Education in 2018: Campbelltown high school adopts village mentality

New way of learning: Joshua Doong and Phoebe Roth (front left to right) with other year 7 students in the
New way of learning: Joshua Doong and Phoebe Roth (front left to right) with other year 7 students in the "yellow" village. Picture: Simon Bennett

One room, 60 teenagers and three teachers.

It sounds like chaos.

But at one local school, it’s the way of the future – and it’s being embraced by teachers and students alike.

Rather than having a period of English followed by a period of maths then another of science, Campbelltown Performing Arts High School is combining all three in one timeslot

Year 7 students are the test dummies in a pilot program which has seen them placed in “villages” of 60 where they are supervised by three teachers specialising in three different subjects.

Principal Stacey Quince said the initiative aimed to “prepare students more effectively for the world beyond school”.

“We know that learning doesn’t happen as effectively in segmented subjects at school,” she said.

“We wanted to create a model where we could integrate subjects authentically and provide more personalised support for students.

“The three teachers plan and teach together to help students make a connection across subjects.”

There are two types of villages. One that combines science, maths and TAS (technology applied sciences), while the other combines English, HSIE (history and geography) and physical education. 

Other subjects like drama and visual arts are still taught in a traditional classroom setting.

Students in the village can work in a full group of 60, be split up into groups of 20-strong “tribes” where they get more personalised support from one teacher, or work in intimate groups of four called “crews” where they lean on all three teachers for advice and support.

Ms Quince said academic research had proven the model was successful but as far as she was aware, there was only one other school in NSW that had adopted a similar set up.

“I had the opportunity to visit leading global schools last year and I saw the model working effectively in the UK and US,” she said.

“Certainly other NSW schools are moving towards a similar model but the actual structure is unique to Campbelltown Performing Arts High School.”

Whether the program will be rolled out for classes beyond year 7 has yet to be determined. Though Ms Quince said feedback so far showed the villages were proving a success for everyone involved.

“The focus this year is to get the model as strong as we can,” she said.

“We don’t have plans for it to be rolled out all the way through to the HSC (year 12) but that’s five years away.

“I’ve been an educator for 20 years and I think this has been the most positive transition to high school of any cohort I’ve worked with. The students are really engaged and excited.”

Student Joshua Doong said he was a fan of the villages.

“I find it a lot easier to learn in a big group. With three teachers you can ask more questions and get different perspectives,” he said.