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NSW Department of Education and Communities

Curriculum support for NSW Public Schools

Lucas Heights Community School

Lucas Heights Community School students 3

Context

Lucas Heights (or Barden Ridge, as the local suburb prefers to be known) is located on the southern fringe of the Sydney suburban sprawl. It is a long way from the city, both geographically and culturally. Predominantly Anglo, this is one of the least multicultural areas of Sydney. Meagre public transport contributes to the sense of isolation. Despite the conspicuous affluence of the district, there is no theatre or art gallery, or even a cinema or book store, within cooee. The English team has adopted the long-standing mission of taking every opportunity to bring our students into the real world and to bring the real world to our students, a philosophy reflected in our programs.

Lucas Heights Community School is unique: it is the only K-12 State school in the Sydney metropolitan area. It has one K-12 principal. There are K-12 staff and executive meetings. A range of programs, including a wonderful whole-school reading program, override the traditional K-6 and 7-12 barriers.

Other features include a Special Unit catering for students with physical disabilities (largely integrated into mainstream classes), a strong welfare program (with a focus on recognising and rewarding positive behaviour and achievement), a huge K-12 library with two dynamic teaching librarians, a well-resourced performing arts program and a fine reputation for its achievements in public speaking and debating.

The students are mostly organised into mixed ability classes, although Year 7 and 8 extension classes have been piloted in 2004, and it is likely that such classes will be added in Years 9 and 10. Students tend to perform at above State average in ELLA and at least at State average in SC and HSC.

At eleven years of age, Lucas Heights Community School is a new kid on the educational block. It is not old enough to be bogged down in traditions. This factor, along with the dynamic leadership, may explain the freer, less conservative, educational tone of the school. For instance, LHCS has grown up with the concept of outcomes (so the new syllabuses, in this sense, have not posed a major problem) and has always been viewed as a lighthouse school in its assessment practices. Even the staff tends to be younger than the local mean - the English team, for example, averages out to a svelte 35! The buildings, set in an attractive bushland setting, are still in top condition and the facilities are certainly the envy of other schools. Youth clearly has its advantages!

Co-educational and (proudly) comprehensive, Lucas Heights Community School has a total population of about 1200. However, only about half these students are in secondary, so the school has retained a warm and friendly atmosphere.

In all, Lucas Heights Community School is a happy and exciting place to learn and work. Not without its challenges - but then maybe that just brings out the best in staff and students alike

Lucas Heights Community School students 2

Project team

Speaking of the best, here it is - the English team:

  • Michael Murray, English Head Teacher
  • Sarah Fisher
  • Peter New
  • Karlie Puntoriero
  • Iskra Spencer
  • Heather Hill

The process

The English team planned programs for Year 7 and 8 in 2003. We are having fun teaching these programs now in 2004. Of course, we are still refining, and even modifying, these programs even as we teach them, but we have always taken a very flexible approach to the implementation of programs.

The team has adopted an ambitious goal to develop all Year 9 and 10 programs by the end of 2004, ready for teaching next year. The experience of programming for Years 7 and 8 last year has taught us the necessity of following an effective and well-organised plan to help us reach this goal.

Lucas Heights Community School students 1

The project

The model Stage 5 unit prepared by the English team is a study of the mass media, focusing on the news, entitled What's News? It is based on a fairly successful unit we have taught to Year 10 over the last few years. We critically evaluated the older unit in the light of the new syllabus and the Quality Teaching Program guidelines to determine what bits were worth retaining. Then we added a variety of learning experiences, widening the net to catch more outcomes, with a strong focus on ICT (information and communication technologies) and digital video, to produce what we hope is a relevant and dynamic program, reflecting the spirit of the new syllabus.

The digital news component was included as a consequence of English Head Teacher, Michael Murray, participating in the School News Project, run by the University of Wollongong. The School News Project was a research study conducted at Lucas Heights Community School earlier this year by staff from the university's faculties of Education, Informatics and Creative Arts. The aim of the investigation was to develop learning activities and resources that would facilitate students in composing digital video news and thereby support their development of multiliteracies. Michael was impressed by the enthusiasm with which his Year 10 students embraced this technology and felt encouraged to build the project into the Stage 5 media program.

Staff at the University of Wollongong have indicated their readiness to make some of the excellent resources they have developed for the School News Project available to other schools in the near future.

We are pleased to share this unit with teachers across the State and would welcome their critical feedback.

Materials

Programming for Years 7-10 English overview

Programming Years 7-10 presentation

Overview of current English programs Years 7-10

Evaluation of the Stage 5 English program

Stage 5 Scope & Sequence

Stage 5 Media unit

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