SDS voice of schools - Interactive video

To achieve better student outcomes and understand the diverse nature of digital usage, we held a series of interviews and workshops with schools across the state.

From these consultations, handbooks have been developed, outlining the key digital priorities of the school types involved.

Watch the video (right) and use these handbooks (below) to better understand how the strategy will help schools, and how it will be delivered.

The video is interactive. Click on the pin to read more about each school's priorities.


One of the core objectives of the Schools Digital Strategy is to empower and support schools in planning their digital journey, so they can effectively improve their students’ learning outcomes.

To achieve this, and better understand the diverse nature of digital usage, we held a series of interviews and workshops with schools across the state.

From these consultations, handbooks have been developed, outlining the key digital priorities of the school types involved.

Click on the pins on the map to learn more.

[End of narration]

Interactive elements:

Eight pins are displayed on the map, each pin representing a school cohort. When clicking a pin, information about the school cohort will be displayed on screen. Below is an overview of each of these cohorts:

Metro secondary

Our voice

Due to our socio-economic profile and mandate for equity, we do not run BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

We applied some creative staffing to ensure none of our teachers get caught up in student admin tasks.

We need trainers with pedagogy and technical expertise for our teachers.

We backward map our student learning pathways which is central to our three-year plan.

Our top 10 priorities

1. Activate professional learning and Communities of Practice for digital maturity. We want to embed digital solutions into our pedagogical model.

2. Make plans, set goals and solve digital issues by leveraging in-school professional support.

3. Digitise and improve processes with paperless and cashless solutions.

4. Contribute to and benefit from a blueprint guide featuring best-practice technology.

5. Access role-based, integrated interfaces for a better user experience.

6. Access all services from anywhere. Be cloud based.

7. We want to search, in one place, for quality resources that reflect the latest curriculum developments and contemporary learning models.

8. Equip our schools with more robust Wi-Fi and better mobile services.

9. Provide digital resources and training for our leaders when embedding digital into our contemporary learning settings.

10. Refresh our technology (smart boards, laptops and tablets) via an emergency fund.

Regional primary [Country primary]

Our voice

Digital needs to be a layer in our school plan.

There is plenty of tech in schools, but 1. If it’s not working, teachers don’t have time to fix it, and 2. Teachers need face-to-face professional learning to use that technology most effectively.

Effective, one-hour, bite-sized e-learning modules on important digital learning areas would be useful.

Professional learning needs to be integrated and practical, not a novel add-on.

NBN is not always available at our student’s homes. Some students only have a mobile phone. We need to think about access from anywhere.

Our top 10 priorities

1. Improve local IT support continuity.

2. Leverage in-school release times and bite-size resources to drive digital.

3. Develop a digital maturity plan championed by school leaders that sits in the Schools Excellence Framework (SEF).

4. Provide a digital solutions guide of what works best.

5. Access the digital tools and resources for future-focused learning.

6. Digitise burdensome processes to reduce double handling of information.

7. Access user-friendly, integrated interfaces for a better user experience.

8. Experience secure, role-based access management that is simple.

9. Access all services from anywhere. Be cloud based and mobile-first.

10. Refresh our technology (smart-boards, laptops and tablets) via an emergency fund.

Small rural schools [Small schools]

Our voice

Our school has only two staff, so we team up with colleagues at other small schools across the Riverina. We recently adopted the MS Teams digital platform to support this collaboration.

We avoid the SWS website building tool as there is not much training on it, and we have no time to build a website. We just send updates and photos directly to parents.

We sync our devices with OneDrive. However, iPads can be problematic. More compatible devices will help.

Device updates at home are a problem. They don’t always work.

Our phones were down during the rain.

Support with network coverage is required due to limited or no access at times.

Our top priorities

1. Digitise and improve processes that are burdensome. Most department administration systems do not suit small schools.

2. We need more user-friendly enterprise systems.

3. Support us in our new collaboration platform rollout.

4.. We need local technical support to set goals, make plans and solve digital issues.

5. We need reliable internet and phone services. Week-long outages hamper our operations, impacting learning and teaching.

6. We need a guide of off-the-shelf digital solutions that work best for our setting.

7. Help us focus on learning and teaching.

8. Help us shift our professional learning focus.

Metro primary

Our voice

Our Schools Digital Strategy (SDS) forum is a really positive move forward by having the department listen to what’s happening in schools, hearing what principals want to see when it comes to technology and digital platforms at schools.

I can see the SDS connecting schools with what works well, freeing up key people at school to support digital, providing integrated school-based professional learning.

Many schools use third-party software. It's Important the SDS supports schools in accessing effective, easy-to-use software that teachers can effectively report across all key learning areas in primary and high school.

We discussed the role digital can play in facilitating peer-to-peer professional learning.

We need the technology to work and be easier to use to assist our core business – teaching and learning.

I think it’s great that the department is consulting principals on this new strategy. We are eager to implement easy-to-use software to manage attendance, reporting, marking, and all student administration functions.

Our top 10 priorities

1. Digitise burdensome processes to reduce double handling of information.

2. Migrate to role-based, unified digital environments that save time, providing more school-friendly workflows.

3. Connect with digital experts.

4. Leverage in-school professional support to set goals, make plans and solve digital issues.

5. Contribute to and build a digital blueprint guide of what works for schools that are similar to ours.

6. Better manage and administer access privileges and access to digital networks, resources, systems, tools and devices.

7. Migrate to the cloud.

8. Help us search, adapt, publish, share and rate digital teaching resources and lesson plans.

9. Equip our schools and classrooms with Wi-Fi.

10. Refresh our technology (smart-boards, laptops and tablets) via an emergency fund.

Regional secondary [Country secondary]

Our voice

We need a clearly defined plan, the Schools Digital Strategy (SDS), to take us on the journey together allowing capacity for our school to make local adjustments.

We want recommendations on what professional learning (PL) we should do rather than scrolling through the thousands of courses.

It is about using technology to make learning engaging. School cannot function without a TSO (Technology Support Officer). And the TSO must be a teacher.

The digital strategy needs to be included in the areas we are already looking to improve.

That’s the biggest thing that is missing – how can we best teach with this technology?

Budgeting RAM (Resource Allocation Model) does not reflect technological needs in schools.

We don’t want to subscribe to standardised digital lesson plans.

Our top 10 priorities

1. Elevate teacher PL to leverage digital for future-focused learning.

2. Digitise and improve burdensome processes such as transferring student records

3. Migration to role-based, unified digital environments that save time, and provide more school-friendly records management.

4. Access a blueprint guide featuring best-practice technology.

5. Leverage in-house professional support to set goals, make plans and solve digital issues.

6. Experience secure, role-based access management that is simple.

7. Access all services from anywhere. Be cloud based and mobile-first.

8. Access digital tools and resources through a digital resources store.

9. Fix burning issues such as Wi-Fi blind spots, “authority to travel” workflows, and simpler applications to hardware.

10. Refresh our technology (smart boards, laptops and tablets) via an emergency fund.

Central [Rural Central]

Our voice

The Schools Digital Strategy (SDS) needs to be far more than a pilot program … it must meet our local needs.

We are here for the students but the technology systems are not always favourable.

We receive no communication from ITD (Information Technology Directorate), for example, when there are email issues on mobile devices.

All our professional learning on the use of digital has been trial and error.

We are self-taught to deal with technology and we problem solve on the fly.

We over-staff through our RAM (Resource Allocation Model) to have someone onsite who can address our technology issues.

We don’t like the training that is designed for big schools or the big packages.

Logging into multiple platforms can be painful and time consuming.

Good pedagogy enabled through digital won’t come until the systems are in place.

Our top 10 priorities

1. Improve teacher professional learning to master digital for better student outcomes. Our students come first.

2. Digitise and improve processes with paperless and cashless solutions.

3. Our digital plan will draw upon local and SDS professional team support and will integrate with our ongoing three-year plan.

4. Access a blueprint guide that features technology that works best for schools like ours.

5. Provide a more school-friendly digital experience at our desk, classroom and on the go.

6. Fix all the seemingly small issues that slow us down such as password resets.

7. Access all services from anywhere. Be cloud based and mobile-first.

8. Access digital tools and resources through a digital resources store.

9. Create an effective collaboration environment.

10. Refresh our technology (smart-boards, laptops and tablets) via an emergency fund.

Connected Communities Schools

The Connected Communities Strategy (PDF 665KB) (CCS) is an innovative approach to address the educational and social aspirations of Aboriginal children and all young people in 15 schools in 11 of the most complex and vulnerable communities in NSW.

The schools, all located in rural and regional areas, are:

• Boggabilla Central School

• Bourke High School

• Bourke Public School

• Brewarrina Central School

• Coonamble High School

• Coonamble Public School

• Hillvue Public School (Tamworth)

• Menindee Central School

• Moree East Public School

• Moree Secondary College

• Taree High School

• Taree Public School

• Toomelah Public School

• Walgett Community College

• Wilcannia Central School

View the Map of Connected Communities school areas (PDF 166KB).

Digital support priorities include easier access to Professional Learning; quicker access to digital support; a digital catalogue with pre-qualified options; and a simple application process for financial assistance for students with special needs.

Some of the CCS’s deliverables are:

• Aboriginal children are increasingly developmentally ready to benefit from schooling in their physical health, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills and communication.

• Aboriginal families and community members are actively engaged in the school.

• Attendance rates for Aboriginal students are equal to the state average.

• Aboriginal students are increasingly achieving at or above national minimum standards and overall levels of literacy and numeracy achievement are improving.

• Aboriginal students are staying at school until Year 12 (or equivalent training).

Schools in distinct settings

The NSW Department of Education operates more than 2200 schools across the state, and there are some schools that sit outside the seven common school types.

Each of the following schools in distinct settings have unique digital priorities:
Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs), Youth Justice schools and Hospital schools, Agricultural boarding schools, Environmental Education Centres, and Intensive English Centres.

School for Specific Purposes (SSPs)

SSPs, also known as special schools, support students with intellectual disability, mental health disorder or autism spectrum disorder, physical disabilities or sensory impairment, and learning difficulties or behaviour disorder.

Our top priority

• Increase our digital storage allocation for assessment.

Youth Justice schools

The department operates schools at each of the state’s six Youth Justice Centres so young offenders can continue their studies while at the centre, and learn skills to help them re-enter education, training or the workforce when they leave custody.

Our top priority

• Provide an online walled garden for student learning.

Agricultural boarding schools

Farrer Memorial, Hurlstone, and Yanco agricultural high schools are NSW Government boarding schools with distinct digital needs.

Our top priority

• Digitise and improve administration processes that are burdensome.

Environmental Education Centres (EECs)

EECs operate environment-related field learning and teaching experiences to integrate environmental education across subject areas.

Our top priority

• Administration systems need to support our unique operation.

Hospital schools

They supply educational services for students who are inpatients in hospitals in NSW. Hospital schools provide an emotionally supportive environment, and assist students in returning to school after hospitalisation with as little disruption as possible.

Our top priority

At the time of this compilation, NSW hospital schools are dealing with the unique circumstances of COVID-19. We look forward to reconnecting to identify and share their digital priorities when the pandemic passes.

Intensive English Centres (IEC)

IECs and the Intensive English High School (IEHS) provide intensive English tuition to newly arrived students, aged 11 to 18, whose first language is not English.

Our top priority

• Deliver equity and extending to the home.

[End of transcript]

A strategy co-designed with schools

The Schools Digital Strategy is built on the principles of co-design. Extensive interviews have been conducted with principals, teachers and school administrative staff across the state to understand how they see technology contributing to their roles in improving student outcomes.


Sharing digital resources


For me, what I see with the digital strategy is looking at what people do and the tools that they're using and how they can actually really operate with those tools and leverage student learning and improve those student outcomes because it's all about those end users which are the kids.


What the digital strategy does it, is allows schools and teachers as well as students to have a voice in the decisions that are going to be made within the school, to find the best fit for them with digital. So, the most important part for the schools digital strategy for me is, it's not the department telling the schools what to do, it's the department listening to schools and then providing them the support that they need.

The digital strategy and teaching


You've got a lot of busy teachers in our system and if they can actually look at a digital resource that's being developed and it's a quality resource by another teacher in another school somewhere that could be shared and all of a sudden that teacher might share a resource back with that other teacher or someone else and all of a sudden you've got this huge community of practice and it's going to save time. It's also going to save time not only with that preparation but with the delivery too. You can flip your classes so students can have a lot of the content beforehand and then you can come in and you can really analyze and get a deeper understanding of the content.


Digital resources are very important for lesson planning. They give you the opportunity to reuse and modify digital resources so that you're not constantly reinventing the wheel. It can be a really collaborative process where you're working with other teachers and sharing resources and seeing the curriculum being taught in a new way. Particularly with new curriculums coming through and in the curriculum review there's a lot of changes around and it really cuts down on the amount of time for lesson planning if you can find resources that you can modify to best suit your students to differentiate within the classroom or work with other staff members to make sure that the students are getting the best possible resource for their learning.

Creating life-long learners


There's not going to be the mistakes of the past, we'll be able to say here's the syllabus here's some resources and here's the correct content and let's make sure that the kids are completely prepared for every single stage of their learning and we're not just looking at a K to 12 solution we should be looking at a K to 20 solution with the digital strategy which is what we are, we're creating lifelong learners, so we're not only going to help teachers with their consistency of practice with those syllabuses but we're also going to be able to train the students and get them to a level that we've never been able to get before.


If a student has multiple different ways in which they're getting their learning and have to manage multiple passwords and multiple you know they've got Edmodo and Canvas and you know God knows how many different platforms. It can be a bit overwhelming, so having a consistent approach within a school to say these are the systems that we're going to use to communicate with you, with your parents, these are the these are work that the places that you can find your resources that best suit you. It really helps cut down a lot of the wasted time when it comes to logging in and trying to find the resources and really makes that teaching learning experience a lot more user-friendly.

The future of teaching and learning


My vision for the future, if we're looking seven years in the future at the end of the schools digital strategy, would be staff and students really having a lot of agency and a lot of involvement in their own learning. To say how they best learn, not every student learns the same not every teacher teaches the same. It's really important to give them, empower them to have, to make the right choices in their classroom to make sure that they're learning in the best possible way to get the best possible outcomes for students.


So, 2026 the end of the SDS I think what we'll hopefully have is a very consistent system. We'll be able to track a lot of data not that the data is the be-all and end-all because we've got to look at the humans that are in front of us. But we'll be able to assist them with that data. We'll be able to know where they sit and where we can move them to. So, I think that will be probably the most important part is looking at that continuum of learning and ensuring our students are following that and if they do, if they are a little, having a few difficulties we'll be able to prop them up and support them with that and that will be through digital means because it will be accessible to all. We can have all this accessible 24/7 for staff, students, parents, caregivers, leaders anyone really that will need that sort of level of data and level of understanding as well so i think i think that's where we'll be heading is hopefully not letting any more people fall through the cracks, whether it's staff or students.

Share your story -

[End of transcript]


Teachers speak about how the SDS will give them the tools, resources and skills they need to "create life-long learners". And the importance of listening to schools and providing them with the technology that's the "best fit for them".

School leaders

My name's Clint White. I'm the principal of Sylvania Heights Public School and also the chairperson for the NSW primary principals association technology reference group.

Hi, I'm Katherine Horner principal at Jannali East Public School, a school in the Sutherland Shire with 365 students.

My name is Neil Lavitt and I'm a teaching principal at St Peters Public School, which is a lovely little school of about 123 children at this moment in time, in the inner west of Sydney.

My name is Craig Snudden and I'm the principal at Bangor Public School here in Sydney's south. A reasonably large school of 550 students across 22 classes.

The school digital strategy for me is about making schools more effective by reducing the administrative burden on principals and on school teachers.


Admin staff, teachers and principals just want simple platforms across schools that work. There seems to be so much happening from a technological point of view. New information, new programs, new expectations new ways of doing things.

The biggest problem with technology is it's the preparation time. It's getting everything working, it's the problems with the passwords. It's the problems with individuals not being able to access what they need to access.

It's about having technology that is reliable, cost-effective, enhances teaching and learning without the teacher having the challenges of trying to get the technology to work.

The technology is in schools, it's there. It assists in our core business of teaching and learning. Teachers would love to be able to collaborate together, learn from each other in all aspects of that teaching and learning cycle.

Whether it's planning, whether it's implementing the lessons, whether it's assessing or reporting wouldn't it be fantastic to see the department's support all aspects of that cycle.

If we had a system that was all interlinked with a common language that would be beneficial to everyone and be much more time-efficient and wouldn't be putting more stress on us and our staff.

One area that I'm particularly keen to see is the way in which schools now and teachers are able to collaborate on digital data, which is secure without the need to use USB keys, hard drives which are very very insecure in the sense that they can get lost or broken and data is duplicated and repeated.

We need to look at different settings, different systems where technology is playing the greatest role within the school to be reflective of contemporary workplaces, of contemporary society.

When talking about schools digital strategy it would be wonderful to see support for our core business in the classroom which is the teaching and learning cycle.

The most important thing with any use of any technology is that it doesn't get in the way of the learning.

The cost of the ever-changing technology is a real burden. I see teachers that now come into the school that are highly digitally literate and they know and are able to use tools very effectively in learning. They plan and program through technology.

I think it's great that the department is consulting principals on this new strategy. It's great that we have input now and can make sure that whatever is rolled out works in schools.

If you have something that's simple and makes sense and has a common language that's school language, I think that would be very very helpful for everyone.

The SDS will be able to provide principals and schools with more time for principals to be working with students and teachers. That's what we want.

[End of transcript]

School leaders

Principals speak about the need for having technology that is “reliable, cost-effective, and enhances teaching and learning" and how the SDS will assist in their school's planning and give them "more time to be working with students and teachers".

SDS voice of schools handbooks

This is a selection of the handbooks developed with school leaders around the state. Over time, these local planning tools will be developed into a set of digital innovation models.

Each model will match the needs of schools of a particular type, size, location and demographics, with proven strategies packaged for schools to adopt and adapt.

Voice of Schools Handbook - Metro secondary

Department of Education
Date: December 2019
Pages: 24
Reading time: 30 minutes

Download (PDF 1.2 MB).

Voice of Schools Handbook - Regional secondary

Department of Education
Date: December 2019
Pages: 24
Reading time: 30 minutes

Download (PDF 6.5 MB).

Voice of Schools Handbook - Metro primary

Department of Education
Date: December 2019
Pages: 24
Reading time: 30 minutes

Download (PDF 1.9 MB).

Voice of Schools Handbook - Rural central

Department of Education
Date: December 2019
Pages: 24
Reading time: 30 minutes

Download (PDF 2.3 MB).

Voice of Schools Handbook - Regional primary

Department of Education
Date: December 2019
Pages: 24
Reading time: 30 minutes

Download (PDF 4.5 MB).

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