Northern Beaches Christian School is one of a few worldwide examples of a school that demonstrates that change is both necessary and possible – a change in paradigm, in learning space design, in the way we empower students to take charge of their own learning. NBCS is a vibrant, independent, co-educational school in Terrey Hills (Sydney), offering a dynamic, student-centred education from Kindergarten to Year 12.
Our approach is a dual focus on learning and opportunity. We have been very intentional in fostering a culture of self-directed, student-led learning – growing students to be high-capacity leaders and creative thinkers. Strong, positive relationships are the cornerstone to learning at NBCS, with authentic community and true collaboration being the foundation on which learning is built.
The journey so far
Built on community
NBCS was established in Mona Vale in 1981, by a group from Northern Beaches Christian Centre. We are thankful for the dedication and generosity shown by parents and friends in those early years to help see the vision of a school come to life. In 1984 the school moved to the current campus in Echunga Road, and has since grown to more than 1,300 students. NBCS is highly regarded by educators across the world as a centre for excellence and innovation.
Vision for the future
Since 2004, Northern Beaches Christian School has been an independent organisation, led by an independent Board of Directors as a not-for-profit entity. Both the Board and the Senior Leadership Team hold firm to a vision to be leaders in transforming education, creating a school that empowers students with high-level skills – equipped and inspired to be life-long learners.
In 2005, NBCS Principal Stephen Harris established Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) as a unit within the school, primarily to act as a catalyst for pervasive, school-wide transformation. Since that time, a constant evolution of radically innovative practice has continued to shape and define the NBCS learning community. SCIL is the heartbeat of change within NBCS, and embodies the spirit of innovation that is in every learning space and each learning journey.
Students as authors
Students at NBCS are authors of their own learning journey, co-creating their learning with teachers as mentors, experts, and guides. The emphasis of learning is on critical and applied deep thinking skills. Curriculum is designed so that students experience a rich, personalised and authentic learning pathway, that enables individual, small group and large group contexts to take place. Careful curriculum design around project-based learning allows students to immerse themselves in topics of passion, interest, and talent, whilst engaging multiple learning styles and expressions of applied knowledge.
Exceptional teachers are at the heart of every lesson at NBCS. We recognise the importance of gifted, highly capable educators, and the role of outstanding explanation and purposeful feedback to learning. Teachers at NBCS are part of a very active weekly professional development program, using the methods of project-based learning and peer-tutoring used with students to increase their own capacity and capabilities.
Positive learning culture
Actively growing and advocating for a positive learning culture is a daily process at NBCS, and one that we consider vital to engagement in the classroom. Furthermore, we believe that this positive culture needs to be stronger than any other culture that students might experience at school. The bookends of developing such a culture is the capacity of our staff to engage positively with students. The model ensures that students experience the depth of passion and progress that can come from learning within highly functional teams.
Learning and opportunity
In developing a positive learning culture, we believe that strong academic outcomes need to be coupled with access to and engaging with opportunities. Our focus is that students will grow as compassionate, pro-active leaders with integrity and moral strength. Opportunities include leadership development, the GO Program, extra-curricular music, performing arts, representative sports, and Student Opportunity Week.
Actively shaping the environment
Learning Spaces at NBCS are designed and furnished very intentionally. Choice and flexibility underpin the creation of every space. Custom-designed furniture and bold architecture ensure variation and unique contexts, whilst exceptional facilities and equipment emulates the professional experience for students. Spaces are built to be agile and active, flowing naturally together, and building a sense of community.
Ideas and iteration
Spaces are constantly in a state of evolution, with an iterative design process in place for furniture, layout, and integrated technology. No single space at NBCS is set in stone. Space ideas are readily tested and assessed via trial and experimentation. Ideas that affect positive change are implemented on a wider scale – such as using whiteboard paint across entire walls – whilst other ideas are adapted and re-assessed.
Spaces and buildings form neighbourhoods across the campus. Each neighbourhood is built around a central space – much like a street or plaza – and each neighbourhood unique in character and feel. At the centre of the campus is an atrium and community space connecting neighbourhoods across the school.
We view technology as a tool that has an integral role in shaping the learning environment. Students bring their own devices, with robust wi-fi across the campus, and a suite of online resources supporting every lesson. Students learn to be responsible, well-equipped digital citizens. Staff are also empowered to go mobile.