Despite the many privileges of modern society, statistics suggest that Australia is in the midst of a wellbeing crisis, with rates of childhood depression and anxiety currently sitting at an all-time high.
Lindfield Learning Village, a revolutionary new state school located in Sydney’s North Shore, is seeking to address this through its innovative wellbeing model, and parents are all rushing to enroll their children.
The K-12 school, which has already amassed a sizeable waiting list, disrupts almost every facet of the traditional education system; utilising a ‘stage not age’ progression model; and abolishing institutional symbols such as the classroom bell.
Stephanie McConnell is the Principal and talks to us ahead of the Staff and Student Wellness and Wellbeing Conference, outlining the six pillars of wellbeing that underpin the school’s unique approach.
The correlation between a student’s sense of belonging and mental health is well documented in academic literature, and Stephanie believes the connection is powerful enough to affect rates of depression and anxiety beyond school.
“It is our responsibility to build a sense of belonging within the school setting, to give our students the best possible potential for sound mental health, both throughout their school years and into adulthood”, she argues.
In doing this, Lindfield has implemented a number of unique measures, details of which will be outlined at the Conference.
Connection and genuine relationships
In dealing with increasing levels of anxiety from a very young age, Lindfield advocates mentorship as a means of helping students feel connected.
“We live in an increasingly alienated world, in which online interaction is beginning to replace face-to-face interaction. Those who don’t warm well to the ‘online world’ or who are exposed to cyber bullying often depend on their school environments to develop meaningful, genuine relationships. It is vital we take measures to foster these connections”, Stephanie says. She will discuss the school’s mentorship program in further depth at the conference.
‘Learning dispositions’, such as taking responsibility, persistence and effectively coping with change, are what Stephanie believes will ultimately help students achieve success and wellbeing throughout their education and adult lives.
“Content can no longer be the currency of education”, she argues. “It’s the application of knowledge that’s important. In our opinion, good teaching and learning involves connecting students to the real world and fostering life skills that will enable them to adapt and tackle new challenges with confidence”.
Stephanie goes on to highlight the ‘4 C’s of student wellbeing – Communication; Collaboration; Creativity; Critical Reflection – and believes a good recipe for student success is one which incorporates these alongside the knowledge curriculum. She will outline how Lindfield is fostering these during her presentation.
Personalised learning is the gold standard of teaching, according to Stephanie. But she argues that in traditional education models, it can often be difficult to achieve.
Lindfield’s model incorporates a number of mechanisms which empower students to develop their own skills and knowledge, including the negotiation of a 3-5 year learning plan in consultation with teachers and parents. The schools other individualised learning structures will be shared at the event.
“Universities don’t like the ATAR [Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank], yet we continue to use ATAR to qualify students for university. It’s paradoxical”, Stephanie highlights.
“A child’s ability and talents are so much more complex than what can be identified in an exam result” she adds. “We owe it to parents and children to use more comprehensive and diagnostic measures of student success”.
Stephanie’s presentation will share details of how Lindfield is identifying students’ unique gifts, to boost confidence and wellbeing; and to set the pathway for a more meaningful career.
Breaking down the institution
“In the 21st century we are still running an education system which is based on a 20th century model designed to produce, predominantly, factory workers. The language and symbols that define it remain very institutionalised”, Stephanie says.
“At Lindfield, we believe that, in today’s world, institutionalism is redundant and that student wellbeing is best cultivated by rejecting this outdated approach”.
Stephanie says Lindfield’s method has been about unlearning and relearning models of education in order to create a fit-for-purpose school; a method she will share further details of at the event.
Stephanie McConnell is among a line-up of esteemed school leaders and education experts to address the Staff and Student Wellness and Wellbeing Conference – due to take place 12-13 November in Melbourne.