New Learning Federation leader maps out a course for the future

BRIDGEWATER/Brighton Learning Federation manager Andrew Bennett certainly has his work cut out.

Just a month into his new job of  overseeing the recommendations of the Bridgewater and Southern Midlands Educational Renewal Taskforce [BASMERT] taskforce, Andrew has established some key priorities for ensuring that the revolutionary educational concept becomes reality, sooner rather than later.

While he is no stranger to the Bridgewater/Brighton community,  having worked in the late 80s and 90s as a teacher in the area, Andy has spent the past month re-engaging with the community and establishing a home base.

Andy Bennett,  who is the new Learning Federation manager.
Andy Bennett, who is the new Learning Federation manager.

“The good thing about being here again is that many of my former students are now parents who are engaged in many of the great community groups here,” Andy said.

Now permanently based at the East Derwent Primary School, Andy has spent the past month meeting with as many people in the community as possible, from community groups, educators through to a range of council staff and councillors in his effort to ensure the he is ‘talking and listening’ to everyone concerned about the way forward.

“One of my first priorities is building relationships with everyone from principals, community representatives, council and the general community so I am spending a lot of time getting reacquainted with the community,” he said.

His most recent meetings have involved those who are providing community services from birth to grade 4.

“There are so many people doing great things here, and we are working out how we can work effectively with them in the future.”

“The Learning Federation is an educational enterprise that is trying to improve the provision of education for everybody in the community from zero to adult.

“What we are doing is setting the benchmark for education for the future and so therefore the eyes of education and the community in general will be on us as we plan and implement the concept.”

Andy said the BASMERT recommendations provided a strong blueprint for moving ahead which is guiding the Federation.

The key immediate areas were to ensure that the community understands what the Learning Federation is  doing and how its work is to engage with community and government services.  He said an overall memorandum of understanding  would be established  to ensure that it works effectively with all groups and other providers

“The challenge is to do this quickly and take advantage of current funding opportunities,” he said.

“The second priority is determining the way the educational models will work.  We will be looking at what are best models for birth to grade 4, the middle school and then grade 9 to adult education.  For the three models, we must determine what facilities we need and what the buildings will look like.  In the normal context you would move through these phases fairly slowly however with the current economic downturn, there is some pressure for us to capitalise on the circumstances and intensify our consultation.”

Most of the planning  is likely to be undertaken by June, earlier if possible so that a commissioning brief can be provided to the architects for the start of the new financial year.

“This really is a fantastic opportunity for us to provide for the whole community – it is not just about restructuring schools and tinkering at the edges.  We are looking at the best possible provisions of education for the community from birth through to adulthood and while this is challenging, it provides a fantastic opportunities for the whole community.

“The most important thing is it’s going to happen,” Andy said.

• Andy Bennett,  who is the new Learning Federation manager.