The local word on the Byron Community public school had been mixed. Those who rated it did so confidently and those who didn’t were harsh in their criticisms. The school stands exclusively as the middle ground between Steiner and Public schools in the Byron shire. I was therefore very interested to see what they had to offer.
Established in 1988 the school is situated in the centre of Byron on a small but very well utilised block. The grounds felt cosy and sort of quaint with the buildings framing a central astroturfed playground with a few neat play structures. There was a strong sense of order and that adults here rule the roost.
The kindergarten class, a combination of both preschoolers and and first year kindergartens was bright and the facilities clean and ordered. The walls covered in neat and appealing art works. Some children sat at desks carefully colouring in pictures while others were busy in the designated computer lab and a final group smocked up in the craft space. There was a small rack of ordered dress up clothes and a few toys. Despite the colour and appeal of the space there was something very bland about it, perhaps it was the order, the quiet and the calm. We engaged with no children and no children engaged with us.
Our tour continued to the very pleasant music room, the well stocked and cosy library, the art room and the other classrooms.
Unable to enter the classrooms it was difficult to grasp a true understanding of what was really going on inside however both Tom and I left with the same sense that the power here very much lies with the adult teachers. We observed the children standing in a line behind the teachers desk, sitting at their desks and a very strong screen presence. To put it bluntly nothing radical to see here at all.
Our kind tour guide was eager to answer our questions and seemed very proud of the school. One line however stuck with me. I asked about how children are supported in their transition into the school. The response was…The first year’s here are really about the children learning it’s not all about them, there are 20 other kids in the class! In an era where the success of child centred education is being acknowledged I was a little disappointed to hear this. When questioned about the use of technology our guide responded that the school is up to date with the latest technology and not afraid of it.
I wanted to like this school but I didn’t very much. I struggled to see anything that appeared different to mainstream education past the fact that children were not wearing a uniform. My dislike came I think more from my expectation, I was hoping to find a middle ground here and I didn’t. I would have been very grateful for some time in the classrooms to truly gage a day in the life at this school but I guess I’ll just leave the Byron Community School there.