Planning for the Future

Yesterday, the Woodleigh School Board and School Leadership Team came together to challenge ourselves about the future of our School. We focused our discussions on the future of Woodleigh and what we want our School to look like in 2030. A large amount of data and information fed into our conversations – collected over the past two years through surveys, focus groups, informal discussions and large staff workshops. This information tells the story of Woodleigh, where we have come from and where we are headed.

This information also drives our lines of questioning and planning avenues. How do we protect, amplify and clarify our uniqueness? How do we continue to be an innovative and creative school at the forefront of contemporary education? And how do we do this without compromising our history, philosophy and culture?

Yesterday’s discussion has been delayed three times due to COVID, so it was exciting to finally come together to discuss our core business of learning and define where we would like to be in 2030.

Underpinning yesterday’s discussion is a concept that will be well known to the gardeners and proponents of permaculture amongst us. The process is called Hügelkultur or German Hill Culture. Hügelkultur is the building of raised garden beds to mimic the natural process of composting in woodland environments. When a tree falls to the ground, it decays naturally, and over time, organic material builds up on top of the rotting wood. As the wood rots, it retains water, delivers nutrients to the soil, and eventually breaks down completely into wonderfully rich soil.

Hügelkultur garden beds begin with a base layer of logs, branches and twigs. Then layers of organic materials are added on top – grass clippings, hay, straw, leaves, manure, compost, and soil.

It is essential to pay attention to the base layers and the foundation to ensure you have healthy soil and a healthy, productive garden.

As part of our strategic planning process, we adopted this Hügelkultur concept to describe how we build a vision for Woodleigh's future. It begins with our base layer – the core business of learning. How do students learn in our classrooms and at our School? What is our philosophical approach, and what does this look like in the many and varied experiences we offer at Woodleigh?

How we teach influences how students learn and develop deep understandings of the world we live in. At Woodleigh, we teach concepts through inquiry. We are not a school that offers facts and figures for students to memorise and regurgitate for a test or an exam. We teach concepts through asking questions, challenging understanding and transferring this understanding into different contexts.

Conceptual inquiry is at the heart of our teaching and learning and also at the heart of our history. As Michael Norman famously said, “We ought never to do for young people what they, with a struggle, could be expected to be doing for themselves”. The struggle is at the heart of learning, and the challenge is a key ingredient to creating deep understanding.

Back to our planning day. Yesterday we explored the foundations of a Woodleigh education, otherwise known as the rotting timber at the base of our garden. This foundation layer creates the rich fertile soil we need for good learning and influences the amazing outcomes we see growing in our gardens. As we move through our strategic planning process, we will continue to refer back to our foundations and ensure that everything we do has a reason, a purpose and an intended outcome. The permaculture approach to planning will ensure that learning is always at the heart of everything we do, and deep, rigorous learning will always be our aim.

I invite the entire Woodleigh community to join us on this strategic journey. We will continue to look for opportunities for parents, students, staff, alumni and friends to have a voice and share the vision for Woodleigh’s future.

We will continue to share our stories as we achieve great things and watch our children grow.