Why are we changing?
Last year, curriculum leaders at our school reviewed ‘learning at Northcote’ by considering the ways we deliver programs at Northcote, the learning experiences of students and the manner in which we prepare our young people to meet the future. We called this review process, ‘Realising the vision: Project Refresh. Now that we have completed the process, the model we have developed will be called ‘The Northcote Model’.
A Community Conversation
Recently, on 10 May, our Library filled with families and community members keen to hear about curriculum change at Northcote. A major driver of our decisions is the change we are seeing in the world of work, and we decided to base the conversation around this topic.
The main activity of the evening was a community discussion based on a number of reports produced by the Foundation for Young Australians. (See http://www.fya.org.au/our-research/ to find the reports we discussed and more.) These reports detailed the major changes affecting employment in Australia (globalisation, automation, and collaboration or ‘the gig economy’) and the risks and opportunities inherent in the changing economy. They also examined the kinds of skills that our young people will need in this new environment and the implications for schools.
While we know that learning can be an end in itself, and a source of challenge and enjoyment in its own right, it is incumbent on us to consider the world our young people will be entering after school.
Community members read extracts from the reports and intense discussion followed. Our Principal Kate Morris then introduced the main changes we will be making to curriculum provision at Northcote from 2018.
What is the Northcote Model?
In order to be the kind of school that can continue to deliver on our responsibilities to our community and their children, we have developed a new model for curriculum provision for Years 7 to 10, which we are calling the Northcote Model. The improvements we are making will be made in two stages. The first stage, which will be available to years 9 and 10, will begin in 2018. The second stage, involving Years 7 and 8 will start from 2019.
In the Northcote Model, learning at Years 9 and 10 at Northcote will be organised to provide greater student choice. Students will need to complete a set number of semester-long courses in each Learning Area over two years, however they will be able to select from a range of courses within each area, and have greater opportunities to select how they learn in their subjects. In addition, they will select six semester courses over two years from any of the Learning Areas, so that they can do more of what they enjoy, or, alternatively, choose a greater variety of experiences.
The traditional distinction between ‘core’ subjects and ‘elective’ subjects will dissolve, and all courses offered will be designed around the concept of ‘hard fun’, the idea that increased achievement is best encouraged in an environment that is both challenging and engaging. Courses are currently being documented, and the Victorian Curriculum is implicit in every choice we offered to students. Our Years 7 and 8 programs will focus on strengthening student’s academic skills and offering a broad program with clearly differentiated experiences in each of these two year levels.
When will the changes start?
If you have a student at Northcote who is now in Year 8, you will be part of our course counselling process from Term 3 of this year. Decisions about which courses a student selects should emerge from discussions at home and at school which acknowledge the student’s interests, skills and needs; the family’s knowledge of their child; as well as the knowledge the student’s tutor and subject teachers have about the child as a learner. With increased choice for students comes the obligation for us to be partner with families in assisting our young people to make ‘great’ choices.