South Mel­bourne Ver­ti­cal Pri­mary School THE ONLY WAY IS UP

The $40m South Mel­bourne Pri­mary school, the city’s first pub­lic ver­ti­cal school, opened in Term 1 this year to cater for the de­mands of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - EMMA DAVIES

SOUTH Mel­bourne Pri­mary School Prin­ci­pal Noel Creece said the de­mand for a new school in an in­cred­i­bly dense ur­ban area led to the de­ci­sion to build up, not out.

“Fish­er­man’s Bend (ur­ban re­newal project) is on our doorstep which is go­ing to be de­vel­oped for 100,000 peo­ple,” he said.

“So we are that ex­per­i­ment – will a high rise school work in an area which is be­ing re­gen­er­ated from an old in­dus­trial area into a thriv­ing new ur­ban cen­ter?

“We are a Govern­ment school shar­ing the space with ma­ter­nal child health and com­mu­nity spa­ces, so the phys­i­cal foot­print of the school isn’t large. This means we have to be adap­tive in how we use the avail­able space.”

The school has been de­signed to be a func­tional part of the com­mu­nity.

For ex­am­ple, the front fore­court of the school is a wel­com­ing com­mu­nity space. This also means there are no fences, and with a tram stop 20m away, Mr Creece and his staff needed to be cre­ative to tackle the is­sue of chil­dren play­ing out­side.

“We have a grad­ual lease of re­spon­si­bil­ity to all of the spa­ces; kids have to prove they can op­er­ate in the en­closed space be­fore they get the chance to go out­side,” he said.

“The anal­ogy that I tell par­ents is that we don’t make cars safe by tak­ing cars off the road. We make them safe by putting ze­bra cross­ings in, en­sur­ing that we’ve got the lat­est tech­nolo­gies, en­sur­ing that we teach kids how to cross the road.”

The school’s large in­door sports court is shared with the com­mu­nity, some­thing Mr Creece be­lieves is an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with chil­dren and youth af­ter they’ve fin­ished school.

The ma­ter­nal child health cen­tre is an­other op­por­tu­nity to en­gage stu­dents and chil­dren in their for­ma­tive years be­fore school starts.

“I plan on hav­ing an en­gage­ment with par­ents and chil­dren from when they fin­ish ma­ter­nal child health, say 12 months old,” Mr Creece said.

This en­gage­ment in­cludes the 30 Mil­lion Words ini­tia­tive, which be­lieves 30 mil­lion words is the gap be­tween for­tu­nate and less for­tu­nate chil­dren learn­ing abil­i­ties by the age of 3 – a gap that can have pro­found im­pacts on lit­er­acy and learn­ing later in life.

The ini­tia­tive aims to re­cruit par­ents to speak 30 mil­lion words to their young chil­dren, build­ing their vo­cab­u­lary, de­vel­op­men­tal abil­i­ties, and so­cial-emo­tional skills be­fore they even start school.

Par­ents are en­cour­aged to read to and with their chil­dren, start stim­u­lat­ing dis­cus­sions, pic­ture chats, read multi-lin­gual books and en­sure their child in­ter­acts with other chil­dren to close the gap be­tween chil­dren born in for­tu­nate and less for­tu­nate cir­cum­stances.

“We don’t see these chil­dren be­tween the ages of 2-4 so the idea is for par­ents to go be­yond func­tional talk with their chil­dren and help de­velop their lit­er­acy and lin­guis­tics at this im­por­tant de­vel­op­men­tal stage in life,” Mr Creece said.

The school will also en­gage with young fam­i­lies through par­ent groups, a com­mu­nity li­brary and play spa­ces as well as kinder­garten where kids be­gin their for­mal ed­u­ca­tion.

From ages 5 to 12, stu­dents are able to par­tic­i­pate in af­ter-school and com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties and post school are welcome back into the com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties for sport­ing tour­na­ments and a range of com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties in the space.

Not only are there ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fits to be­ing part of a com­mu­nity hub, the school is also per­fectly placed to form con­nec­tions with lo­cal in­dus­try with St Kilda beach, the aquar­ium, art cen­tres and mu­se­ums, as well as cre­ative in­dus­tries close by.

“We’ve de­lib­er­ately gone down the line of STEAM, mu­sic and per­form­ing arts spe­cial­i­sa­tions,” Mr Creece said.

“Right next door we’ve got a com­mu­nity cen­tre which is will­ing to give us free use of their fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing a 1000 seat au­di­to­rium with state-of-the-art sound and video sys­tems,” Mr Creece said.

“They’re also will­ing to do­nate the ex­per­tise of their peo­ple, who will give us a hand on pro­duc­tions, ex­pos, and host­ing chal­lenges and com­pe­ti­tions in­side that space with other schools around the State.”

“Fish­er­man’s Bend is on our door step and that’s go­ing to be de­vel­oped for 100,000 peo­ple. So we are that ex­per­i­ment – will a high rise school work in an area which is be­ing re­gen­er­ated from an old in­dus­trial area into a thriv­ing new ur­ban cen­tre?”

The school opened in Term 1 of this year.

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