High expectations with Trangie Central School – What works best podcast

This podcast was originally published 27 August 2020.

This podcast is part of an eight-part series. In this podcast, Mark Scott, 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.

Mark Scott speaks with Principal, Anne Holden and her students at Trangie Central School.

Intro: Welcome to a special CESE podcast series on the ‘What works best: 2020 update’. For eight exclusive episodes join the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Mark Scott, as he speaks with schools and students, like me, about effective teaching practices that support student academic achievements. This week’s topic is on High expectations with Trangie Central School.

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, we’re values driven and we base our values on integrity, acceptance and kindness, so we just say that kindness changes everything.

Mark Scott: 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. We all aspire to the same things and we all use the same common language to communicate that to our students.

Mark Scott: 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 9 of our 12 HSC kids got accepted into university, we’ve got kids doing engineering, electrical engineering, We think it’s important because they have a right to a good education. And if we don’t expect a lot of them they don’t expect a lot of themselves. We were a case study for wellbeing and that is fundamental to everything that we do and now were a case study for High expectations.

Mark Scott: Fabulous. Anne, we know that High expectations will need to work in a context and so it’s not just what you do in the school, but working with parents working with carers to embed a culture of High expectations across the whole school community. How have you gone about building the partnership with parents and carers in this work?

Anne Holden: In a community like ours trust is essential. We’ve built a trust with our parents and our community by constant communication. Honest communication and acceptance of what their opinion is and acting upon it. We communicate two ways so that we work as a team, we ring around and ask their opinion, so we ring every family each year and seek their opinion. And it’s overwhelmingly positive, which perhaps wasn’t so in the early days. And I live in the community and I belong to community organisations and so my husband and I are very heavily involved in our community and I think that’s important, our community thinks that’s important.

Mark Scott: Brilliant. Thank you for that. Now do you have some students? Let’s send them in.

Anne Holden: Thank you.

Mark Scott: Hello there!

Students: Hello how are you?

Mark Scott: I’m sorry to take you out of class. Kira-Lyn where are you?

Kira-Lyn Edwards Year 12 student: I’m here.

Mark Scott: That’s good. How are you? You good? Year 12 how’s that?

Kira-Lyn: Oh amazing.

Mark Scott: Amazing Almost done, coming close to the finish. And Stacey you’re in year 12 too?

Stacey Whitney Year 12 student: Yes, I am.

Mark Scott: Alright all good. What are your thoughts about next year, what are your plans?

Stacey: Going to uni.

Mark Scott: Oh yeah and what are you thinking about studying?

Stacey: Law and criminal justice.

Mark Scott: Fantastic. And Jake? How are you Jake, are you good?

Jake Foster Year 6 student: Yeah, I’m pretty good.

Mark Scott: Good, how’s year 6?

Jake: Yeah, it’s pretty good, going along nicely.

Mark Scott: And Cam, how are you?

Cam Broughton Year 6 student: Good, thank you.

Mark Scott: So, Kira-Lyn tell me about life at Trangie Central and why’s it important for your teachers to have High expectations of you?

Kira-Lyn: Yep so at Trangie Central they teach us how to set us up for post school so they teach us how to present ourselves appropriately and just to show up and to be on time. They teach us how to yeah present ourselves and if you’re expected to do something that it’s respectful to follow through with it and to be on time like showing up to school. Like the teachers if they didn’t care they wouldn’t, like if they didn’t care about us they wouldn’t put so much effort into us and into our education. So I think that’s important.

Mark Scott: So, Jake what are some ways your teachers encourage you to do better?

Jake: Well my teachers encourage me by giving feedback and how to improve on the different areas of school, they also give me examples and all that my teachers also use different ways of learning and draw diagrams to make things clear and make our writing better and all that. They also recognise and celebrate my achievements. If I’ve tried my hardest, they’ll celebrate it and all that.

Mark Scott: What about you Cam? Cam how do know that your teachers expect you to always do your best?

Cam: 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 strive oh, 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. They give feedback on our work and they show us what we’ve done well and they provide extra-curricular when you’ve done well in classes, and so they provide opportunities for us to excel, such as the ‘Redgum Book Award’ that I got last year.

Mark Scott: Stacey you’re in year 12, you tell me your thinking about a law degree which sounds interesting. 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: 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. We know that if we stay focused and do our best in class were rewarded with extra-curricular activities like the chess team and cattle club and sports teams. And I think also because our teachers have such High expectations of us, they’re always encouraging us and pushing us to do our best. Like in my PDHPE assessment I received a 72%, my teacher knew that it wasn’t my best work so she encouraged me and pushed me to do my best. My next assessment task was a 90% which I’m very proud of. I think also 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 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 friend 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, our 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 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: 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. See you next time.

Students: See you.

Outro: Thanks for listening to this special ‘What works best’ podcast series, produced by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation or CESE. Tune in next week or subscribe to listen to the next episode.

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