Forty years ago on a hot, February afternoon, staff and students of St. Paul’s School Woodleigh gathered under a huge gumtree for their first school assembly. The founding Principal, Michael Norman, led the group in a discussion of the new school’s values, its identity and the opportunities it would offer to students.
Things have changed considerably in the years since then. Today, assemblies are held in the school’s modern hall. With the venue comes its stage lighting, sound equipment and projectors streaming videos of student successes and initiatives, films, trips and projects. What remains however, is the strength of the student voice, and the continued relevance and presence of the values that were spoken of forty years ago, values that every Woodleigh person, past and present, knows and understands: respect for self, respect for others and respect for the environment.
“We’re forty years young, we’re busy, we’re growing and I guess you could say we’ve had a bit of work done, but none of it is through vanity. Research and the needs of students have been central to each change we have made this year and will make into the future,” says Woodleigh Principal, Jonathan Walter. “And in this anniversary year there has been plenty happening at Woodleigh.”
In January, the long-awaited merger of Woodleigh and Penbank Schools was made complete. The addition of a second junior campus has created a three-campus Woodleigh School, one that cares for the learning needs of more than 1000 students. The two schools seem a natural fit, each focused on a holistic style of education, where learning happens everywhere; both in and outside of the classroom, on camps and excursions, in books, on court and online.
The rebuilding of Woodleigh’s unique ‘Homesteads’ has also taken place throughout this anniversary year. The new Homesteads, which are replacing buildings that served for forty years, are now nearing completion, and Woodleigh’s staff and students are very excited to move in.
Designed with modern teaching methods, sustainability, flexibility and quality in mind, these new spaces are transformational. For students, they offer more than any classroom the School has previously seen. They are comfortable, warm and inviting. Law Architects have created areas that are spacious and quiet – and each building is large enough to accommodate an entire year level, making large-scale collaborative learning projects possible. Technology is everywhere, from the writable surfaces, projection and sound equipment, to the advanced active and passive climate control systems which mean Woodleigh’s winter tradition of recesses spent huddled around a heater, will now be relegated to the annals of history.