Frequently asked questions
What makes Blue Gum Community School distinctive?
In Hornsby (as in Canberra), the intention is to establish a small community school that will be welcoming to all children and families, no matter what their background, beliefs or abilities. Our approach to curriculum invites children to take on an active role in their own learning and creates daily opportunities for children to learn through hands-on research and small group work. Educational thinker, Carla Rinaldi, captures the heart of Blue Gum well, "Rather than making children fit for school, we need schools that are fit for children". Schools should be places where children can flourish and learn together in community. We have made a distinct choice to move away from a traditional factory model of education that places competition and individual success above all else.
Discerning parents often choose Blue Gum in Canberra because of our non-competitive, community approach and because we very intentionally embrace and celebrate students' different learning styles and interests, not preferring one style of learning over another. Children with a passion for the arts, who may have found it difficult to adjust to environments that give greater priority to more linear ways of thinking, often feel celebrated at Blue Gum, able to learn and express themselves in ways that recognise their particular perspectives and skills.
We keep our classes very small (maximum 16 students) to enable teachers to work with children in a very personalised way, ensuring no one falls through the cracks. We encourage our teachers to work alongside (rather than in front of) our students, loaning them expertise along the way. This positions us differently from other approaches in which teachers direct the class as a whole, with all students expected to work at the same pace. In this way, we will offer a new option for families looking for an alternative to more traditional, competitive or large scale schools.
Why choose Hornsby for a new Blue Gum Community School?
Hornsby is a growing and vibrant community with increasing numbers of young families moving into the area, from various cultural backgrounds. Our preschool and school will be well positioned to meet the needs of these young families, especially those interested in a smaller school for their children, with flexible hours to support working families. Hornsby’s focus on the future, the strong arts community and people’s notable commitment to the environment were also factors that informed our belief that Blue Gum Community School’s ethos will be a good fit for families in the area.
Who is the developer?
There is no developer behind this project. This proposal is a project instigated by Blue Gum Community School in Canberra, ACT. In 2019, Mount Errington was purchased by Best-Practice Education Group Ltd (BPEG), a not-for-profit community body, in order to adapt the use of the property into a small preschool and primary school in Hornsby. BPEG, led by founder Maureen Hartung (OAM), established Blue Gum Community School in Canberra in 1998, responding to the number of students who felt alienated by highly rigid and traditional approaches to education. Blue Gum offered a new choice for families, providing an approach that emphasised the central importance of relationships, the arts and the outdoors in addition to the traditional academic disciplines of Maths and English. In her own words Maureen remains, "passionate about providing an opportunity for learning based on authentic, real-life encounters – learning that is meaningful for students and learning that addresses every child's individual strengths and challenges both academically and socially." [Link to Canberra Time article].
When are you planning on opening?
Our opening date is dependent on a number of factors - namely the progress of our application as a State Significant Development with the Department of Planing, Industry & Environment. We hope to open the preschool early in 2021 and open for primary classes from 2022. Our initial primary enrollment will be open to children in Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2. Families and educators who would like to stay up to date with the progress of our application and future plans are encouraged to submit their expressions of interest using the contact form on the home page.
How will you respond to any questions the community has?
We cannot overstate our desire to build strong relationships with our neighbours and the wider community. Considering the impact of our proposal has been in focus from the start of our planning. In particular, questions about tree retention, acoustics, parking, traffic and heritage have been a priority in all conversations leading up to the final design.
We believe, based on the best advice of a range of specialist consultants, that our proposal represents a successful approach for the adaptive re-use of Mount Errington as a school. Recognising the varying perspectives that come into play with any development application, we will work closely with the Department of Planning and Hornsby Shire Council to make any further changes required.
What measures are being taken to preserve the historical value of the site?
Taking on the responsibility of a heritage listed site like Mount Errington is a labour of love. Our goal, through this proposed adaptive re-use, is to join passionate members of the community in the protection of Hornsby’s heritage.
We are particularly thankful for previous owners, who have taken great care to maintain the house over many years. We plan to follow in their footsteps, as thoughtful caretakers of the house, history and gardens. All the amazing features of the home and gardens will be celebrated, highlighted, protected or restored.
The school has been designed to fit within the current footprint, with no additional buildings proposed. The front facade will remain unchanged, apart from a small detail change to make the upper balcony safe for use.
Internal changes needed to make the house compliant with the Building Code were designed under the direct supervision and guidance of a respected Heritage Architect. All changes have been designed to be fully reversible. Where changes are proposed they have been designed to either match or complement the existing structure, colour, design and layout of the building.
An indigenous friend and colleague of the Education Director is working with the school to explore how the opening of the school and the long-term use of the site as a place of learning can be facilitated in a way that honours the indigenous history of the place to ensure relations going forward are marked with respect and acknowledgment of the first people of Australia.
The heritage of Mount Errington offers a unique opportunity to engage children’s interest in the past. The school intends to invite the children to learn about the history of Hornsby and specifically the area around the school as a natural part of the curriculum each year. Children will be encouraged to ‘take a lead’ in researching the history of the area. The school hopes to work in partnership with interested community groups to put together a children’s history of Mount Errington and the surrounding area.
The continued maintenance and protection of the heritage home and its gardens would be assured as a result of this proposal.
What is the impact on the heritage gardens and trees on the property?
Our plans have been designed to have the least amount of impact as possible on the trees and vegetation. The car park has been positioned to the rear of the property on the advice of both the arborist and heritage consultant’s assessments of the land. The trees in this area of the property were deemed younger and less significant to the landscape and therefore provided the most effective way forward for the design.
The use of the existing driveway entry and the decision to use the same base gravel will ensure the extension of the driveway appears as a natural extension to the original. Avoiding the use of concrete wherever possible has benefits, from both an environmental and heritage perspective, ensuring more trees are protected through the design. The new driveway exit on Rosemead Road offers the least impact to significant street trees on the verge of the site. Wherever viable, plantings that are removed will be replanted in other areas of the gardens.
A community vegetable garden is planned for the outdoor space to the rear of the property and the amount of hard spaces will be limited to ensure a very natural and flourishing playscape surrounds the property. Involving the children and community in the continuing care of the gardens of Mount Errington is another positive benefit of this project.
The addition of significant new trees to the site as well as extensive boundary planting will ensure the site’s streetscape is improved upon, in the short and long-term.
Why is a metal fence proposed?
Based on the advice of our heritage architect, a metal fence has been proposed for the front boundary. The design aim is for the fence to blend into the landscaping whilst also providing a distinct boundary between the school and the public surrounds.
All security fencing required for the preschool has been strategically positioned to the rear of the property in order that the front fence be kept low, so as not to obstruct the view of Mount Errington from the street.
Will there be a school bell, loud-speaker system, or large fixed playground equipment?
What are your proposed hours of operation?
Monday to Friday
Short day: 9am to 3pm
Standard day: 8:30am to 4:30pm
Full day: 8am to 6pm
Monday to Friday 9:00am to 3:00pm
A before and after school program catering for primary students is also proposed
What is the acoustic impact of the school?
A full acoustic assessment report will form part of the extensive Environmental Impact Study to be prepared as part of our application as a State Significant Development. The finding of an initial report, prepared for our DA, indicated the acoustic performance of the proposed Preschool and Primary School would comply fully with the requirements of all relevant acoustic guidelines. Significant setbacks, boundary fencing and staggered playtimes are some of the strategies proposed to further minimise the noise of children playing and learning outdoors.
How will the school impact traffic and parking in the area?
In focus for us from Day 1 was a thorough consideration of the traffic and parking implications of this proposal. Multiple scenarios were explored in detail before the final design was proposed.
Some elements of the final design include: a 'kiss and drop zone' on site to allow for up to 8 cars to queue off street; a carefully planned staggered pattern for pick-ups and drops offs that will ensure only a small numbers of families pick up at any given time; and the provision of 12 car spaces which will amply cover staff parking and spaces for preschool parents to park whilst signing children in and out.
Of note, the Traffic and Parking Assessment report submitted in relation to the DA concluded the proposed development will not have any unacceptable implications in terms of road network/environmental capacity or off-street parking/access requirements.
If you have further questions that have not been addressed above, please do not hesitate to contact us.