Manchester Primary is a Prep to Year 6 school located in the outer eastern suburb of Mooroolbark, Melbourne, at the gateway to the Yarra Ranges. Established 40 years ago, the present school population in 2010 is three hundred and fifteen students. Overall, a strong, overarching emphasis on collaboration, negotiation and community displays an organizational understanding of the relationships within the school as the components of the learning environment. The school purpose states (website):
“To create an environment where staff and students collaborate in their learning, enabling everyone to reach their potential through an innovative and negotiated curriculum that challenges and supports all members of the school community.”
The curricular environment is a key element in the non-built atmosphere of Manchester Primary School. It is a stated expectation that teachers negotiate the curriculum and assessment procedures and class environment with students. Focus on organization is paramount and is spoken of almost synonymously with learning. This overt and explicit pedagogical positioning on the part of the teachers is intended to create and support expectations of agency amongst students from a very early age. Manchester Primary School has taken up the interdisciplinary learning goals of VELS in positioning Sustainability as a ‘cross-curricula perspective’, available to all year levels and domains. They have done this through student leadership, management and ownership of places around the school, maintaining consistent outdoor learning sites and valuing the ecological diversity of the school. Increased team-teaching is becoming an integral part of teacher initiated practice at Manchester Primary School. Furthermore, student expectation and capacity to engage in meta-cognitive discussion borne out of innovations at the school mean that they play a large role in driving the expansion of innovative pedagogy at the school.
The initial simplicity and traditional physical appearance of Manchester Primary School’s built environment belies assumptions that sometimes can be made about what might be a quality or innovative context. Rather than pedagogy occurring within the vessel of place, this school has conceived students, staff and the learning environment as constituents of agency and inclusive co-components to the ILE of the school.
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Manchester Primary School (pdf, 1.6mb)