Why you’ll wish you were back at school

An Ipswich school is rewriting the rules for how students learn about the arts and creative industries by embracing the power of collaboration and removing barriers not just figuratively but also literally.

Goodna’s Westside Christian College will next week officially open its new Creative Industries Precinct – the first stage in a long-term redevelopment program at the school.

It is a game-changing, purpose-built learning space for students studying dance, drama, music, media and visual arts.

What immediately stands out is a lack of internal walls where they might otherwise be expected.

However, thoughtful design means semi-permeable spaces allow students to work in privacy without sound and sight lines being blocked by walls.

Natural light is embraced, glass panels in some areas allow for teachers and students to look-in on others at work and integrated sound and video can be captured anywhere in the building and beamed to any other space.


Versatile learning areas can be configured in many different ways, with ease of movement a major focus.

As the college’s Head of Creative Industries, Chris Hollier, explains, the result is a precinct where collaboration is king and the process of creation is celebrated just as much as the end result.

“I think in the arts one of the most challenging things for teachers in working with students is getting beyond this barrier of ‘it’s not perfect or it’s not without fault so I’m embarrassed to show my work’,” Mr Hollier said.

“So we wanted to break down those walls or deconstruct that and say, ‘it’s not just about the finished product, it’s actually about the iterative creative process that you need to go through to get to the finished product’ and celebrating that along the way, but not just celebrating it but also getting feedback.

“We have the same problem in subjects like English where a student doesn’t really engage with the drafting process as well as they could, they just want to write it once and say it’s done.

“In music, art and drama we have the same problem – like, ‘can I hear the piece of music you’re working on for your performance in a few weeks’ and students will say ‘oh no, I don’t really want you to hear it, it’s not ready yet’, so as much as possible if we remove the opportunity to hide that work and expose it through not having walls or by having things that invite people to come into that process it’s better for the student.”

Westside Christian College Head of Creative Industries Chris Hollier.

Mr Hollier said teachers had already noticed positive results with students more accustomed to people hearing or seeing their work.

A particularly touching moment came recently when a class of students waiting in one area after a lesson caught the end of a nearby dance class and begin quietly watching before offering spontaneous applause upon the dancers completing their routine.

“(Students) are learning the process before the finished product is just as valuable and just as important and just as valuable and something we want other people to experience and see,” Mr Hollier said.

“Also, when you break down that wall and there is not a physical barrier to that creative process or that learning process, the performance anxiety we all experience becomes mitigated.”

Mr Hollier said skills and confidence gained in the Creative Industries Precinct would serve students well throughout life, no matter their future career choice.

“I’m well aware that many of our students are not going to become professional musicians or dancers or media people but there is a real likelihood that they are going to work in an environment that will require them to have collaborative skills,” he said.

“If you look at whenever there is a big development in the world of science there is a team of scientists and often collaborating across disciplines.

“Our business is about students learning how to create, learning how to collaborate and that is actually building the individual person and equipping them for what the 21st Century is all about.”

The community can take a look at the new Creative Industries Precinct for itself on Friday, 10 May at Westside Christian College’s Open Night from 5pm to 8pm.

For more information, follow the college on Facebook here.

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