Introducing a Brand New Learning Community

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Over the summer our Year 1 classrooms were knocked down. In their place, an open plan, flexible, free-flowing space took shape. We speak to Mr James Sweeney, Head of Primary, about the changes.

Please introduce the changes that have been made to Year 1’s learning spaces over the summer

Before the summer, Year 1 were taught in traditional segregated classrooms. Head up there now and you will find a wide open space and sliding partitions. Throughout the day, the partitions open and close to accommodate the movement of staff and students. It has been equipped with new furniture and resources and state of the art technology.

This is what we call a “Learning Community”. Several Year 1 classes occupy a singular space, and teachers collaborate to mix up student groups and utilise different areas. Teaching becomes varied, personalised and adaptable, and students are presented with different ways to learn throughout the day.

We involved educational space design specialists Fielding Nair International (FNI) to create this space – as we have done with our ECE and Y3-5 Learning Communities. They have much experience in renovating schools to support the values of 21st century teaching.


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What is the purpose of moving out of classrooms and into this open plan space?

The Learning Community philosophy is part of our school vision. There are a huge number of benefits to spaces such as these.

A key benefit is collaboration. The spaces improve collaboration between both teachers and students, increasing opportunities to learn from one another and creating a more cohesive community. These positive relationships, between staff, between students, between each other, generate positivity within staff and students themselves.

The variation, too, is hugely beneficial for students. They do not just learn from one teacher all day, but multiple teachers – giving them access to a range of teaching styles, approaches to topics and enhancing their sociability. Moving into different spaces is also helpful for concentration and enables students to approach topics from different angles with different groups.

It is also worth adding that our Learning Communities support our Co-Teaching model. EAL teachers, Chinese and English teachers are all available to students, and they have the freedom to move between groups, offering language support.


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How do these spaces help prepare students for the future?

Working closely with educational psychologists at Sothern Cross University, we formulated our Five Dimensions of Learning – a set of clearly defined skills that contribute towards life-long learning and achievement.

The Five Dimensions are: collaboration, self-regulation, perseverance, innovation and critical thinking.

The architecture of our Learning Communities helps support each of these areas, reinforcing students’ soft skills and, by extension, preparing them for success and balance in the future.

How have teachers been prepared for the new space?


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Our Year 3-5 teachers have already been working in a Learning Community environment for two years, and we have encouraged staff to share their techniques and understandings of the spaces. But teaching brilliantly in these spaces is a learning curve, and we encourage teachers to constantly review their practises, try out new and exciting methods, and collaborate with colleagues towards this end.

What is your favourite feature of the new Learning Community?

I love the way that the Learning Community can change from a quiet, contained space for focused study, to one that is free-flowing, creative, exciting and dynamic. They offer the absolute best of both worlds.

There is also something rather nice about the connection with the ECE Learning Community on the other side of a glass partition wall. Students are on a journey here, and it can be visualised in the very architecture of our school.

Year 1 are now settling into their exciting state-of-the-art classrooms. 

To find out more about our state of the art Learning Communities in ECE and Year 1, come to our Open Day on October 23rd! We are looking forward to seeing you!

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