The futuristic vision of education held by Greg Whitby, Executive Director, Catholic Education, Parramatta, has been turned into reality at St Luke’s Catholic College.
St Luke’s will be developed at Marsden Park in Sydney’s north west over an eight year period and will house a preschool, primary school, secondary school and high needs school for 30 students with an intellectual disability.
The school welcomed 90 students to Kindergarten, Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 students this month and will eventually house 2000 students. Foundation Principal Greg Miller (pictured above) said he has been on a steep learning curve since his appointment in May. From a secondary background, having been principal at Mater Dei Catholic College in Wagga Wagga for seven years, Greg said he has strengthened his appreciation for primary and early childhood learning.
“I’ve particularly come to a deeper understanding of the importance of early childhood education in this role,” Greg said.
For the last few years Greg has been an educational consultant with the Broken Bay Diocese, where he has extended his understanding of primary education.
It was during his time as a principal in Wagga Wagga that Greg, a Union member since 2000, learnt of the IEU’s ability to support its principal members.
St Luke’s has been designed to incorporate Greg Whitby’s vision for flexible learning spaces which supports St Luke’s commitment to establish a ‘new normal’ for preschool to post school learning.
The vision of the school focuses on students developing their ability to self manage, relate with others, collaborate, communicate, be digitally literate and think creatively and critically.
Spaces such as the ‘marketplace’ and the ‘hub’ within the school have been designed to allow interactions with start up digital enterprises from outside the school community.
“While this school will still fulfil the regulatory requirements of curriculum it will blur the lines of traditional education. It will value add and complement curriculum requirements,” Greg said.
“As a leader, I am obligated to ask questions now about ways we can facilitate learning experiences which will best prepare students for meaningful work and lifestyle in a changing world.”
“Greg [Whitby], like many, believes sticking to 19th century structures and 20th century thinking does not prepare students for the future.
“It is a justice issue if we are not preparing students for the future.”
Greg said the teacher would be one of many circles of influence in these learning agile and open learning spaces which will act as an enabler for students to increasingly undertake self directed learning towards project goals.
In the past there has been tension between the IEU and the Parramatta Diocese regarding the introduction of flexible learning spaces and the impact of noise. Many teachers have complained of voice problems in the open plan classroom.
Greg said the acoustics regularly feature in ongoing discussions about the each learning space as they progress throughout the staged building phases.
“This school will be about developing students’ skills rather than simple acquisition of knowledge. We want to support curious, Christ like children to become creative contributors and innovative problems solvers in a changing world.”
Some staff for the primary school were employed in October of last year and all teachers had planning days during Term 4.
As part of an extended school day, an ‘activities club’ will be a feature of this next generation Catholic learning community. The ‘activities club’ is designed to link in with the school’s day to day learning, but will be provided by staff employed separately from the school’s teachers.
No early childhood teachers have yet been employed at the school.
You can watch a short video about the school at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8xX1H24PKA