A FORMER Ballarat teacher, who has opened an independent secular school in Melbourne, has hopes of opening more schools in Victoria.
Sophie Fenton, who previously taught at Ballarat Grammar and Loreto College, is the co-founder and deputy principal of Sandridge School which opened its doors last week in Williamstown – after 18 months’ planning.
The entrepreneurial school founded by educators has 87 children enrolled from prep to year 5, with another 500 on a waiting list.
Ms Fenton and co-founder and principal Dr Jeanne Shaw opened the school because they wanted to take education to the next level.
“As a school imagined, built and run by entrepreneurial teachers, entrepreneurship and social impact drive our philosophy. Students are encouraged to value the community around them.
“If they have ideas to improve the world, whether they be commercial or social ventures, we will provide the support they need to see those ideas come to life,” Ms Fenton said.
“It is a school defined by education that shapes the professional, personal, social and community life of the students and the teachers.”
Ms Fenton, who was named Australian Teacher of the Year in 2013, said her teaching experience in Ballarat had had a positive impact on her new venture.
She said her family and Ballarat community provided strong support when she decided to open her own school.
“Many children and staff helped reaffirm and nourish my philosophy around teaching. My students taught me about teaching. I respond to their learning and structure my teaching around them,” Ms Fenton said.
Sandridge School, located in the former Customs House, has been restored to accommodate the pupils and staff. It has no rows of desks and chairs.
“Instead there are studios and spaces that enhance the learning opportunities. The students are connected to the world they live in, and the people they live with,” Ms Fenton said.
“The Sandridge School, through the application of the science of positive psychology for student learning, most notably focuses around the ways a positive connection between student and teacher can affect the ways children and young people learn.”
Ms Fenton said Ballarat could benefit from a school like Sandridge School and there were plans to open more schools around Victoria. Ms Fenton and Dr Shaw’s goal is to introduce year 6 pupils in 2017, years 7 to 10 pupils and a second campus in 2018, and years 11 and 12 by 2023.
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