Firstly, Lindfield Learning Village – due to thrust opens its doors to New South Wales students at the start of this year – is by no means an ‘alternative’ educational offering.
“I think it’s that concept of the village that is really appealing,” McConnell begins.
“And I think it’s really important to communicate that it’s not ‘alternative’ or ‘experimental’ in any way shape or form; the concept is more about bringing together people in a community and building a culture together.”
With standard year levels abolished, and a re-worked curriculum that interconnects to tease out any rigid subject ‘silos’, McConnell says the school will be anything but ‘hippy’ in the learning experience it will deliver.
“…the model itself is very much based on strong research and educational practice that is happening around Australia and around the world in a number of schools, because I think it’s important to note that all of us in education are attempting to shift our practice to better meet the needs of our children in the current world that they are heading out into.
“And I think at Linfield we have an enormous opportunity to be able to do that from scratch.”
While the wheels of change are something of a slow grind to prod into motion in any well-established school, McConnell knows that the chance to craft and then lead a school of the future is a privilege hard to come by.
“…I think this learning journey for me, has and will continue to be one of un-learning, and then evaluating and re-learning what we mean by school, and what the intention of the curriculum is…” she reflects.
In fact, the school’s slated name really touches at the heart of what McConnell and her team were trying to achieve from day dot.
“Originally I was lucky enough to meet the architect and landscape architect of the original building, and they talked about the building being reminiscent of an Italian village, sort of spilling down the side of the hill.
“…so that concept of the village setting was really important, and having people sitting [along] the streetscapes and engaging with others as they pass by – but there is also the Reggio Emilia educational model, which talks about the idea of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.
“So the combination of those two ideas came together to form the title of Linfield Learning Village.”
Having just emerged from six weeks of interviewing and selecting a team of staff to join her on the Linfield journey, McConnell can’t wait for children to fill the carefully designed learning spaces.
Educators that make the recruitment cut are in for a wild, educational ride.
“I’ve had to take risks in my learning, and again I’m not going to ask others to take risks if I’m not willing to do it myself,” she says.
“It is an uncomfortable place to be sometimes, when you are sitting on the edge of innovation, but as soon as it feels comfortable then you are probably not doing the right thing.
“And that’s where we are at for next year – it’s about continuing to challenge ourselves.”
It’s about forging new evidence, not simply reading about what works magic in schools.
“I’m going to be advocating for a professional learning model for staff where they are researchers of their own practice, and that evidence that they gather on a daily basis, in terms of what is happening in their learning spaces, forms the evidence for their learning journey as well,” McConnell promises.