Wembley Downs: Hale School redevelopment step into educational future

Y6 Hale school students Lucas Arnold, Thomas Carter and Zach Grant getting some fresh air as they do their school work on the new junior school campus. Photos: Andrew Ritchie
Y6 Hale school students Lucas Arnold, Thomas Carter and Zach Grant getting some fresh air as they do their school work on the new junior school campus. Photos: Andrew Ritchie

THE future of education is here and it is in Wembley Downs.

Hale School officially opened its $16 million junior school redevelopment on Friday and it is in stark contrast to the primary schools most people would remember attending.

There are separate buildings for pre-primary to year 2 students, years 3 to 4 and years 5 to 6, which centre around a grassed area and playground, and surrounded by natural bushland to create a village feel.

Junior school head Alex Cameron said it was designed to offer modern, flexible spaces.

Each building has a large common area to accommodate whole year groups, classrooms with glass sliding doors to allow for easy transformation and connection, a variety of furniture including a mix of standard and high desks, walls and desks that can be written on, plenty of windows to maximise natural light and each classroom opens onto a courtyard.

“I’ve had a number of parents tell me it’s a very calm learning environment,” Mr Cameron said.

“It provides collaboration, flexibility and a sense of calm.”

Students are encouraged to find a space they feel comfortable working in while teachers’ desks have been removed from classrooms and they now use a shared area for preparation.

Mr Cameron said the nature playground, an extension of existing surrounding bushland, was another highlight of the junior school.

“We let them climb trees, dig holes, build cubbies. Some of the creative play we’ve seen there has been amazing,” he said.

A learning hub that offers a virtual reality lab and breezy art room overlooking a lake round out the project.

The reception area includes two concrete artworks depicting a photo of Hale students taken in 1929, one of whom is a current student’s great-grandfather, alongside a photo of existing students.

Today’s opening ceremony also included a nod to the school’s history, with 1961 school captain Warren Lilleyman handing the scissors used to cut the ribbon at the opening of the Wembley Downs campus in 1961 to Education Minister Sue Ellery to open the redevelopment.

Mr Cameron said the redevelopment enabled the school to cater for an additional 120 students, including pre-primary for the first time in 2019 and extra classes in years 1 and 4.

“We now offer flexible buildings that will provide teachers with learning spaces that are responsive to the boys’ needs, the curriculum, and the contemporary and innovative practices of the time, not just the present but for the next 20 years and beyond,” he said.

“One colleague recently described it as ‘a utopia for boys to learn’.”