Liverpool lads get connected through takeover

Liverpool Boys High School students spent a fortnight learning things their own way – with a little help from the Opera House. Glenn Cullen reports.

Image: Students take a bow in the Liverpool Boys High School Takeover: A partnership with the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Maria Louise Boyadgis.

Letting kids take over the classroom may sound like a teacher’s nightmare, but for Liverpool Boys High school it has been a dream scenario that’s brought out the best in many of their students.

Returning for its second year following COVID disruptions, the school teamed up with the Sydney Opera House to ‘takeover’ the school for a period of two weeks.

Regular learning was put on hold as the students were tasked with coming up with their own activities.

In the event’s preamble, there were dinosaur puppets one day, parkour artists the next, Chinese dragon dancers and even a pop-up disco with drummers.

Ultimately, in the final two weeks of the actual takeover, the choice of curriculum lay with the 350 Year 7-10 students involved – but they had to identify what they would do each day, own the decision and make it happen. Teachers were onboard to facilitate.

It concluded with a festival and open day on the last day of the takeover.

“For many kids, this was quite literally the best experience in their lives – ever,” Liverpool Boys High School Principal Michael Saxon said.

“A couple of the outcomes were around kids who really explored their creativity and having fun while creating engagements and connections with staff.

“But it was also about teachers learning to let go and letting their students take control of the learning.

“We’ve achieved a fair bit of that; and now the challenge is for teachers to bring that back into the classroom.”

Image: Getting a new perspective on the Liverpool Boys High School Takeover. Photo: Maria Louise Boyadgis.

Frank Newman, Creative Learning Specialist at the Opera House said the project was getting discussed up to CEO level in the organisation and takeovers had become something of a theme off the back of the Liverpool Boys High School experiment.

“It’s never a one-way street; we always learn so much from the schools we work with,” Mr Newman said.

“The idea of a takeover is now spreading into everything we do and we’re all learning that If you take big risks, you can get big rewards.”

For Liverpool Boys High School there has also been some practical implications around the takeover.

“This year our suspension data is way down and our sense of belonging and pride in the school and connectedness of kids with staff is way up,” Mr Saxon said.

“You sense that; I have been here 15 years and you know these things.”

The challenge now for the school is where to go with another potential takeover, but one thing is clear – the students will be up for it.

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