South Gippsland Specialist School

Victorian School Design Awards 2009: Minister’s Commendation

The South Gippsland Specialist School is co-located within the Leongatha Education Precinct. The Precinct is shared with Leongatha Secondary College and Leongatha Primary School, as well as Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE. The school is set on a very steep, north-facing slope. To negotiate the incline, the site is terraced and ramped to take advantage of views and to ensure disabled access through out. The linear arrangement of building footprints ensures all buildings have a north-facing orientation. The school determined that the school building and grounds would reflect the everyday environment of an office, home or civic facility. This would expose and provide the opportunity for students to negotiate everyday risks in a supervised setting.

As a K-12 school, a challenge is to meet the diverse needs of students with a wide range of disabilities and age groups. A junior and senior precinct and an area for students with profound disabilities was created to encourage ownership and a sense of belonging for each child in age-appropriate environments. Each precinct is equipped with satellite sanitary amenities for hygiene control. Open-plan kitchenettes open up to a covered outdoor wet area linked to gardens and outdoor play. In addition to this, a secure, secluded courtyard facilitates small group activities or to serve as a ‘time-out’ isolation area. The precincts are planned for easy access to shared facilities including the gym, hydrotherapy pool, kitchen garden and a commercial kitchen and extensive outdoor play areas. The aim was to create natural, sensory rich outdoor environments that relate to and complement interlinked indoor and outdoor teaching areas. Emphasis on outdoor activities has been shown in research to be therapeutic for students. A central courtyard is the heart of the school, acting as a collective space for formal and informal social setting and large group activities. The gym and kitchen open up to this area with large counterweight doors.