Fitzroy Community School

Reflections and Testimonials

Post Visit from Texas to Fitzroy Community School – Education Professors – June 2018

Dear Faye, Philip, Fitzroy Community,

We are at a loss of words to share with you our gratitude for allowing us into your world. What you do for education, for Australia, is remarkable. We have learned much from you and will share it with our American students in classes to come. We have been talking about our Fitzroy experiences, and we are really happy to see what a lasting, changing impression our stay with you has made on our girls.

Please let your students know that they have made a lasting impression on us. Thank you for nurturing our minds and souls.

Warmest regards,
Sonja & Donna.

Sonja Varbelow, PhD
Assistant Professor, Teacher Education
Angelo State University

Volunteer from Germany – October 2017

My name is Carolina Köppel, and I am 20 years old high school graduate from Germany who came to Melbourne to volunteer at the Fitzroy Community School from September to October 2017.

When I first heard of the Fitzroy Community School (FCS) I was quite curious. I had visited regular public schools for my whole life and during all this time I had always collided with obsolete and rarely questioned rules. It is almost unbelievable, that while all social institutions changed rapidly in the last 200 years, the educational one barely did at all. Surely, teachers are not allowed anymore to physically hurt students, but besides that punishment and hierarchy are still commonly applied. In most cases, schools decide to stick to conservative principles like strictness and pressure, although research on education informs us about much more effective and beneficial teaching techniques.

However, the FCS stands out in the way they impart their idea of knowledge and social competences. The teachers function as respected role models but never pretend to be superiors. Here, children learn independently, at their own pace, actively and efficiently. Although they are never put under pressure to do exercises, the kids are naturally motivated and enjoy their workbooks, which all have been compiled and created by the founding members of the school. In math classes, for example, the children work independently and most of the time without help while being completely responsible by themselves for their own progress. Help, however, is never far since the teachers are around offering support in case it is needed. Due to the small class sizes and a lot of personal contact, it is actually possible for the teachers to keep an overview about the progress, as well as the strengths and the weaknesses of each student.

I remember very well one of the younger children coming up to me during free time because he wanted me to help him continue his workbook. While I was helping him, I had to think constantly about my younger self and my classmates cursing math classes and their existence.

I believe that the playful and free daily life at the FCS evokes natural curiosity and encourages the children in developing an interest in learning new things. In this way, children develop excellent academic skills and even more importantly: good communication skills and social interaction. When you see the social interaction at the Fitzroy Community School you would not think of a school, but rather a home with a huge family. Most mornings begin with a gathering where teachers, students of all ages and parents if they wish, can come together to share stories, experiences, and wishes, to listen, or simply to connect. At every point, the children are taught to be “excellent to each other”, to take everyone’s feelings and wishes into consideration and never hurt or exclude anyone.

Another extraordinary aspect worth mentioning is the creative and fun timetable. Besides fundamentals, such as Maths, English, Chinese, Sciences, and Spelling, the children have a lot of creative and sporty classes such as Arts and Crafts, Music, Sports, Swimming, Dancing and Drama classes, in which they rehearse for a wonderful and a professionally staged theatre play, which is presented each year by all the children from the school together. Additionally, French classes and Piano lessons are available.

I wish I had more time to spend at the FCS. During my time, where the teachers and the children won my heart and the school will always remain a really special place for me. I have learned how well individuals learn in group with flat hierarchies and democratic values and how children can be encouraged to develop and express themselves while being respectful with each other and happy. As I will soon continue to travel further in order to gain more experience in teaching, I will take these principles with me.

Letter from Hong Kong – October 2017

Dear Tim,

Thanks again to your family for giving opportunity to our kids having a short visit on your fantastic school. Just finished a busy month for preparing Issac to primary 5 and Emma go to new school on primary 3.

Issac and Emma really enjoy their times in FCS. They told me the school don't have modern facility and small compared with the school in Hong Kong, but all the people are nice and the place fill up with happiness, fun and a wooden cabinet with a lot of fruits. In the school, they can try anything they want, they got free time to play, sport lesson in a beautiful big garden. They can try everything in free and all the others are helpful.

I can't describe in word but you can't believe that they are still singing "Let's go fly a kite" and "A Spoonful Of Sugar" in every night before bed. Both often are asking for help us to prepare the lunch after they back from Melbourne which is not allow to use knife of themselves in the pass. But now they can doing well on it.

We are very grateful for you and your team for educating our children is just like the lyrics of the "Let's go fly a kite", [Let's go fly a kid, Up to the highest height! Let's go fly a kid and send them soaring, Up through the atmosphere.] and I believe your team will really make it.

I hope everything goes well with you and please convey my best wishes to Philip and Faye, your family and your team.

Best wishes.

Sincerely yours,
Tomy & Hilda.

Camp – a reflection of a student teacher – November 2017

The camp gate swung open and the children were unleashed into the tree farm like a scurry of ants on a picnic blanket. The first moments were a blur. The bags were flung out of the car and into the cabins; the children quick to get to their work, the work of unbridled play. I couldn’t help but be swept up into it. The primary school child within me was alive and I sought to do exactly what I wanted, which was to wield an axe! Before long I had eager helpers, wanting to show off their skills with the woodsman’s tools. I took delight in coaching the boys on their technique and by the end of the camp they had created a large pile of useful kindling. Of course there were disagreements but they were quickly resolved and most of the time without myself or Jo knowing anything about them, just the rumoured mutterings remained.

The children created 3 seperate mock cafes with the most successful being the cafe in the tunnelled dugout. Before long the whole squad of children combined their efforts into this one cafe and seemingly the other 2 went out of business! The flying fox was a great hit, especially on Hallowe’en when Iron Man, Harry Potter, a skeleton and a witch all came whizzing towards me!

I believe this adventure to be of the upmost importance toward the building of friendships, independence and imagination of healthy young boys and girls. I am thrilled to say that as a student teacher, I was exhausted; the level of play, energy and inquisitiveness that I was involved with will stay with me and I look forward to seeing more adventures like this in the future.


Words written by John Marsden in 2016 for the 40th anniversary of Fitzroy Community School

The first time I walked into FCS I found myself at a beautiful round wooden table, sharing a class with Faye and her students. I sat there thinking 'Of course! A round table! What a perfect configuration for a class- all these years I've been teaching, and I never thought of that!'

That pretty much sums up my experiences with FCS. Everything is so innovative, yet so obvious. Everything is so progressive, yet based on enduring values. Everything is so radical, yet solidly based on common sense. Time and again I found the same refrain running through my head: 'Of course! Of course!'

When the philosophies and practices of FCS are adopted by every school, the work of Philip and Faye and Tim and their extended families will be done, but it's a safe bet that at least forty more years will pass before that day comes!

Thanks for inspiring us all, for contributing so much to progressive education, and special thanks from me for Candlebark and Alice Miller Schools. We currently have 240 students at the two schools, who are experiencing an education that they would never have accessed had it not been for the leadership provided by Fitzroy Community School.

Nat - FCS Teacher - 2015

Dear Families of Tigers,

I thought that you might like this reflection that came in from Nat after her outing yesterday.


Fresh off the back of a fantastic outing with the Tigers today, I just wanted to send through a reflection on our day.

Our day began at the Melbourne Museum where the Tigers happily and harmoniously wandered through the life and evolution gallery, chatting about the fossils, looking at the marine videos and marvelling at the size of the dinosaurs.

We then headed to the back where all the stuffed animals are and plonked ourselves down to do some sketching.

A lady passed by and casually asked me where we were from, to which I replied, Fitzroy Community School. She nodded knowingly and said, yes I could have guessed that, your kids are so much more engaged then all the other kids here!

We then headed out to the playground to eat and play. Lily and I sat down, relaxed and chatting while the Tigers ran around, happily playing, climbing and negotiating their own Games. We were the only group to begin with, but soon enough another school group joined us, and I only noticed this, because pretty much immediately, one of the students began wailing and limping over a very small fall, with the many teachers and parents looking anxious and quite tense. I felt very lucky to be with FCS.

Lastly, we headed to IMAX to watch Pandas in 3D, a documentary about the efforts to repopulate the panda population in China. It was fascinating for me, but at one point I wandered if it was too heavy on information for the kids.

At the end of the movie, we walked out and on the half hour walk back to school I was inundated with question after question about the film, serious and intelligent questions, demonstrating clearly that all the kids had been totally engaged and able to absorb the information. We had a passionate discussion, in which they all expressed themselves beautifully.

I was SO impressed and realised the true value of taking them to see such a good documentary.

FCS kids continue to amaze and inspire me. It was so refreshing and delightful, thank you Tigers!


Leanne - Student Teacher - 2015

Hi Tim,

I just wanted to take the time to thank you for my time at FCS.

Thank-you firstly for taking a student teacher on her first placement on the first day of the school year, it was a busy time to take on another responsibility, but you did :-)

During the first week of placement I was met by staff, students and families with such an overwhelming warmth, it was like walking into a big extended family, a wonderful community.

I have tried to think about what I enjoyed most at FCS, it has been a hard decision. To say I have enjoyed my time in English would be an understatement. Watching Faye and Nick at work with the Fitzroy Reader program with the Tinies from ground zero, then having the opportunity to see the older children working further ahead, gave me an excellent appreciation for the program, how it makes sense and gives the children a solid foundation. Grammar with Nick was amazing, watching grade 5/6 students punctuate paragraphs better than many adults could was a reminder (one that I will take into my own teaching) that I should never underestimate my students abilities. Science, cooking and craft with the children was just plain old fun, getting to know the children during this time was wonderful. Outings with Nat were an adventure, watching young children so at ease navigating their way around the city, ready to have fun wherever they could was totally exhausting but a great time. Then there was the lolly shop visits, watching the children here I found fascinating, the absolute seriousness with which negotiations were approached, the anguished thought, made me smile every time.

At the end of the day though what I enjoyed most at FCS was the children. Every little thing the school does seems to be with purpose and the children are are the result of this, they are confident, resilient, considerate, articulate and well adjusted. Your children shine bright and I hope they realise how lucky they are to spend their first seven years of schooling in such a great environment.

Thank-you again for a great placement that I will never forget.

Kind Regards,


Visiting Teacher from Poland - Oct 2013


Dear Fitzroy Community School!

I had a lovely two days with you all. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of your school and felt at home there. I also loved the idea of organising meetings with new kids one year before they start at the school.

The excursions that I saw were a great idea and the children seemed to love it. It was great to see your connection with the community and the lady who we met in the nursery was so friendly!

I would like to take some ideas with me to Poland and to connect more with the community around my school. The idea of preparing food with parents and students is also great and I will try to start this when I get home.

I'm very happy that I was able to meet you all. Thank you very much for being so friendly and welcoming! You are also very welcome to come to our school in Poland. We have beds in a chill-out room where you could sleep.

Warm regards,
Anna Maria.

Jak - Student Teacher - University of Tasmania - 2013


My first day of placement completed and I have to say that I am positively buzzing from the experience. Fitzroy Community School is like no other school I have seen. If our job as teachers is to create positive learning environments then this school succeeds in this in every capacity.

One of the most notable and I think successful features of the school are the smaller class sizes. Every individual child in every class is given the time, focus, attention and teaching that they deserve and need. The way that the classes are structured is another effective feature. Having specific subjects with different teachers and alternate classroom settings keeps the energy levels of students charged and works extraordinarily well to maintain student's interest, attention and focus. Also having various classes that integrate students from various year levels provides a lovely opportunity for students to work alongside, assist and learn from students of diverse skill levels and abilities.

There is something to be said about sitting down and sharing food together and the kitchen at the Fitzroy Community School allows students, teachers and even parents to do just that. This central communal space is yet another remarkable highlight of this fabulous school.

The school day begins every morning with a whole school meeting. This is generally led by an individual teacher who facilitates open discussion, inviting and encouraging students to explore and express their ideas and answers to specific questions. These open-ended questions are really effective as they call on students to self-reflect, enquire, analyse, observe and explain their responses. In each class that I was invited into, I observed teachers who taught for understanding. Always pausing to clarify and explain anything that was unknown or unfamiliar to the students. These same teachers also seem to create whatever opportunities they can to relate what it is they are teaching to other subject areas. This way of constantly creating opportunities for new learning and understanding allows students to see the relevance of what it is they are doing and how it can apply to everyday life. In every subject and every lesson, I observed teachers intentions to get the students to become detectives; to become critical creative thinkers that question and understand the why of what they do.

It has only been a single day and already I feel I have learnt so much. The energy and excitement of the school is infectious. What has struck me most about being at the school is the happiness, friendliness and openness that defines these kids. They obviously love coming to school everyday and seem to have a genuine interest in learning and participating. The schools motto is ''people before things'' and this certainly lays the foundation of everything that happens there. I feel tremendously privaledged to be at this school to not only learn and grow as a teacher but to also bear witness to what appears to be a truly successful and progressive model of authentic education.

Sally - Teacher



Dear Amy and all the rest of the wonderful team from Fitzroy community school and the Fitzroy Reader's office,

I just wanted to thank you for the donation of books to Conviven that you have offered. I am very excited about going to volunteer at this centre as it embraces strong community values like the Fitzroy Community School. The only difference here is that the students live in acute poverty. I have pasted the operational aims of this centre as well as the website if anyone is interested to take a look.

Operational Aims:

*Provide a space for recreational, educational and artistic activities where children, adolescents and youths can spend their free time, can be trained and can be provided with love and food.

* Connect the low-income population with the possibility of recreational experiences in our own space which is destined to be a place to reevaluate social values, understanding, prevention and reintegration, and educational retention.

* Build, together with the young people, a place of membership in their own neighborhood.

* Promote, through this space, a sense of self-confidence, a healthy family criterion and group, family and community membership ties.

I hope to have the same kind of wonderful experiences at this centre as I had at your school and am really looking forward to sharing aspects of your teaching program with them. My teaching experiences last year were very disheartening. I had a contract to teach drama two days a week at the local school and it was the hardest job I have ever done. The behavioural problems in our school are 30% above the average and the students don't care about learning. My time with each class was 45 minutes and it was a challenge to produce much in this short time frame when students have no respect for themselves, each other or their teachers. I can understand why teachers drop out of their profession in the first few years because of behaviour problems. I don't want this to happen to me so I am going away to refresh my love of teaching in a completely new environment. I would love to visit your school when I return and share my experiences if the school would like that. The Fitzroy Community School has been one of the most inspiring teaching and learning experiences in my life and I would like to retain some kind of connection with it.


Thank you once again for the donation, which I hope will arrive this week. I will email you as soon as I receive it.

Yours with love and sincerity,

Six Years On: 2006 – 2012



Dear Tim, Faye, Philip, Jeanette, Keith, Jeremy, Cathy, Sean, Nikki, Scott, Sam, Pauline, Warren, Mary, Jono and Helen,

I don’t think you realise the massive impact your school and Phonics Program had (and continues to have) on my life.

When I met you all on my placement in 2006, I was suffering a rather bad bout of anxiety (so bad that I often found it difficult to get out of bed). Despite that icky feeling, your school gave me great hope and comfort; a reason to wake up each morning. I learnt so much from you all.

Nowadays, your Phonics Program has given me the skills I needed to teach struggling readers. I use your Program with some of my grade five students. I have to confess, I sometimes illegally photocopy pages from them to save on costs.

I think fondly of the time I shared with you all and am so grateful. My prayer is that you all will be blessed abundantly.

Have a Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year.



PS Thank you for your support. I realise that I wasn't easy to work with in 2006. I have become more proactive, just as you suggested during our debriefing.

Spirited Away


November 2012


Pick a number between 1 and 12. Double it. Add 18. Double again. If you began with the number 12, you have the amount of kilometres required in order to reach the destination for Bike camp and return from it. The base was Meredith.

Dubbed the Tour de Tree Farm, I hadn’t anticipated the joy that would accompany a 42 km ride one way to the tree farm, paired with the 42 km ride back a day later! Had I ridden the entire 84km’s on a bike with the grade 5 and 6 boys (I drove the bus too), I may not have had the opportunity to witness, in its entirety, what I did…. The display of tenacity, resilience, will and the pride in achieving a common goal. What was abundantly clear on this bike camp was the very essence of Fitzroy Community School; the SPIRIT with which each experience, in the three days, was received.

The surroundings were serene. The oxygen-filled space provided the perfect backdrop for the boys. 18,000 trees planted on a farm that housed a makeshift kitchen in a shed full of food and fun supplies, 2 log cabins hand-built by none other than Tim himself, a yurt, a sheltered eating area and a hammock. This is the place you go to get away from it all and where you rely on the creativity and resourcefulness within to create your own experience. This is exactly what the boys did.

The boys opted to spend their first night camped out in the bus, despite the cosy log cabin that awaited them. Of the seven boys, three slept on the front seat of the bus, leaving a roomy backseat vacant all night! Weary eyed the next morning, they built the fire that fed them for three days, ate their breakfast and then began their activities; none of which were planned by anyone other than themselves. This time away was the perfect opportunity to showcase their independent and creative spirits. War games ensued with carved sticks, and the tree farm became a battleground….albeit, a friendly version. Three hours later was snack time, and then activities continued, as they did after every mealtime. Bike riding (yes!), tennis, cricket, chopping trees, then wood, and a ride in the back of the trailer to clear a row of logs. It was explorative, adventurous, and fun.

At all times on this camp, I was in awe of the interactions between the boys. The comradery, the inclusion, the compassion and the strength of each individual culminated in a joyous and inspiring time away. The spirit of the boys made this camp, and it’s what makes them who they are….young, adventurous, boisterous, strong, resilient and proud to be part of a strong, nurturing and stimulating community.



Student Teacher RMIT

Letter from the Principal of Tapawera Area School, New Zealand


8 October 2012

Fitzroy Community School
597 Brunswick Street
North Fitzroy
Victoria, 3068

Dear Phillip, Tim and Faye,

I wish to express again my gratitude for your time and welcome during my recent visit to your school.
In all I visited 9 schools during the 2 weeks I spent in Victoria. Four were independent ‘alternative’ education schools, one was a state school, whilst the other four were private schools in extremely wealth environments. It is always of some intrigue to me that conference organisers seem to think that visiting principals only want to see how the wealthy do things!

In my opinion your school stacks up extremely well against all of these schools. Oh sure some have very posh facilities and equipment, but their ability to provide for the learning needs of their students is not really enhanced (in my opinion) by these trimmings! Indeed some of the social pressure aspects must surely be made worse by the wealth.

You have created an environment that clearly promotes attitudes of acceptance and inclusion. It was evident to me that staff have a deep awareness of student needs and an ability to create an environment within which students are valued for their individuality and can thrive. It was clear that creativity is highly valued and that development of creative traits is given priority. These were common traits I observed in all of the alternative schools, to a greater or lesser extent, which makes me wonder about what that says of state school systems!

Your use of ‘Meeting’ and democracy were also common threads across the alternative schools. Paramount in this setting was the observably high level of trust between staff and students. This seemed to be a vital and common ingredient. The use of the opportunity to share material which promotes healthy community attitudes was powerful. There is a tendency for many to assume that students need only ‘modern literature’. However this leaves a large body of powerful material unused!

Your students demonstrated a high level of engagement with their learning and a depth of understanding of their purpose and the value of the tasks. This level of engagement is to be highly prized since it generates such a high level of learning. I also observed that your programmes incorporated a high level of conversation. we know from recent research that conversation lights up the brain like few other things.

On a practical level I particularly appreciate your ‘Green Sheet’ as a means of setting out the lie of the land so to speak, prior to upsetting some parent.

I congratulate you for the courage you have displayed to develop your school in such a unique environment and with such a special philosophy. I am sure you have impacted many students over the years who could otherwise have opted out of education, their special gifts and talents never to be developed.

The challenge for me now is to see how I can use some of these concepts within a New Zealand state school environment. Certainly the power of these ideas, as I saw them would make the effort worthwhile.

I have had time to reflect upon the structure and design of the Fitzroy Readers and believe that there is potential for these to complement what we already do in New Zealand. The structure of the readers could be particularly helpful for students who struggle to assemble knowledge of the language in an orderly manner by themselves. I also see potential in your remedial maths programme for some of out students.
Would it be possible for you to send me samples of both of these programmes? Thanks.

I wish you all the very best for the future in what is a very challenging political environment.

Thanks again.
Yours faithfully,

Kelvin Woodley

Letter from Student Teacher


October 2012

FCS – Reflection: First days

My first days at FCS were sort of nerve-wracking. The timetable didn't make any sense to me, I wasn't asked for lesson plans or a daily work pad, and everyone was everywhere. I was really nervous about doing the right thing because ever since I began my education degree I had wanted to come to FCS and now that I was here I wasn't quite sure how or where I would fit in. Everyone was very welcoming and happy to help but I didn't really know what questions to ask in order to make sense of what I was seeing and feeling happening within the school. It was as though everything I had been thinking about education for the last four years had come to life in front of me.

After the first few days, it became clear to me that what I needed to do was bring something of myself to FCS and that understanding allowed me to feel a part of what was happening. The responsibility of having to bring myself to the table rather than scaffolded programmes and lesson plans had the effect of making me focus on my teaching practice. How am I teaching? How am I connecting? What do these children need? It was the first time during my degree that I had been expected to rely on myself rather than the 'props' of teaching.

There was a part of me that doubted whether I was really able to do what I thought I wanted to do – to focus on student centred learning and being flexible in such a dynamic environment. But it was almost entirely impossible to not do what I needed to do because FCS is such a supportive environment. What I will take away from my learning during my time at FCS is that the ideals that I have about teaching can work – they do work – and that the 'right thing' is being myself. I know that  my time at FCS will continue to inform my teaching practice because it was during my time here that I really realised that teaching, above everything else, makes me want to be the best person I can be.

Murdoch University

Letter from Student Teacher


August 2012

I loved spending the day at your school!  I found the atmosphere to be very welcoming and was surprised by how eager the students were to engage in conversation with me.  My previous conversations with children of primary school age haven't been as engaging, and I've always found young children to be hesitant to engage in a conversation with a teacher (especially one they didn't know) that isn't directly related to school work.  Thinking about it I've never been in a situation when teachers aren't seen as figures of authority and I believe this directly contributes to why your students are not intimidated by teacher figures, because none of you are authoritarian.  I really liked that the teachers of your school are seen by the children as taller friends with a little more knowledge and I found it so refreshing nobody raised their voices and behavioral problems were not existent.

My favorite part of the day was spending the afternoon with Nick.  I thought the way he taught comprehension was engaging and loved that there were no boring worksheets involved.  I couldn't think of a better way to finish the day than to spend some time playing in Edinburgh Gardens!

Looking forward to seeing you again,


New Schools Starters in Malaysia


June 2012

Dear Phillip & Faye,

We are so thankful for all the hospitality given during our visit @ Fitzroy Community School last Tuesday, 12 June 2012.


It was a resourceful visit and we do learn a lot just by observing how the school treats all students with respect & love.


Your family have put a lot of energy, effort & love to setup a school from scratch for your children but now it benefits others in the community. Congratulations!


We have just finished visiting other 3 schools namely Candlebark, Preshil & Alia College and will be leaving to Malaysia tomorrow morning and will keep you posted with our progress.


Hope to work together again in the future. Thanks for the books & everything.


Take care & regards.




Redzuan & Engku.
Terengganu, Malaysia

Kerry – Student Teacher– Victoria University


November 2011


Dear Tim,


I just wanted to let you know how sincerely grateful I am for having had the opportunity to undertake my placement at FCS during Semester 2, 2011.


Being in the midst of the school’s wonderful community since mid-August on a part-time basis and then full-time during October, gave me a substantial boost in confidence in relation to my knowledge and practice as a (student) teacher.


The generosity of spirit provided by all at the school, the students, teachers, volunteers and parents has allowed me to view education through a unique and beautiful perspective.


I have gained a better knowledge of myself and have glimpsed the diversity of where my future career as a beginning teacher could lead and am enthused and excited for my continued learning and development; with positive thoughts of what lays ahead.


FCS is a wonderful example of well considered practices of learning and teaching and of the possibilities of making an educational difference. Once again thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to keeping in touch in the future.




Student Teacher Victoria University

Johannah – Student Teacher – Melbourne University


July/August 2011


I have always known that being an educator of children was something I wanted to do; I love children, have a passion for teaching and have often felt that I am capable of having a positive influence over the development of a child’s confidence.


I am making my way through my Bachelor of Education (PRIMARY) degree and have had a large amount of experience as a student teacher in schools. Despite my love of teaching, I have recently felt that something was lacking. Until my fortunate placement at FCS.


My short three weeks at this independent, alternative primary school has consolidated my love of and need to teach. The experience has broadened my awareness of how a different approach to education can and does have significantly wonderful outcomes. An approach that not only supports and encourages academic achievement: but one that fosters the child as a whole.


I experienced that allowing students freedom and flexibility within the school day, also promoted a motivation and willingness to learn. I found that the unique structure of the school, allowed the children to express themselves entirely, whilst learning to do so in a responsible manner. It was obvious that the individuality of each student was not only freely accepted, but nurtured and encouraged.


The homely, relaxed feel of Fitzroy Community School allowed me to confidently execute my style of teaching, whilst also being able to identify weaknesses in my approaches and skills. I gained insight into the possibilities of teaching diversity and will use this experience to build upon my own educational philosophy.


I feel privileged to have been given such an enriching opportunity: the success of FCS is obvious and a credit to your school community. Thankyou.


I look forward to having further involvement with you all in the future.



Visiting Monash University Student Teacher


August 2011


Dear Tim,


Thanks so much for having me for observation this week! I really enjoyed the experience. My previous placement in a primary school was a public school in a disadvantaged area and the difference between the schools is amazing!


Previously I had been doubting my desire to become a teacher within the education institution but this placement has really made me realise that my opposition has been not to teaching but the kind of schools I have been placed in that don't really fit well with me. Fitzroy Community School is exactly the type of schooling environment that I hope to be a part of some day. The emphasis on community is evident throughout the school: the students, teachers and parents all work together and create such a happy positive learning environment unlike anything I have seen previously.


Everyone at FCS was very friendly and inviting and I learnt a lot speaking with Faye about teaching styles and catering for different learning abilities. The children I observed in the morning, the "Tinies" were really ambitious, had a genuine interest in learning and were really engaged with what they were learning.


In the brief time I visited FCS I had the most positive experience of any placement I have had so far. I left my contact details with Faye and so please do not hesitate to contact me as I would be very eager to help out in any way or to come back again sometime.


Thanks again,

Visiting Teacher from Korea


November 2010


Dear Tim and Phil,


Thank you very much for your hospitality when my assistant teacher and I visited your school.


We had a wonderful experience, observing classes and talking with teachers and students.


You provided us with a lot of new ideas and information about independent education. It was very inspiring.


I would like to keep in touch with you to learn more about your school and furthermore about alternative education.


The Fitzroy reading books that we bought from you safely arrived in Korea. Our school teachers and I will teach English based on the books next year. This is very exciting.


Thank you again for all your help.

Best wishes,


Biggies Camp From a Visitors Perspective:

Kirrily B

Student Teacher – Charles Sturt University

August-September 2009


I am a visiting student teacher from the ACT and I think I’m one of the luckiest student teachers going round… I got to go on camp! 


Being part of the Biggies Grampians Camp last week was both a pleasure and a privilege.  The Biggies students, their maturity, their pleasant natures and their lease on life, make them a credit to their school community, their families and themselves.  I thoroughly enjoyed camping, cooking, cleaning, climbing and chatting with them – and I thank them for having me along.


The idea of a camp with very few formal, structured activities was quite intriguing to me at first.  My background is in school camps with very formal activity structures, providing LOTS for kids to do.  I wondered, would they bicker or get bored?  Would they become destructive or distracted?  And what exactly would they be learning?


Well, it turns out they were never bored, they didn’t bicker and were never distracted or destructive.  Instead, they were highly engaged with each other as people and friends.  They were creative about their play options, their explorations and their discussions. 


It seemed to me, they learnt a lot about how to be: how to be with each other; how to be in the bush; how to be with adults; how to be in the local community, and how to be content without the comforts and mod-cons of day-to-day life back in Melbourne.  


Fitzroy Community School slows things down on camp.  The pace of life changes and there is pleasure and learning experiences embedded within the simplest of things.  Thanks to the Biggies and Tim B. for inviting me along and for reminding me to slow things down and to ‘stop and smell the roses.’  Camp was GREAT!

Student-Teacher Placement Experience

Alex R
La Trobe University
August, 2009

I will start with answering the question asked of me before starting my placement:

“Why do you want do your placement at FCS?”

The reason I wanted to my placement at FCS was a desire to give myself a broad set of experiences as a pre-service teacher... and I hoped that FCS would live up to my expectations.  Particularly those around the issue of being a community school offering an authentic alternative to main stream education. This was because I find it all too common for the terms community and alternative to be bandied about.

Fortunately for me and those families lucky enough to experience FCS my fears could not be further from the truth. I must confess that in the first couple of weeks I was trying to find some points of noteworthy criticism. Then I found myself in this weird state of feeling like I was being too gregarious in my enthusiasms when describing the school to friends. At one stage I wondered if this is what it could be like for those who find the bosom of religious fundamentalism. After much reflection and thinking I decided I was not been converted by some nefarious education cult. Instead I witnessed vigorous community and teacher practices which put on show an active love of their roles as educators.

From a professional prospective the practicum provided immense teaching diversity and serious educational thought. I have recently read the many FCS web pages and instead of groaning with frustration as I have regularly done when reading school web pages I instead found a consistent bond between the written word and the philosophies I saw in practice. As I was reading some of the pages I could visualise the person speaking them in the meeting room or to the students.

On a teaching level I have found the experience close to transformative. I now have a framework in which to develop and approach my next placement. A key aspect of the experience was that here I felt truly valued, trusted and empowered to teach. It was the chance to teach across the year levels and the opportunity to be involved in all areas.  In regards to my learning as a teacher, the freedom I was allowed in conjunction with been thrown in the deep end enabled me to test, tweak and experiment within my approach to teaching. By using the term teach I mean more than just facts and talking. It was the finding of a voice and physical position from which to teach (still in development). I also found the challenge of working with minimal resources a satisfyingly difficult learning exercise.

Some stands out moments are as follows.

- The bingo lesson that fell apart before me
- The quotation lesson that was a disaster
- Doing ball drills with Rowdy and Thea, their smiles were wonderful
- Hearing a student repeating some comments I made about team participation
- My first lesson with the tinies, fantastic chaos
- The ridiculous amount of time spent on thinking about dynamic maths lessons
- The support and input from all staff, particularly when bailing me out
- The second lesson on graphs, I experienced a real sense of accomplishment and taste of what it will be like to t each when the mind is calm
- Tim’s response to parental fears
- Faye’s comment about been smart enough not to have an accident
- Nick’s angry voice
- Tea parties
- Seeing the tinies and littlies take down opponents in animal ball
- All the food
- Kids with no shoes
- No bloody junk food
- Of course the children


On a very practical note I must give my appreciation to all who assisted me when it was quite clear I was lacking in areas of knowledge. The manner in which I was assisted never left me feeling stupid or deterred in continuing.

On an organisational level I found the constant moving of children from room to area to room to be wonderful. I was also greatly impressed by the timetable system. As well as the teaching of explicit literacy & numeracy were the classes balanced with free time or creative activities.

Finally, I would like to thank Tim, Nick, Faye, Philip, Nikki, Jeannette, Pauline, Sam, Viktor, Natalie, Jono and all the wonderful young people of FCS for making my experience so wonderful.

Many Thanks




I might be back to harass you for advice on setting up a school.

Visit by a Prospective Teacher

Hi Tim, Nick, Jeannette and all of the wonderful staff at FCS,

I just wanted to send you a note to thank you for allowing me to visit your school and spend the morning with you on 4th September.  I had the pleasure of sitting in on Nick's wonderfully entertaining English class and Tim's maths class.

I loved the vibe of your school and the real sense of community that can instantly be felt when you enter the house.  It is so refereshing to see such passionate and interesting people working together.  The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy their classes and were genuinely happy to be at school. 

Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and my experience at your school helped me to write a great application about why I want to become a primary teacher.

A special big thank you to you Tim for being so welcoming and allowing me to come along on the day.

Thanks again for allowing me to join you, I hope to see you all again soon.


Lesley (Nat's friend)  :o)

September 2009

Visiting Education Academic


June 2009

Hi Tim,

Thank you again for the time you gave to me in your busy day when I made my visit. I had hoped by now to have made time to speak to Faye by phone, as I would greatly value her insight on teaching. Please convey my apologies for not saying goodbye to her on the day but I did not like to interrupt her class at the time I was leaving to do so. I have been telling many colleagues about the tour your students gave me of the school. Such aplomb and thoroughness!  They were only Year 2 were they not? The two young students were definitely poster examples of the independence and confidence that your school aims to instill in its students. Please pass on my thanks and praise to them.

You asked if I could write a paragraph of reflection for you following my visit.  So here it is. I was certainly reminded of many of the ideals of the community school movement that I recall from my own training in the ‘70s, ideals whose durability are proven by the longevity of your school and its popularity with staff,  parents and students over so many decades. From the point of view of education in general, I am not certain how the flexibility of your structure and program would transfer to the larger schools that exist in more formal education. However, that was precisely your own point in the discussion we had about larger schools often being impersonal and rigid!  That is not to say that teaching in more formal structures cannot learn from the teaching practices of a school such as your own. I suspect the dilution those ideals would necessarily undergo in the process might somewhat complicate the end result of what remains of the ideal if school structures remain large! I found your views on teacher training thought-provoking. How far personality drives good teaching, as opposed to professional training is something that I have been thinking about for some time in the context of the topic of my book about the essentials of teaching. I am not sure that we are in full agreement that personality trumps training (if I interpret your view correctly?). However, since I am still in the process of exploring that issue we may yet come to a point of closer agreement further down my writing track, who knows! The discussion about the relation between the two factors is, however, at the core of who and what a teacher is, of that I am certain.

Thank you again for all your time and tell Faye I will definitely be in touch if it is okay with her when I get back.