Austral’s new school draws on global and local influences

Lea De Angelis

St Anthony of Padua Catholic School Austral’s foundation principal Lea De Angelis.

Building community, faith and learning is the aim at the heart of a new Catholic school in Sydney’s burgeoning southwest, and the infrastructure is soon to follow.

While parents and other local community members have been invited to help create the story of St Anthony of Padua Catholic School Austral, its architectural inspiration has a more global influence.

The school will open with about 60 Kindergarten students in 2017, and grow to include Preparatory to Year 12.

Foundation Principal Lea De Angelis recently visited Scandinavian countries including Denmark to see how the design of primary and high schools and public spaces there might help their communities connect to a space and foster collaboration.

“St Anthony’s principles of service and welcome are going to underpin the environment that we are trying to create here at Austral, and inclusion,” Ms De Angelis said. “We want our kids to be connected to their local parish, to the community and globally as well.

We want to make sure we’re providing some shared community facilities within our school that will make a dynamic hub for the Austral area as it grows.

– Lea De Angelis

“The core values we have of ‘aspire, achieve, and act’ are how St Anthony lived his life. We want our students to dream of what could be, work to fulfil their hopes and dreams and then use what they learn to make a difference in the world.

“My visit to Finland , Denmark and the Netherlands was very much focusing on how learning spaces can be designed to facilitate that. I was particularly looking at how in some learning spaces features that promoted service and welcome helped to make a connection to the community.

“We want to make sure we’re providing some shared community facilities within our school that will make as a dynamic hub for the Austral area as it grows and develops.”

The vision for the school includes a market garden to connect students to their environment and the area’s rich agricultural history, and flexible learning spaces that nurture students’ curiosity.

“We’ve looked at the different needs of the different age groups of the learners. In the early years it’s very creative and very much an exploration. Once it comes into formal schooling literacy and numeracy skills need to be taught explicitly. When they hit high school we can have much more collaboration and much more of kids working independently. Because they have the skills to do that, the structure of learning spaces will change.”

Mary Grima will send her daughter Jasmine to the school next year, the youngest of four children.

Mrs Grima is active in the St Anthony’s Parish and said she was looking forward to her daughter having the opportunity to grow in faith and learning.

“Parents here have wanted this school for a long time,” she said. I’m really looking forward to this because my other children didn’t have the opportunity to go to a Catholic school.

“When we met Lea we were rapt. She’s not about one person and acknowledges it’s very important that as parents we all get to be involved. At the end of day we’ll all become one as a community and get to have a say in where we are going.

“In Austral there is a lot of market gardens and they’re going to take that influence into the school. It’s not all about iPads, but learning to think ahead and use their imagination. I think it’s good that the children learn to be street smart – not just computer smart – to have more faith in God, come out with that religious perspective, and be encouraged to be the best that they can.”

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