Dandenong South Primary School's award-winning learning centre

The architects who transformed Dandenong South Primary School’s old gymnasium into a multipurpose learning centre won a 2017 Victorian School Design Award.

The Awards for Victorian State Government school projects recognise architects and designers who have provided innovative, creative and practical schools for Victorian students.

Hayball Architecture won the Best Primary School Project category.

A winning design

The school’s new Junior Learning Centre, built in 2016, can fit up to five classes and features a variety of areas purpose-built for all learning activities.

From active creative workshops and drama spaces, to quiet withdrawal spaces and a reading lounge, there’s space for all kinds of learners.

The Learning Centre’s open plan design allows students and teachers to move seamlessly between spaces, share resources and connect with the wider school community beyond the barriers of a traditional classroom.

Principal Leonie Fitzgerald says the centre’s design supports student learning as well as English language classes and playgroups for the students’ families.

‘We have a large number of non-English speaking families and we have a large number of refugees,’ Mrs Fitzgerald explains.

‘We work very closely with the families, so we run a range of playgroups to strengthen the connection and also to help refugee families feel comfortable in Australia.

‘Teachers love the centre too — it’s really conducive to building excellent relationships with students.’

Mrs Fitzgerald NAPLAN results have also risen.

‘The students are very calm, very engaged with the curriculum.’

The building also includes a canteen that hosts the school’s Breakfast Club and a new shaded outdoor space for parents to pick up and drop off their children. 

‘There’s a real connection to community that we’re trying to build, to provide our parents with a really specific connection to the school so they feel comfortable,’ Mrs Fitzgerald says.

‘I wish we had more buildings like this!’

The 2017 Victorian School Design Awards

The 2017 Victorian School Design Awards were open to architects and principal designers for projects completed between January 2015 and June 2017.

The Awards help drive innovative and best-practice designs that reflect an awareness of the importance of interior and exterior environments, as well as sustainability in learning and teaching spaces.

Parliamentary Secretary for Education Judith Graley, who presented the awards at a recent ceremony at Federation Square, says schools should offer teachers more than simply a place to stand in front of a class.

‘The “chalk and talk” era has evolved,’ Ms Graley says.

‘Design plays a crucial role in getting better educational outcomes, giving every student the best possible chance.

‘Victoria is developing a reputation as a world leader in designing innovative school learning environments. Our architects and designers are key partners in delivering the Education State.’

See:  Winners of the 2017 Victorian School Design Awards