The Cottage School, Bellerive, Tasmania

Situated on the eastern shore of Hobart, the Cottage School is a small community based school of about 80 students. The school was founded 41 years ago by Sally Sorell, a local home based kindergarten teacher and a group of parents. The lack of homestyle options beyond Sally’s kindergarten, being the primary motivator to build one. The school began in a small cottage which is now one of 3 cottages that have been lovingly renovated into the school’s urban grounds.

Anette, the administration coordinator was our very friendly tour guide. Having seen both her children through the school and spent time working as a teachers aide prior to her current role, Anette knew the school very intimately. She recalled vividly the journey of the school from the days where classes were held squatting in abandoned council buildings behind the original cottage before these were torn down and turned into a carpark. The school’s history so rich with adversity and triumph, growth and community.

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The dress ups closet

Anette showed me through the 3 very homey cottages. The school is divided into 5 different learning groups, the kindergarten students being the only class not to share their space with another grade. The teaching spaces appeared warm and inviting. Each class has both a teacher and a teachers aide. Every Monday a communal lunch is prepared and enjoyed together. Despite only short insights into the classroom activity, the students seemed happy and engaged and the teachers very present.

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Kindergarten self portraits

The school’s fees are reasonably high and in regards to radical learning this school sits closer to the mainstream which Anette commented on being as a result from the pressures to conform to government regulations.

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Playground blocks

The older composite class were away on camp at the time of our visit, this being something that happens 3 times a year. Environment days are also a regular occurrence taking the students out and about into their wild island home.

The school offers students up to 3 periods a week where they can choose an activity from a broad list. Through this, students can explore their individual interests in activities such as craft, gardening and cooking.

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Despite its urban backdrop the school’s grounds were exciting and varied and our children were very entertained by the space.

Parental involvement in the school is not so common past the regular working bee. This didn’t feel strange based on the school’s city central location and the common workloads of inner city parents.

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Another school, another sandpit!

Anette, as the voice of our experience with the school, felt perfectly matched. Her warmth and welcome mirrored that which we saw across the school. Not trying to be anything that it isn’t, The Cottage School offers a smaller and warmer way.

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