Excitement builds as school move draws near

Preparing for the end of a school year, building a new school and packing up an old one – you could say VMCH’s specialist school St Paul’s College principal, Tim Hemphill, and his team are busy!

He wouldn’t disagree, but they are loving it.

The school’s 60 students, 30 teachers, allied health professionals and support staff, thousands of boxes of books, toys, equipment, educational resources will all be on the move from Kew to its new school at 3 Brenbeal Street, Balwyn, for the beginning of a new school year in February 2019.

The new Balwyn site was used as the year nine campus for Genazzano Convent. It will become a more modern and accessible footprint for St Paul’s College, a school that has supported students with a wide range of intellectual, physical, and sensory disabilities for more than 60 years.

St Paul’s College has supported thousands of children with a wide range of support needs. This new school will ensure that the school has an exciting new future.

It’s a mammoth task and very exciting.

Building a new school that is purpose-built to support students of all abilities ensures the design caters for things like accessible classrooms, inclusive playgrounds and accessible transport.

The playground designer is creating spaces that will be inclusive and welcoming of all children. There will be play spaces for junior, middle school and senior students. Interesting sensory spaces are being created inside and outside. The school will be colourful, fun and inviting.

“It shouldn’t be underestimated the impact this will have in terms of the students and the perception they have of themselves – that they deserve these great resources and that they can do anything that they want to do. I think that’s really significant,” Tim said.

Tim excitedly described a six-seat carousel swing that accommodates two spaces for wheelchairs that are facing each-other. This allows all students to enjoy a ride on a carousel together.

Technology will be an important feature of the new school. Students will have access to the greatest and latest technology and equipment to help them learn in a fun and interesting environment.

Tim said students, parents and teachers were super excited about the move. Senior students have visited the site as part of the transition and loved what they saw.

The new school will include:

  • Assistive Technology Centre
  • Technology Pods
  • Sensory Room
  • STEAM room (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)
  • Black Cat Café and Kitchen Garden for senior students to develop essential life skills to pave the way for their future employment and independence
  • Outdoor Discovery Play Spaces

The proud history of St Paul’s College will not be forgotten. The school was founded by Brother Patrick O’Neill on February 12, 1957. It emerged as a highly regarded school for vision impaired children. With Brother O’Neill at the helm, the school helped students strive to achieve great success in their lives and continued to thrive with no government funding for many years.

Without grants and funding available at the time, Brother O’Neill was able to establish the school by rallying community support to open the St Paul’s School for the Blind, at its current site, Fernhurst Grove, Kew.

“We’re not leaving behind the spirit of Brother O’Neill and everything that St Paul’s Kew stands for. If anything, that is why we’re moving: to ensure we can continue to provide opportunities for our students and to do all that we need to improve the school environment,” Tim said.