I envisage a secondary school that inspires children to take command of their own learning in a framework that offers both trust and support. It will be noted for the following features.
A most radical idea is there will be no separate English or Mathematics departments. Neither will English or Mathematics appear as essential subjects in the timetable. Every teacher is expected to teach English and Mathematics within the study projects. Literature studies will be available but not compulsory. All mathematics will be applied mathematics like accounting in Business Studies and the mathematics within Astronomy. Students will work with tablets, the 21st century magic slate and see their teachers as their helpful assistants, educational aids in the process of learning.
There could be up to five 90 minute teaching sessions in a day. These could include late afternoon or evening sessions where parents are welcomed to join in and participate in learning projects with their children.
Students will be required to log-in for 15 sessions a week, but these may include home study under guidance from a parent or mentor; community service with a community organization; placement on work experience; study visits outside the school; attendance at representative sports training; or at an educational class run by a private provider, a business or a research institution (eg. Dance Studio class).
Most of the learning in the years 7-10 will take place through discovery learning projects imbedded in subject disciplines but drawing on multi-disciplinary sources of information. Year 11 and 12 will offer more in-depth studies in matriculation subjects where there is a demand. However, as is already happening, these older students may also be offered extended periods of work experience, and TAFE certificate subjects conducted within the school or by arrangement at another institution.
The students will be encouraged to drive their own educational program. They will be guided to select areas of inquiry in which to major and then choose their remaining studies around these decisions. Each student will be allocated to a personal coach, usually one of the teaching or guidance staff, and meet once a week in a ‘house’ group of about 18 students from across the year 7-12 year range. They will also be directed to the assistance and encouragement of one of two outside mentors arranged by the school or by their own families. The mentors may change depending on the studies being undertaken.
The school will be organised around a number of disciplinary hubs each with its own open plaza with a number of labs or working plazas attached. There will also be an Administration Centre, and a Central Services Hub which houses the central library-resource centre; the counseling and educational guidance services; the school nurse, health counseling and medical assistance bay; the technological maintenance staff; and the canteen and refectory facilities.
The number of hubs/plazas will depend on the school size, specialist program focus and the qualifications and expertise of staff. My proposed design for a school of a thousand students shows six multi-disciplinary hubs – Creative Arts, Ideas and Language, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Health and Physical Education, and Business Studies. The plaza in each hub will house the ICT equipment with software and applications particularly relating to the hub’s disciplinary areas, but also providing web search tools with justified content restrictions as determined by the Principal and parents committee.
Creative Arts will have staffing and workshops/labs for Art, Music, Dance, Drama, and Film &TV. The Environmental Studies labs will be set up for investigations in Geography, Earth Sciences and Biology; while Physical Sciences labs will be equipped for Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy studies.
The Business School will have kitchens for Nutrition & Food studies; workshops for wood, metal and plastic fabrication, agricultural field plots and equipment sheds; and facilities for a wide range of other business studies using an investigative approach. There will be equipment available for projects on bicycles, motorbikes, and motor vehicle maintenance.
The Sports Hub will include staffing and ICT facilities for projects in sports science, plus access to playing fields, outdoor and indoor courts, the Gym, Swimming Pool and Assembly Hall. There will be provision for students to gain practical coaching experience and qualifications. Life Saving, First Aid and sports injury treatment will all be available for study.
Finally the Ideas and Language Hub will be more focused on the Plaza with little provision for workshop or laboratory areas. It is here that study projects will centre around History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Literature. Small computer labs will be set up for English programs in languages other than English – especially European and Asian languages. Remedial English and ESL (English as a second language) will also be provided as an option given a likely student demand in areas where refugees and new immigrants are settling into the community.