Inner-city Education

Published: Sunday 15 March 2015

What are the opportunities and possibilities for inner-city education in Perth re-used CBD buildings?

In March 2014 CEFPI held a symposium at the Art Gallery of WA to consider what a city school of the future could be. We aimed to bring to light the advantages and challenges of inner-city education and lifelong learning opportunities within the city.

Following on from the success of the symposium a workshop was held last week to look at the possibility of retrofitting an existing city building as a school. The workshop gathered leaders in the education sector, collaborating in small groups of professional colleagues to design a hypothetical city school.

The workshop was an informal, fun, challenging and interactive way to further ideas about learning in the city. Participants developed education models and concept designs which generated new and innovative ways to deliver quality education in an urban context.

Held at the premises of Interface; Market Development Manager Brendan Hogan gave a brief introduction to the company emphasising their focus on sustainable production and recycling of carpet tiles.

The federal member for Perth Alannah McTiernan set the scene for the workshop by describing the growth of the City of Perth over the last 10 years and its changing demographics; with many more young families choosing an urban lifestyle and raising children in CBD and inner suburbs.

A sell-out crowd of approximately 50 educators, architects, product suppliers and school students then broke into groups of 6 to tackle the task of matching the table leaders brief to an underutilised city building.

In the space of just 90 hectic minutes each table discussed the table leaders education vision, selected a site and made strategic proposals for their chosen building.

Each group then presented their vision and discussed the challenges involved in the task. Interestingly all groups had little trouble jettisoning those components of a traditional suburban school that were available to hire or borrow elsewhere in the city.

Some teams grappled with the intensity of an urban site and its compatibility with young children and their parents expectations.
Innovative education strategies emerged inviting civic and business leaders to engage with students. This lead to proposals for hybrid buildings combining education facilities with cafes, rooftop cinemas, city gardens and shopfront exhibition spaces.

The afternoon concluded with some drinks and informal discussions of the days outcomes.

Thanks to Interface for their generous hospitality, Sebel for providing the furniture, all who participated and especially our table leaders:

• Carol Strauss: Principal Ashdale Secondary College
• Anne Fry: Principal John XXIII College
• Kathryne Netherwood: Principal Lance Holt Primary School
• Vanessa Aikins: Principal Rockingham Montessori School
• Gavin Nancarrow: Principal, Southern Hills Christian College
• Rensche Diggendon: Principal, St George’s Anglican Grammar School

Dani Martin

WA Chapter