliar peers, to create something which will be showcased to the entire community at the end of the year,” she says.

Haileybury is fortunate to have an accomplished group of alumni who could be asked to contribute their experiences and expertise to the program.

“Our Heads of Department reached out to their industry connections, and this certainly brought depth and real-world connection to the program. Students were very engaged listening to the keynote address for the program by Scott Millar (CEO of BOP Industries), who started his business in Year 9 and is now one of the youngest CEOs at the age of 20, working with huge multinational companies from around the globe.

“We also had a street artist, Adrian Doyle (Director Blender Studios), YouTube musician Alex Spicer, Mike Merren (Development Director of Big Ant Studios), Influencer Milly Bannister and Hollywood director Jamie Blanks, among others. Hearing from people who have taken their passion and turned that into their careers, expanded our students’ sense of what is possible for them now, beyond the school gates.”

Resources used included Zoom, VR, Microsoft Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, Canvas, Unity game development environment, speakers and workshop leaders (both face to face and online). They also gave winning project teams funding to kickstart their projects and spend time with industry mentors to help get ideas off the ground.

In 2021, they have spread the five-day program out across the year, combining a range of modalities of learning and collaboration for students – including face-to-face keynote presentations, small in-person workshops, online workshops and self-paced Industry Skills courses which are VET micro-credentialled units.

“Because we are a four-campus school delivering a One School program, it is important for the establishment of our character and culture that students collaborate across campuses. This expands their network beyond the students they know at their home campus in preparation for their cross-campus learning opportunities in Year 10 enhancing their community and support network.

“Year 9 is the first year of the Senior School program where they all come together, so this also enriches their connections as they move into their VCE programs. It is also important for them to develop their collaboration and communication skills both with peers they are comfortable with and others who are new to them. Watching them develop new friendships and connections is incredibly inspiring.”