Waiting list as new Gympie school prepares to expand
THE Gympie region’s newest and most alternative schooling option, Mawarra Independent School, has been open and running since mid-May near the Old Bruce Highway at Kybong.
Taking enrolments for Prep to Year 10, Mawarra opened at the start of Term 2 under pandemic lockdown conditions, so was unable to officially open - with students on site - until May 18.
School spokeswoman Belinda Vaughan said yesterday the second term had been very difficult.
“As a new school we didn’t have the procedures in place that other schools had to start from, we had new teachers and new students who hadn’t got to know each other well,” she said.
“Also our school philosophy is one of hands on, real life and outdoor education, so this was very difficult to do over online meetings and paper packs.
“We currently have just under 30 students enrolled from Prep to Year 10. Our vision from the start was to be a small school by choice.
“In the long term we never want to exceed 100 students and will operate with multi age learning classes.
“We want our school to be one where the teachers know each of their students and their family well and we work together to ensure the whole child is developed not just their academic skills.
“Our school follows the Australian curriculum, however we try to provide it in ways that are meaningful and practical to the individual child.
“Our days include walks around our acreage property, literacy and numeracy lessons, integrated units and design projects and practical skills.
“The students are responsible for cleaning tasks such as wiping tables, vacuuming and maintaining the grounds.
“As a new school the students have been able to be a part of the decision making process, selecting designs for the play equipment, creating layouts for future equipment and garden, moving blocks, rocks and soil to make a mini creek for the junior students and garden beds which will become part of our kitchen garden program.
“Our intention is to grow slowly, next year we will expand by one class.
“Our classes have approximately 15 students, with one teacher and one full-time aide per class to give that individual attention to learning and to be able to provide the hands on curriculum.
“Our teachers are amazing and have worked hard through these unusual times to get to know their students and provide an engaging curriculum.
“We often get asked how our school is different from the usual, so we will be hosting a come and try day on Wednesday the 21st of October, 9.30-11.30am for families to see what schooling at Mawarra would be like for their child.
“Due to the current restrictions the day will be by booking only and any interested families can find out more information on our Facebook page. We currently have a wait list and will be taking applications for students from Prep to year 6 for 2021.
“Our first students have settled in and are really enjoying their time, parents are frequently commenting on how happy their children are to be coming to school and they don’t want to leave at 3 o’clock so that’s always a good sign. It’s been an interesting start but we’re settling in now and are looking forward to having new families join us in the new year.”
Mawarra is non-sectarian and is not affiliated with any other educational institution. It is an intentionally small, child centred school which offers an integrated curriculum in a multi-age, inclusive learning environment ensuring accessibility for all children regardless of ability or cultural background.
The school Facebook page says those involved in the establishment of Mawarra understand the need for an alternative approach to formal education.
“The current system does not value the whole child, merely their academic achievements. We believe that this approach disadvantages children and does not equip them with the necessary tools to enter adulthood,” it says.
“One of the fundamental principles of the school is the focus on educating the whole child. Academics are important, however so are qualities such as empathy, kindness, tolerance, resilience and respect. These qualities will be modelled by all adults within the School and all staff will involve the children in learning opportunities that arise.
“We believe in creating relationships between all stakeholders of the school as we see strong relationships as the heart of the learning process. When there are strong, healthy relationships, trust flourishes, understanding is obtained and pathways are opened,” the Facebook page states.
“Our multi-age approach encourages and empowers children to become independent learners with wider social experience whilst also working in groups and being challenged according to their ability rather than their age. A multi-age setting is also more akin to real life situations.
“We believe in teaching life skills to all children including responsibility, self-care and budgeting to name a few. The children will also be exposed to, and included in, risk taking. This may include climbing trees, lighting fires, chopping wood.
“Being outside in nature has proven beneficial emotionally, physically and spiritually. As such we will hold many of our classes outside.
“All students of the school are expected to be involved in maintenance activities around the school, such as: maintaining the vegetable garden and orchard, harvesting produce, creating daily meals, changing light globes, using vacuum cleaners etc. This daily routine will benefit all stakeholders and teach a number of life skills including cooking, gardening and cleaning.
The School is required to deliver the Australian Curriculum; however we will deliver it ways that are considered non-traditional.
“All senior students will be entitled to receive a Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) or an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), dependent upon their individual senior learning pathway.”