Theme – High expectations

Knowing every student, valuing them as learners and understanding how to support their learning, is all part of holding high expectations. When teachers hold high expectations it can boost students’ confidence and motivation, which in turn impacts on learning and achievement.

Practical strategies for promoting high expectations

Teachers can promote high expectations of their students when they differentiate instruction, provide individualised feedback and engage in ongoing and meaningful classroom interactions, in order to challenge their students and encourage continuous improvement.

What works best in practice (pages 6-9) provides teachers with key strategies on how to:

  • consistently challenge all students to learn new things
  • establish clear and consistent expectations for learning and behaviour
  • guide and support students towards meeting expectations
  • engage with parents and carers to encourage them to hold high expectations of their children.

The reflection toolkit (page 2) can be used to reflect on how you currently develop and sustain a culture of high expectations, to identify what you are doing well and any areas for improvement.

Video conversation with Trangie Central School

In this video, Mark Scott, former Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, speaks with Trangie Central School Principal, Anne Holden and her students about how their school has embedded a culture of high expectations.

Her students give insights into how those high expectations motivate them and provide them with a positive learning environment.

Trangie Central School and high expectations

Mark Scott:               

Well, I’m speaking today with Principal Anne Holden and the students at Trangie Central School about the ‘What works best’ theme of high expectations. So, Anne Holden, welcome. What does it mean to have high expectations for every student at Trangie Central School and why is it important?

Anne Holden:           

What it means to have high expectations at our school is that the expectations for every student are the same and they are equally high. And what we do is that we make sure that the expectations don’t get lowered for individual students. What we do is we raise the support where it’s necessary so that every student feels equal because their expectations are equal. The expectations are clearly communicated and we voice a philosophy of the values.

Mark Scott:               

So, Anne, I think we can all aspire to a culture of high expectations, but actually developing it and sustaining it over time – that must be a real challenge. How have you gone about developing and sustaining that culture and what has been the impact of that approach?

Anne Holden:           

We analysed very carefully our own situation. And I’ve been here 11 years now, and 11 years ago it was a very different picture. We analysed, warts and all, what our problems were and what we aspired to, and then we worked steadily at achieving those goals. We work as a team and so every single member of our staff has a position of decision making, and so everybody’s included, and so we make sure that every single person is on the same page. So we all aspire to the same things and we all use the same common language to communicate that to our students.

Mark Scott:               

How do you know that that approach has been successful over your 11 years? I mean, what do you see in the running of the school now and in the student experience now that’s different?

Anne Holden:           

What we see is that all of our students, regardless of ethnic background – and 50% of our students are Aboriginal – we see that all of our students stand tall. We’ve come from no Year 12 at all 11 years ago, and last year – we’ve doubled our numbers for a start, and last year, nine of our 12 HSC kids got accepted into university. We’ve got kids doing engineering, electrical engineering. We’ve got four maths teachers being trained, and some of those are Aboriginal children. We think that it’s important because they have a right to a good education.  And if we don’t expect a lot of them, then they don’t expect a lot of themselves.

Mark Scott:               

So, Stacey, you’re in Year 12. How have your teachers kept on challenging you and kept you focused on the classroom, you know, this year and every year when you’ve been at Trangie Central?

Stacey Whitney:       

Well, I think that at Trangie Central School our teachers are preparing us for success in the future. And although this starts in the classroom Trangie Central offers so much more.

I think teachers give us feedback on ways to improve. One way they do this is through the ACE scores. ACE stands for ‘attitude, commitment and effort’. Twice a term, all of our teachers will give us an individual mark out of 10, and this will be combined to give us an average score. I like the ACE scores because I like a challenge and I like challenging myself and my friends to see who can get the higher mark. And I also like it because it’s not always the smartest person in the class who gets the highest mark, so it’s fair.

I also think because Trangie is such a small community, out teachers know  us a lot better and they’re able to tell when we’re upset or overwhelmed. Because a lot of our teachers are also our soccer coaches or our netball trainers, or we might babysit some of their kids, so they know us quite well. I think Trangie Central is more than just a school. It has so many different things to offer each individual. So it’s kind of – it’s easy to stay focused because I know I’m surrounded by teachers who have a passion for what they’re doing and I have the tools to succeed.

Mark Scott:               

What about you, Cam? Cam, how do know that your teachers expect you to always do your best?

Cam Broughton:       

Because my teachers know my best so they constantly push me to work towards that. They engage in our learning and they motivate us to keep working harder. They tell us to strive towards our goals and they are honest about things we need to work harder on and things that we haven’t done as well and that we might have to try again on.

Mark Scott:               

Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for sharing the story of high expectations at Trangie Central School with me today. I’ve really appreciated it, and so will all the other teachers and school leaders who are watching this video.

Mark Scott:               

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Podcast with Trangie Central School

Listen to the full conversation of Mark Scott with Trangie Central School

Registered professional learning

Access the High expectations course on MyPL

Other resources


  • Teaching and learning
  • Teaching and learning practices
  • What works best

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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