Breaking down barriers to youth education

“When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts” – Dalai Lama

Forming part of the greater Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) family, the David Scott School / High Street Centre adopts this belief wholeheartedly. They believe strongly that young people deserve and indeed flourish in a learning environment that is designed to feel welcoming, non-institutional and offers them choice as to how, where and when they learn.

Designed especially for young people who have become disengaged with mainstream schooling, due to multiple and complex circumstances, be it family violence, mental health or general hardship, the centre allows kids to learn and grow without judgement.

The High Street Centre provides a breath of fresh air for many young people who have become disconnected with traditional schooling and, as a result, have fallen out of the educational system. More than just a school, The High Street Centre is a pathway from education to job readiness, giving students the skills to complete their high school education and transition into long term employment. Designed to make students feel valued, it’s an environment which they want to be a part of, rather than feeling forced.

The David Scott School has made clear that a purpose-designed environment will not only support the teaching process but will also support better interaction with students, teachers, educational support staff and the broader community. The success of this school is its ability to introduce these students to real opportunities and genuine career paths and, as such, interaction and engagement with the broader community is crucial.

VIA was tasked to create a state-of-the-art education facility, whilst challenging the traditional barriers between teachers and students to promote mutual respect.

Initially, the team at VIA interviewed both staff and students, to understand the dynamics and identify the real needs of both parties. One of the more resonating things to come out of the briefing process was that many students considered the school “Their Safe Place”. The significance of this was not lost on the VIA team. We also understood that the environment had to be a place where they could be themselves with no fear of judgement, allowing their confidence to grow so that they could become the best versions of themselves. It was our role to deliver a space that enhanced the development of each and every student. Research has shown that well-designed buildings and surroundings can be motivating, and lead to better attendance, improved concentration and self-esteem.

In line with the High Street Centre’s vision and their aspirations to deliver a positive learning environment, VIA has designed a campus that achieves a balance between communal areas, private study areas enriched with natural light, and a variety of external spaces. This will allow students to learn in a group environment, whilst also providing them with the space for independent study and outdoor activities. Our intention is to design a campus that reflects 21st century learning and harnesses the development for students to build 21st century skills. Equally important is to design a unique space in which staff would feel proud to work and that any community would be enriched by.

Throughout the new design, multiple spaces have been incorporated in order to cover a number of different spectrums, including innovative teaching areas and safe spaces where students can enjoy some quiet time alone or engage in confidential communications with onsite counsellors. The interactive spaces have been designed in a way that blurs the traditional separation between the hierarchy of teachers and students, a concept that does not exist in the David Scott school model. It also confirms the genuine investment teachers have in their students’ futures and promotes an approachable environment during and outside of normal teaching hours. Zoned recreational hubs are also included in the design to promote exercise and activity, as well as simply allow kids to be kids without any fear of judgment.

Always excited by the opportunity to enrich lives through design, it is a great honour to partner with The High Street Centre and contribute to their mission in helping the youth of today, as education breeds confidence and confidence breeds hope. Knowing our design, once complete, will benefit students today and in the years ahead is a privilege and a journey we are grateful to be on.

Looking forward to seeing this project come to life.