Traditional classrooms are a thing of the past at St Xavier’s Primary School, with a fresh collaborative approach.
Year groups were originally split into two classes, with one teacher each, but as of term one, the classes came together to form one class with two teachers.
Students and staff alike have taken to the model which saw concertina doors and walls removed over the Christmas holidays to join the classrooms together. The furniture was also replaced to provide functionality and flexibility.
Teachers in Kindergarten and Years 4-6 put their hands up to be the first to try out the model in 2016, with the rest of the school following suit this year.
Principal Jennifer Honner said the restructure was driven by the Catholic Schools Diocese of Armidale which has a “five-year plan” and has employed education expert Dr Lyn Sharratt for two years to oversee the changes.
“The whole point of it is that we get to know every single child in the school and where they’re at in reading, maths and so on,” she said.
Staff are now co-teaching or “team teaching”, a concept which has been used in schools before.
“It’s about using your data to direct where you’re going,” Ms Honner said.
"The whole idea of everything is to increase student achievement. And if you can build teacher capacity, that’s only going to enhance their ability to increase student achievements.
“I think it’s easier because there are two people with a vested interest in someone’s child.”
Year 6 teachers Paul Kokegei and Meghan Jaeger are in their second year of co-teaching and said though there were “teething problems” initially, they grew to love the change.
“Meghan and I have said, as far as teaching goes, we don’t know if we could go back to traditional classroom,” Mr Kokegei said.
“One of us does the direct instruction while the other walks around and sees who needs help.
“As teachers, both Meghan and I find it far less stressful because you’ve got another teacher with you to help extend them or help those in trouble.”
A chat with Year 6 students revealed they love the ability to work in a way that suits them, the increase in space and independence, and the flexibility of the classroom elements.
They even have the added perk of a small room off the classroom dubbed “the cave” where students gather for more advanced work or to get a helping hand.
“There’s not a whole lot that has changed,” Ms Honner said.
“It looks really different but none of our core values have changed.”