Moving Beyond the Classroom Walls to Learning in a Bean Bag

Since its inception in 1886, MLC School has challenged the traditions of girls’ education.

The Sydney Morning Herald in January 1886 announced the impending opening of the Wesleyan Ladies College, Burwood (now MLC School) reporting that the School would ‘make provision for those who wish to prepare for University honours’. This was only two years after the legal rights of women at the University of Sydney had been secured.

Over 130 years later, MLC School continues to break new ground with the opening of its innovative new Senior Centre. With a cutting-edge design created by BVN Architects, it moves beyond the traditional classroom into flexible learning spaces that encourage adaptability and team-work. Open spaces contain bean bags, large conference tables, small pop-out pods, and ‘beach-hut’ style work areas, where students and teachers can interact and collaborate, or retreat for individual study. The glass-walled classrooms are designed to offer abundant light and air, and have advanced technology and furniture designed to be moved to respond to the style of class being delivered.

The Senior Centre spans four floors with education spaces located around a central atrium. The building contains eight state-of-the art science laboratories, a central amphitheatre, dance studio, an outdoor learning terrace, four staff rooms, which can be openly viewed by all, an IT help desk and kitchen spaces on each floor.

The whole perimeter of the building is a full-height, double-glazed high-performance facade, which maximises access to daylight. A skin of perforated folded aluminium panels wraps around the glazed facade, providing sun shading and privacy. The aluminium skin is pierced by large pop-out windows, which maximise access to the views and showcases the learning that happens inside. Automated louvre windows allow the building to be naturally ventilated as well as air-conditioned. When finished, two large landscaped courtyards surround the Centre, allowing the teaching and learning to spill out into outdoor learning spaces.

MLC School Principal, Lisa Moloney, said: “MLC School’s brief to the architects was to create dynamic and engaging spaces that enhance student learning and embrace the future. This meant creating a building that moves away from the traditional, institutional model.

“Our overall educational aim is to equip our girls to be agile and adaptable, to instil in them a resourcefulness that will enable them to successfully respond as society changes and evolves. The opening of the new Senior Centre is giving our girls an environment that naturally complements these educational objectives.

Through their experience in the Senior Centre, MLC School girls will seamlessly transition to university or modern workplaces, where similar architecture and design is being unveiled.”

On Friday 24 May 2019 at 11.00am, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, opened MLC School’s new Senior Centre in Burwood. This event was the last official school event before Sir Peter Cosgrove retires as Governor-General. The Opening continues MLC Schools proud history of buildings being opened by Governors-General – the Junior School was opened by Dame Quentin Bryce and the Independent Learning Centre by Sir William Deane.

MLC School has always been at the forefront of girls’ education and is known for a number of historic firsts, including:

  • MLC School was Australia’s first school to construct a kindergarten in 1889
  • MLC School was integral in establishing the Trinity College London Musical Theory Examinations in Australia,
  • MLC School held the first athletics carnival for girls in Australia in 1906
  • MLC School was the first school to present girls for the Leaving Certificate in Physics in the 1920s
  • MLC School introduced the first Apple Macintosh computer to the School in 1978
  • MLC School was one of the earliest Schools in NSW to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma in Year 11 and Year 12 as an alternative to the HSC.
  • MLC School was the first school in Australia to import Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a breakthrough assessment system for maths

MLC School will continue to follow its vision to ‘inspire young women to collaborate, create and innovate for a better world’.