The school has also developed creativity classes for students in Year 7 as a way to help them transition to high school and understand new and different ways of learning after primary school.
Of all the positive effects of the program, Andrew’s strongest memories come from students presenting work on the Opera House stage to family, friends and teachers.
We targeted different groups from around the school and gave them that exposure, which, for a lot of our students with low socio-economic backgrounds, has been a significant step,” he says. “They’d never been to the city or to the Opera House before. They’d literally never seen the Harbour Bridge.
“Getting to travel in there and have their family and friends invited, it's a huge deal for them. To this day, students who graduated from our Special Ed unit last year still come back and talk about that day and night, which is unreal.”
The transformative effect on teachers has been equally momentous. Opera House Creative Learning Specialist Frank Newman recalls teachers feeling dubious and questioning the process in the early days of the professional learning master classes he and Lilly Blue led.
“For teachers taking the program it’s big,” Frank says. “Often they're taking huge risks, trying things, making art for the first time since they were in primary school.
“Quite often they walk into the first session, and they'll go, ‘Oh listen, I'm right up for this but I'm just letting you know, I'm not at all creative’. Almost every time in each new school, or each new group inside a school, someone says that “And I go, ‘Oh, that's fine, thanks. You're wrong. You are creative just by virtue of being a human being. You just haven’t flexed those muscles for a while’.
“Then they end up doing all sorts of wonderful, weird, beautiful things and challenging themselves. It’s a real journey for them. I’m as proud of the work CLIL does with teachers as I am of the work with the students. While the joy on student faces is incredibly obvious to everyone involved with the program, the positive impact and changes on teachers are there – just far less visible.”
Andrew believes the CLIL program, and the effect of implementing it across all of Casula High School’s faculties, gives every teacher a new confidence and motivation.
“There’s not a negative part to it,” he says. “In my opinion it changes teaching and it change students' learning for the better. We’ve been working to make sure it’s sustainable and part of the school for a long time.”