Designing schools for the future North Coast conference

REPRESENTATIVES from a number of North Coast secondary schools met in Port Macquarie on Friday for a Regional Education Mini-Conference on preparing their schools for the future.

Schools in Port, Kempsey, Ballina, Nambucca Heads and Coffs Harbour were represented by principals, deputy principals and business managers.

Presenters included Matthew Greene from leading design and construction company, Paynter Dixon, who outlined design trends and the benefits of masterplanning; Anne Knock from Anne Knock Consulting spoke about what could be learnt from the world’s best educators; Simon Kuestenmacher from The Demographics Group provided an insight into the jobs of tomorrow; and Patrick Holland from McCullough Robertson Lawyers explained how recent planning laws impact on schools.

Mr Greene stressed the importance of masterplanning and re-purposing existing spaces in order to meet the changing learning environment and schools’ objectives in the future.

“All education sectors – government, catholic and independent – are experiencing a major move away from the traditional classroom layouts of row upon row of desks and a teacher’s desk out front to an inquiry-based, student-centred approach,” he said.

“The emphasis is shifting to providing a range of learning spaces, both indoor and outdoor, which support the learning task. The flexible learning spaces can be small or large, where students work as groups, in pairs or as individuals.

“In order to provide the necessary infrastructure, a number of options are available to schools, including re-purposing and infilling existing facilities or in rare cases, developing a brand new school.

Mr Greene said most schools had existing spaces that could be adapted to the new method and practice of teaching without incurring major costs or serious disruption to school activities.

“Paynter Dixon was able to successfully convert four standard rooms into three connected learning spaces in a Sydney primary school to support the school’s changed approach to Year 6 learning,” he said.

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