Effective improvement measures and strategies

Planning for effective improvement measures and evidence-based strategies, takes into account the diversity and complexity of local school cohorts, and the curriculum priorities for literacy and numeracy.

Image: Working together to set effective targets and improvement measures

Common goals unite us and drive our work as school leaders and teachers.

‘Every student, every teacher, every leader and every school improves every year’ is one such goal from our Strategic Plan 2018-2023, underpinning the School Excellence Policy.

Other departmental goals, shared by each and every school, drive the continual planning for improvement in student outcomes, and include:

  • engaging and challenging all students in learning
  • providing a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy
  • building a learning culture that allows all students to develop deep content knowledge, confidence in their ability to learn, and to be responsible citizens.

Every school is unique

While we share common goals, every school is unique and every school develops their Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) in the context of their unique circumstances.

While school leaders, teachers, staff, students and each school’s community know their school best, it is by looking beyond the local context for the best expert advice and guidance, that deeper insights can be developed to inform each Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP).

Understanding your school context

Conducting a situational analysis and external validation once in each cycle, along with completing a SEF Self-assessment Survey every year, allows you to better understand your school context.

Although sample situational analyses and sample Strategic Improvement Plans (SIP) are provided, every school will develop their Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) to be a customised fit for the needs identified during their situational analysis.

In the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration December 2019, Australian state, territory and federal governments made a collective commitment to ensure that the educational community works to provide equality of opportunity and educational outcomes for all students at risk of educational disadvantage. It states:

'Education plays a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and wellbeing of young Australians.'

Planning for effective improvement measures and evidence-based strategies considers:

  • the diversity and complexity of local school cohorts
  • the curriculum priorities for literacy and numeracy.

Complexity within school environments

Each school has its own unique set of characteristics and challenges that are often outside of its control. Complexity comes from the interaction between diverse types of need - at the student, family and community level - and the dynamics of complexity extend beyond the school gate.

Complexity is not a deficit to be improved, but something for your school to plan around to reduce its impact on students.

Identifying complexity

Complexity does not determine the educational outcomes of your students. It can, however, create additional challenges when responding to the impact of factors outside the school gate on student wellbeing and learning.

Understanding complexity can help schools make effective planning decisions to address some specific areas of need. Identifying those factors is the first step in being able to ensure that appropriate supports are in place in the school for your students to learn and grow. Principals, and school leaders, can access additional information to inform their planning on the School Dashboard in Scout.

Effective improvement measures

You can find general guidance for using improvement measures in the Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) as well as definitions of improvement measures, system-negotiated targets and school-determined targets, as well as Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) samples.

Find information about strategic school resourcing, and view the examples of how funding sources can be used to strategically improve the learning and wellbeing outcomes of both targeted students, and student cohorts who require additional support in achieving their learning goals.

Each of your strategic directions will have a clearly expressed purpose. When your school constructs a set of improvement measures for each strategic direction, which may include system-negotiated and school-determined targets, the following are aligned:

  • initiatives - projects that your school will do
  • success criteria - observable indicators of improved practice
  • an evaluation plan - who, how and with what data success will be judged.

These elements of your Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) are public-facing and, in the sample SIPs, form a single page for each strategic direction. Details, such as activities associated with initiatives and resourcing, are planned during implementation and progress monitoring. The strategic planning examples, seen through the lens of student needs and curriculum priorities, draw on detail provided through the sample Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP).

School-determined targets as improvement measures

School-determined targets describe the measurable value or impact that your school is aiming to achieve. The impact to be achieved by the 4th year of the School Excellence cycle is entered in your Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP). These targets may include local meaningful measures and frameworks.

The School Excellence Framework (SEF) may be used as the basis for an improvement measure or as success criteria in your Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP). When evaluating your school’s progress against the SEF, consider themes that are highly relevant to providing all your students, including equity and capability groups, with an accessible and suitably challenging education.

The SEF and improvement measures

As an example, you may have identified from your situational analysis, external validation and/or your self-assessments, that your school should be excelling at curriculum differentiation to support your equity groups, targeted students and high potential students.

The relevant SEF theme is: Learning (domain), curriculum (element), differentiation (theme): 'Teaching and learning programs across the school show evidence that they are adjusted to address individual student needs, ensuring that all students are challenged and all adjustments lead to improved learning. Teachers involve students and parents in planning to support learning, and share expected outcomes.

One of your improvement measures, mapped against a strategic direction, may be:

  • SEF assessment indicates improvement in SEF theme differentiation (learning, curriculum) from sustaining and growing (S&G) to excelling

Effective strategies and resources

CESE within the NSW Department of Education provides a broad range of resources and professional learning on related educational research and effective practices. Schools are strongly encouraged to draw on the rich evidence base to inform local decision making about the most effective strategies to implement.

What works best: 2020 update is the starting point for many schools when selecting evidence-based strategies. It outlines eight quality teaching practices that are known to support school improvement and enhance the learning outcomes of our students. The themes are not an exhaustive list of effective practices but are a powerful framework for teachers and school leaders to consider when deciding how to focus on student improvement. What works best in practice and What works best toolkit can assist your school with implementation, progress monitoring and self-assessment practices as you journey through the School Excellence cycle.

Effective practices in teaching and learning provides links to:

  • Teaching and learning toolkit is a free online overview of research, designed to inform practice by identifying effective approaches to improving student attainment. For ease of use, the toolkit has been categorised across the three School Excellence Framework domains of Learning, Teaching and Leading. When selecting evidence-based strategies for your Strategic Improvement Plan, you may find the toolkit helpful.
  • Professional learning provides links to face to face training and registered online training available through MyPL. CESE courses connect educational theory and research with your school context. Professional learning about effective strategies is in itself an effective strategy, and will usually be built into initiatives within your Strategic Improvement Plan as a high impact strategy for improving student outcomes for learning and wellbeing.
  • Resources for schools are a range of websites and practical publications relating to effective teaching practices.

Educational Services provides a focus on the policies, support and services that NSW public schools can access to improve student learning and wellbeing.

Use the Service navigator to find and access services and the School Services Finder to access your local contacts for advice specific to your local context.

At any point in your implementation cycle, School Services can provide strategic, operational and responsive support to assist your school. See the Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) to view suggestions on how your local contacts for School Services can support you as you develop and implement your SIP.

When ‘looking forward’ during the situational analysis process, you may be considering adapting and improving on existing practices, decommissioning others and introducing innovations. It is likely that high impact professional learning initiatives, such as Quality Teaching Rounds, will be planned for and budgeted in your Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP).

Funding sources for high impact professional learning initiatives are linked to improvement measures and may include:

  • The Quality Teaching, Successful Students (QTSS) initiative funding provides an additional staffing resource allocation to enhance professional practice focused on improving the quality of classroom teaching.
  • The professional learning initiative funding should be oriented towards improving student progress and achievement.
  • Professional learning and development linked to improved learning and wellbeing outcomes for equity groups can be funding through the equity loadings.
  • Literacy and numeracy initiative resources may be used to address the literacy and numeracy learning needs of students across K-6. Contact your Literacy and numeracy strategy advisors in your School Services team for more information.

The Henry Parkes Equity Resource Centre supports the implementation of equity priorities, policies and practices in NSW public schools. The specialised on-line lending collection can be used as an opportunity to enhance and extend professional learning in your school.

School resourcing snapshots present examples and ideas of how school leaders made strategic funding decisions with their allocations, and highlight the critical work that schools are doing to make a positive difference to student learning and wellbeing. These snapshots have been mapped against the SEF.

Learn more

Find out more about School Excellence in Action.


  • Teaching and learning


  • Educational accountability
  • High performance
  • Leadership and management
  • Reporting and performance
  • School Excellence Framework

Business Unit:

  • School Performance – South
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