When Lindfield Learning Village opens its doors to its first 350 students at the end of this month, it will stand at the forefront of what many hope will be a revolution in Australian schooling. This kindergarten-to-Year 12 public school in northern Sydney will jettison the most basic building block of schools as we know them: the age-based class. Instead of grouping students according to their “date of manufacture,” as the critic Ken Robinson derisively puts it, the new school is being designed to enable students to progress through stages of learning at their own pace. In July, the Sydney Morning Herald described Lindfield as “a revolutionary new state school that will scrap year levels, school bells and the word ‘classroom.’”

While the Lindfield concept has been gestating since 2014, it resonates strikingly with the recommendations made last May by the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. When David Gonski released his second major report on Australia’s education system he articulated a feeling — common among educators as much as the broader public — that our schools are no longer fit for purpose.

“Australia still has an industrial model of school education that reflects a 20th century aspiration to deliver mass education to all children,” Gonski argued. TV shows are streamed on demand, news feeds are curated to individual taste and most teenagers own a smartphone, but schools — those artefacts of the industrial revolution — are still “focused on trying to ensure that millions of students attain specified learning outcomes for their grade and age before moving them in lock-step to the next year of schooling.”

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