Merrylands East pupils go 'classless'

Working out: Year 6 pupils work on a task in their open-plan classroom. About 80 pupils and three teachers share the space. Picture: Gene Ramirez
Working out: Year 6 pupils work on a task in their open-plan classroom. About 80 pupils and three teachers share the space. Picture: Gene Ramirez

A "classless" approach to learning at Merrylands East Public School is allowing pupils from kindergarten to year 6 to hone in on their interests.

Principal John Goh had already removed the school bell and altered school hours to between 8am and 1.15pm, before Social Ventures Australia's Bright Spots Schools Connection program provided direct funding to make classrooms more flexible and open-plan.

"We've opened up the classrooms for team teaching, where children can work together or splinter off into smaller groups, have individual attention based on need or be challenged and extended," Mr Goh said.

"When they come to class there might be a short debriefing session with teachers, then away they go.

"That doesn't mean we don't teach literacy and numeracy. We still hold the core elements of a good teaching and learning program but complementing that are the 21st century skills we need to teach children, like working collaboratively."

Mr Goh said a year 6 pupil last year used class time to create a blog on acrylic nails. This year she has started her own e-shop to sell the products globally.

"Our children can access the web at any time, anywhere," he said.

"If children have a passion for music they can get on to YouTube and learn how to play the guitar or ukulele, even though we many not have a teacher present with those skills."

Mr Goh said a Queensland University of Technology survey on student engagement in 2013 showed more than 60 per cent of the school's pupils came to school for lessons.

"In comparable studies it's often a majority of students who come to school because of friendship and socialisation," he said.

"Our study indicated only 20 per cent came to school with socialisation as their first priority.

‘‘When they come to Merrylands East, regardless of their socio-economic status or cultural background, the children have every opportunity for success if they have the drive and put their mind to it.’’

Furniture to compliment the ‘‘classless’’ approach includes:

■ A wall painted bright green that doubles as a movie-making backdrop when a chroma key is used.

■ A cafe-style booth in the year 6 open-plan learning area to facilitate group work. It is stationed daigonally opposite a 3D printer and directly opposite a computer area for game building and research tasks.

■ Coloured tables of adjustable height, and leather ottomans and desks that resemble jigsaw-pieces. These can become a larger seating space or be used individually.

■ Custom-made whiteboard tables that students write on directly during brainstorming and other tasks.

This story Merrylands East pupils go 'classless' first appeared on Parramatta Sun.


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