Education for Launceston and the North-West’s Brethren community has taken on a new form, with Oakwood School offering technology-laden ways of learning.
Oakwood School is an amalgamation of the former Devonport and Launceston Brethren school and has now joined a global network of schools for Brethren children.
A common misconception about Brethren communities is that they shun the use of technology, something head of campus Andrew Small wants to dispel.
Mr Small, who is not Brethren himself, said Oakwood School offered virtual learning for all grades at Oakwood’s Launceston campus.
“We can connect the teacher through the Zoom technology, to classes in our Hobart campus, but also we can invite national and international guest speakers to talk to the kids,” he said.
The Zoom technology works similar to Google Hangouts or Skype and can project a video of the class and the teacher, as well as projecting the work the teacher is working on with the pupils.
Oakwood School is located at Kings Meadows, in the Techno Park, and has recently been redeveloped.
It was officially open at the beginning of the first term this year and offers an alternative education option for Brethren families.
The campus is split into junior and senior areas and has a variety of open-plan learning spaces to foster collaboration across grades and classes, including location.
Every pupil or student is also given a laptop and a set of headphones to use as part of their learning, which can connect to the zoom technology.
Mr Small said he was intrigued by the position because of its link to technology, and how it fostered different ways of learning while still providing the Australian Curriculum standard.
“I’ve worked in a variety of schools, both public and independent and in Sydney and Japan,” he said.
“I was drawn to this school because I love technology and I wanted to see how they used it.”
The school is affiliated with Plymouth Brethren Christian Church and has an emphasis on learning as a way of life and providing practical, skills-based training.
It has a partnership with Glenvale Education to provide registered, certificate-level qualifications for students who have completed year 12 studies, including certificates in business, marketing and accounting.
Oakwood School commenced in 1995 and educates students throughout Tasmania, equipping them with self-directed learning skills and the ability to work collaboratively to advance their learning.
As part of OneSchool global’s ecosystem, Oakwood School delivers a mainstream education to Brethren students, using Zoom video conferencing to provide students with a choice from a broad range of subjects.
The new campus in Launceston is built around a learning centre, which offers a range of different learning and collaboration spaces as part of the school’s self-directed learning approach.
Brethren spokesman Lloyd Grimshaw said Brethren often worked in harmony with other facets of local communities but there was often a misconception about their beliefs and practices.
He said the main practice, which involved Brethren not interacting socially with people outside the faith, could have contributed to barriers and stigma.
However, he said many Brethren community members were small business owners and the community did employ and engage with those who are not Brethren.
“Look at Oakwood, the teachers there are not Brethren, and many community members employ other people and contribute to the community that is not Brethren.”
Mr Grimshaw said Oakwood School and other Brethren schools were born out of a desire to ensure quality education, which is evident in the teaching.
“Brethren children are in the mainstream system until grade 3 and then they can go to Brethren schools,” he said.
“But it’s a secular school, in terms of its learning, we follow the Australian Curriculum and we don’t have religious teaching embedded into the learning experience.”
“Our core teachings and religious worship is done at churches that are off school campuses.”
All the religious practices and rituals are performed at church outside school hours, he said.
There are about 500 members of the Brethren community in Tasmania, with 150 of those in Launceston.
Oakwood School is located at Kings Meadows, at the Techno Park, and was formerly a banking call centre and forestry giant Forico’s Launceston headquarters.