A bold new educational strategy is taking shape at one of South Australia's lowest-performing schools.
When people used to ask Bradley Drummond where he attended high school, he knew the answer might come with some judgment.
“When you tell people you go to Fremont, you kind of get that look,” he says.
“It’s just how we’re perceived.”
Fremont-Elizabeth high school, in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, had a history of low academic achievement.
Only one student from the graduating class of 2014 received marks high enough to go on to university.
Year 11 student Nyang Atiang, who has attended the school for three years, says there were also social problems.
“When I came here, it was kind of ok, but there were a lot of fights, and there was a lot of drama,” she says.
“When you tell people you go to Fremont, you kind of get that look.”
New principal Rob Knight says when he moved to the school from the Clare Valley last year, he quickly realised he would need to address disengagement and poor attendance if he wanted to boost the school’s results.
“One of the things that struck me very early on when I arrived at the school was the lack of aspiration of our kids,” he says.
“It became very obvious to us... in order to change things it wasn’t just going to be that one silver bullet.”
Within 12 months Mr Knight had put together and begun implementing a “transformational plan” to turn the school's performance around.
“[It’s about] letting these kids know quite clearly with the right opportunity, and the right support, they can be the equal of any other student,” he says.
The 2016 school year started with a name change to Playford International College.
A new uniform has also been introduced, as well as a later starting time of 9.25am.
Students who arrive early have the opportunity to finish off homework, seek help from teachers in a specially created learning lab or to socialise in the playground.
“That actually made it easier for kids to get here on time,” says Mr Knight.
Some, like Year 11 student Simon Liu, use the extra time in the morning to catch up on sleep.
“With the new starting time, I’ve been able to wake up about an hour later,” he says.
He believes that has helped his focus and performance in the classroom.
“My grades have actually gone up,” he says.
Some classes and the way in which they are taught have also changed.
In the lower grades, maths and science classes have been combined - and the students are streamed by ability rather than age.
Although it’s early days, Mr Knight says the changes are already improving learning outcomes.
“One of the issues that we’ve experienced at the school for a long time is an attendance rate in the mid-to-upper 60 per cent [range].
“This year, I’m really pleased that after a term, we’re above 90 for the first time in living memory of this school.”
But for students like Bradley Drummond, the school’s revamped approach goes beyond grades.
He says it has helped shed some of the stigma historically attached to the school.
“To have that negative thing taken away from our school is good.”