Manea Senior College has been recognised by the State Government for its excellence in teaching and learning. The WA Education Awards were announced by Education Minister Dr Tony Buti earlier this week, acknowledging the best schools in the State. Manea Senior College was the only school from the South West on the list, awarded for its “excellence in teaching and learning”. Principal Rod Rykers said what set his school apart was the focus on real-life skills as well as academic success. “We don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that ATAR is the most important thing,” he said. “It’s really important that young people have opportunities and experiences to develop skills so that they’re actually more prepared for life after school.” Mr Rykers — who has been involved with the school since its development in 2009 and has been principal for nearly a decade — has a range of systems that makes Manea stand out as more than just a secondary school. Part of this system is the weekly allocation of 160 minutes in the timetable for what the school calls “professional learning” which includes after-school trades, projects and clubs that give real-life experiences beyond textbooks. The school was also commended for establishing the South West Innovation Academy early this year, which “encourages students in the region to develop creative solutions to community issues”. The academy saw multiple schools combine to solve problems set by major South West groups, including the Dolphin Discovery Centre and the City of Bunbury. Mr Rykers said the school’s focus on preparing students for the real world meant breaking down the formalities of traditional education. “We have a first-name basis, we treat our students more similarly to an employee than a student ... we want to break the shackles on some of that, it gives them a greater chance to get into the real word as adults.” Education Minister Dr Tony Buti said the level of education in the region deserved recognition. “I am continuously impressed by the quality of education delivered to students in our State,” he said. “Educators and school staff consistently go above and beyond to empower young people and encourage them to achieve success in all aspects of their schooling.” Other schools awarded were Two Rocks Primary, Brabham Primary, Wananami Remote Community School and Joondalup Education Support Centre.