ECEC Provider in Focus: Blue Gum Community School
The Sector > Provider > General News > ECEC Provider in Focus: Blue Gum Community School

ECEC Provider in Focus: Blue Gum Community School

by Freya Lucas

May 31, 2024

Blue Gum Community School (Blue Gum) is a small community-based, secular independent school offering education programs for 0-16 year olds located in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory. 


Influential philosophical reference points include Project-Based Learning, the Reggio Emilia experience, Big Picture Education, Slow Schooling, Nature Education, Place-Based Education, and Positive Psychology.


What is the history of Blue Gum Community School? 


The school opened in 1998 and is named after a robust  Australian native eucalypt tree. 


In 1998, Blue Gum Community School opened Canberra’s first Early Learning Centre. Families were quick to appreciate the benefits of the flexible, extended-hours Preschool for 3 year olds as well as 4 year olds. 


Pressure grew from families keen to continue this way of learning beyond preschool. As such Blue Gum now offers programs from Playgroups through to Year 10. Graduates then move into Canberra’s college system for Years 11 & 12.


When the school was established, it was at the behest of a group of educators and parents who could see the world changing at a rapid pace, operating in a school system that was failing to keep pace. 


Disappointed with the “mass-produced one-size-fits-all” approach to education, they formed a not-for-profit community group, Best-Practice Education Group, to explore better ways of preparing students for life in the 21st century.


What is the Blue Gum Community School vision and approach to learning? 


Blue Gum Community School’s values are based on the school’s Australian context, environment and inheritance, understanding the benefits of connecting globally – sharing with, and learning from, educators in other cultures. 


Blue Gum adopts a personalised, strengths-based approach to education where every student can be successful. 


“Our smallness is our strength – students’ individual interests and passions contribute to their learning community’s exploration of unlimited research possibilities,” information on the school’s website notes.


While inspired by research emanating from Italy, Finland, the United States and Scotland, Blue Gum is keen to develop a uniquely Australian learning environment. Blue Gum neither mimics schools elsewhere, nor imports ‘franchised’ educational approaches from other countries or from previous eras. Educators remain conscious of the dangers of becoming isolated and inward-looking on our island continent, so regularly search globally for new linkages and travel overseas to investigate new ideas first-hand.


“Yesterday’s solutions offer limited answers for today’s questions, let alone tomorrow’s. How can students learn the answers for tomorrow’s questions, when we have no idea what they will be? What do you teach students today, if society’s accumulated knowledge is beyond the memory banks of any one person, but can be retrieved at the press of a button via the Internet (with a much higher rate of accuracy!) Are schools to be relegated to showing students how to retrieve data? Is this appropriate, when students’ technological expertise often outstrips that of their teachers? Are schools no longer necessary?,” the school asks. 


Blue Gum believes “it is time to rethink the traditional schooling model. Today’s schools need to reflect the world around them – a world where people work with others on projects; where their initiative, creativity, research, problem-solving and negotiation skills are essential tools. These are the skills students need to practise every day.”


“21st century learning must be a dynamic and interactive process; this is the exciting and challenging research environment Blue Gum offers students.”


What is the Blue Gum Community School’s approach to educator professional development? 


Blue Gum aims to support newly-graduated teachers who often express disquiet about their confidence/ability to take charge of a classroom of students. 


“They have an understanding of educational theory, but its translation into everyday practice seems daunting for many. So they express a keen desire to co-navigate this new territory, rather than travel solo,” the school website notes. 


To cater for this group the school offers year-long paid Teaching Internships to new graduates, who have the chance to team-teach with an experienced teacher.


Are there any unique aspects to the Blue Gum Community School offer? 


The preschool program operates at a high ratio of three educators for 25 children, and uses hands on learning, with a priority on learning in the outdoor environment, to guide children through a series of provocations designed to stimulate students’ questions, deep thinking, collaborative problem-solving and shared understandings. 


‘Real-life’ investigation is the trigger for meaningful learning, into which early literacy and numeracy experiences are embedded.


To learn more about Blue Gum Community School please see here

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