School improvement and excellence

School improvement is at the heart of the work we do as teachers and school leaders, and needs to ‘touch every classroom’, be the work of every teacher and impact every student.

A brief overview of the School Excellence cycle - providing NSW public schools with the tools to drive continuous school improvement and improved student outcomes.

Schools are dynamic communities and everyone working in them is best placed to determine how to meet the needs of their students.

School improvement is at the heart of what we do. It's a continuous process centred on supporting the growth and achievement of every student in every classroom.

That's why we've been working with schools to develop the strategic improvement planning process, ensuring all schools have the right tools and support to build a brighter future for all students.

The strategic improvement planning process helps schools identify and talk about what's going well and what they can do even better.

The process also helps our schools work closely with their communities to set and prioritise goals aimed at improving their students learning, growth and well-being.

Schools then develop a plan for what their teachers and leaders will do, then they implement and monitor their progress towards achieving their goals.

And every year schools have a chance to reflect on their plan and celebrate progress.

Each school's strategic improvement plan is a great way for leaders, teachers and support staff to come together with the entire school community and develop a coherent and reflective school plan. With this plan we can ensure that every student, every teacher, every leader and every school improves every year.

Visit the NSW Education website and search ‘School Excellence’ to find out more.

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School improvement and why it matters

School improvement is a continuous process, centred on maximising outcomes for all students, and sustaining this improvement over time.

School improvement needs to ‘touch every classroom’, be the work of every teacher and impact every student.

Fostering equity and excellence in your school is underpinned by a strong moral purpose, and founded upon a shared commitment to ensuring growth and achievement for all students, no matter where they live or what kind of learning challenges they may face.

School improvement is grounded in rigorous self-assessment and analysis of your school's current situation with respect to student outcomes and teaching and leadership practices.

It uses a rich evidence base of quantitative and qualitative data, and is:

  • research informed
  • continuous
  • focused on improving learning, teaching and leadership practices.

Explicit use of data enables you to closely monitor student progress and achievement, allowing you to 'put a face to the data'. It supports a collective responsibility for understanding the needs of every student in your school.

All working together towards improvement

The learning of all teachers and leaders is as important as student learning. A deliberate and purposeful focus on continuously developing the capabilities of all teachers and leaders in your school is fundamental to school improvement.

When we work towards being a great school that meets the needs of all of our students, together we are:

  • ensuring our students learn through engaging teaching
  • leading with a clear vision based on shared values
  • partnering proactively with others, especially parents, carers and the local community
  • engaging our learners, teachers and leaders in reflection and decision-making
  • focusing our culture on student growth, attainment and wellbeing
  • strategically targeting all our resources to achieve the student growth, attainment, and wellbeing we have planned.

How the department describes School Excellence

The School Excellence Framework (SEF) supports all NSW public schools in their pursuit of excellence by providing a clear description of the key elements of high quality practice across the 3 domains of learning, teaching and leading.

The framework describes 14 elements across these 3 domains, which define the core business of excellent schools in 3 progressive stages. Each year, every school assesses their practices against the SEF to inform their school plan and their annual report.

The description of excellence in the SEF supports you as you:

  • engage with your community in the development of a shared vision
  • identify strategic priorities
  • track progress, as an ongoing practice, towards your priorities.

The Wellbeing Framework for Schools is a statement that describes what is valued as excellence in student wellbeing in NSW public schools.

It supports your school to create a planned approach to wellbeing, using evidence based strategies that are strengths-based, preventative and focus on early intervention. This includes strengthening your students' cognitive, physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing domains of development.

Your school will achieve this through planning and decision-making at the local level to address the needs of your students.

The SEF and wellbeing

The SEF includes wellbeing as an element of the learning domain stating:

In schools that excel, there is a strategic and planned approach to develop whole school wellbeing processes that support the wellbeing of all students so they can connect, succeed, thrive and learn.

However, as wellbeing and learning are linked, wellbeing programs and processes can be assessed throughout the 3 domains of learning, teaching and leading.

CESE and 'What works best'

The School Excellence Framework (SEF) supports school leaders to ensure that consistency, expectations and assumptions are aligned across all teaching and learning at school, and there is strong alignment between the SEF and the themes of CESE's 'What works best'.

Read the following 'What works best' publications from the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE):

Image: The School Excellence cycle draws on these key documents and frameworks

Learn more

View the School Excellence cycle.

Find more information about School Excellence in Action or contact the team at


  • Teaching and learning


  • Governance
  • Leadership and management
  • Reporting and performance
  • School Excellence Framework
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