Schools must be built at centre of community: Minister for Education Rob Stokes in Newcastle

Rethink: Rob Stokes said education was a “process not a product” and measurement of outcomes needed to be qualitative. Picture: Simone De Peak
Rethink: Rob Stokes said education was a “process not a product” and measurement of outcomes needed to be qualitative. Picture: Simone De Peak

SCHOOLS need to be designed for the future and built in the physical centre of their communities, so that businesses can “look in and see how they can partner” with educators and students.

Minister for Education Rob Stokes made the recommendation in a wide-ranging address at a Hunter Business Chamber event at Merewether Surfhouse on Friday.

It followed his appearance alongside Premier Gladys Berejiklian to officially open the University of Newcastle’s NeW Space campus, which he said was “profound recognition that the future of this city and this region has education at it’s heart”, an idea he said should be reflected in the location of schools.

“For too long we’ve literally, spatially, separated our schools out and put them on the periphery –  found a big site, put big ovals around it and put classrooms in the middle,” he said.

“We need to integrate schools back into the community.”

Mr Stokes said society was in the midst of “rapid change” and students needed skills to develop knowledge into ideas and solutions for problems.

He said the entire community was responsible for preparing children to be lifelong learners and for jobs of the future. 

“Teachers cannot do it all themselves and it’s ridiculous to suggest they can,” he said.

“The recent Gonski report’s recommendations said the idea of business mentoring in schools and relationships between industry and education is critical in achieving education excellence.

“We need to get away from the Fordist idea of education as some sort of production line.

“The skillset we need is bigger and the relational engagement as a community needs to be bigger.

“That has changed the way we design our schools –  we need to facilitate that community interaction and joint use facilities that make it spatially attractive for businesses to look into schools and see how they can partner.”

“We then build richer communities where young people are more attuned to what business expects from them and where the opportunities are, and we ourselves can learn what sorts of products young people want and what sort of experiences they’re looking for.”

Mr Stokes said there were opportunities for collaboration between councils and the state, Catholic and independent school sectors, which each maintain their own playing fields, playgrounds, libraries and other facilities.