Revitalised site gives birth to a flourishing new learning community amid the COVID challenges

Published: Wednesday 4 November 2020

On 22 October LE SA held a fully booked site visit to the newly established McAuley Catholic Community School.

This event, which closely followed a highly engaging SA produced webinar focussed on the learnings from education through the pandemic, proved to show that the provision of well-resourced flexible learning spaces, with great connections to the external environment, are enabling learning to flourish through the COVID era.

Built on the site of the former Marymount Middle School, a girls school now integrated into the nearby Sacred Heart Middle School, McAuley Community School and the associated Alive Early Learning Centre opened for students in January 2020 for enrolments from birth to Year 6. Through the year enrolments have grown to 350 in the school and 90 in Early Learning. Marianne Loftus (Acting Principal), Alice Dunlop (Acting Deputy) and Paul Hanna (Alive Director) shared their experiences in moving to a new school founded on the principle of individualised learning with Reggio Emilia foundations.

The Architect, Kon Michael from Swanbury Penglase, described the approach to the design. Particular aspects of the two level design which support flexible learning are the four dedicated learning neighbourhoods for the Primary cohorts of Reception, Years1&2, 3’s, 4’s, 5&6 which each feature a large common learning area subdivided into communal areas and smaller learning zones by joinery elements rather than walls. All learning neighbourhoods are resource-rich and include maker spaces, tiered presentation spaces and video green screens to facilitate engagement through multiple modes of learning.  Most learning neighbourhoods open onto their own external learning space sheltered from the prevailing seaside south westerlies. The east west axis affords ample north and south light and views to the adjacent community playing fields and the river themed landscaping and nature play space that winds through the site, echoing the nearby Brighton jetty and coastal dunes.

The ample sheltered links and covered courtyard facilitate movement through the 6 Star Green Star rated facility to the extent that the transition between indoors and outdoors feels seamless.

No doubt, opening a school in 2020 has involved many unanticipated twists and turns for students and staff alike. McAuley’s experience so far suggests that the journey has been well worth it.

Thanks to our Sponsors for this event, Woods Furniture and Interface, and we look forward to winding up 2020 with more great local events.

Article written by Andrew Gehling

Images supplied by McAuley Community School