National data reveals NSW public schools among top performers

NSW public schools are among the top NAPLAN performers, national data shows. Luke Horton reports.

Image: Strong foundation: Wilkins Public School students Soana Langi and Sydney Tran.

A whole of school focus on writing continues to pay dividends for Cabramatta High School.

Speaking on the release of the latest My School data today, Principal Lachlan Erskine welcomed news that his school was among the top performers across NSW.

My School data, released by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), gives parents access to information on their school and how they compare to schools of comparable socioeconomic status, including student performance and attendance.

Mr Erskine said a focus on writing and literacy ensured the school continued to deliver excellent results.

“We’ve always been really strong in numeracy and our literacy results were good too, but we recognised there was opportunity to have an extra focus in that area,” he said.

“There’s a whole school focus on writing and not just writing generally, but what it looks like in each of the different subject areas, and we’ve linked literacy experts with subject matter experts to help develop new learning resources.

“The introduction of literacy lessons has been another important step. Our Year 7 to 10 students have two lessons a fortnight, where they focus on things like grammar and writing in different styles.”

Carlingford West Public School was also among the state’s top performers.

Principal Andrew Williamson and Deputy Principals Di Bower, Marta Piwonski and Alexis King said a strong staff culture ensured consistently outstanding outcomes at the school.

“Everyone supports everyone,” Mr Williamson said.

“Our team works well together and we’re constantly upskilling and reinventing to maintain that consistently high standard.”

Connecting with students and providing a safe and nurturing environment for learning is also key to the school’s success.

The school’s Deputy Principal Wellbeing Marta Piwonski said a growth mindset approach to learning and awareness of the pressures faced by students was important.

“We have regular breaks and a PDHPE curriculum focused on not just sport, but mental health and wellbeing,” she said.

“And knowing our students educationally, and also personally, so they feel safe and secure.”

Every year the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) assesses the literacy and numeracy skills of students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

NAPLAN tests complement the wide range of formal and informal assessments already conducted in schools.

From 2023, NAPLAN will be held in Term 1. The 2023 NAPLAN test window is from Wednesday 15 March to Monday 27 March.

Visit the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website for more information about NAPLAN.

Outstanding effort

NSW public schools have again been among the country’s top My School performers.

Click on the dropdowns to read what some of our schools had to say about their results:

The secret to consistent improvement at Caringbah North Public School is the focus on academic excellence and student wellbeing. Explicit teaching is a key ingredient in both. Our teachers have become excellent practitioners in delivering direct, explicit instruction in all lessons that are responsive to the differentiated needs of their students. We have embedded regular opportunities for teachers to collaborate on the development of literacy and numeracy programs. A recent numeracy focus of embedding differentiated success criteria into complex, challenging maths problems has increased the level of challenge and engagement across the school. These tasks also double as a formative assessment tasks, allowing teachers to provide explicit lessons and then address gaps in understanding.

There are several factors that have contributed to our successful NAPLAN results. These include:

  • Consistent principal leadership over a few cycles.
  • Consistency of Instructional leadership - two Assistant Principals, Curriculum and Instruction (AP, C and I's) working together through a collaborative approach to provide continuity of support and intervention K-6.
  • Targeted professional learning on phonological awareness and oral language in the preschool. Recognising and implementing early interventions for speech and OT (occupational therapy) in the preschool. Literacy and numeracy scope and sequence.
  • Delivering evidence-based programs for example spelling mastery. This was our biggest area of growth compared to previous years in the Year 5 2022 NAPLAN results.
  • Whole school initiatives linked to the SIP (Strategic Improvement Plan). An example of an initiative is developing a school wide process for reading comprehension and decodable checklists, so teachers know what a quality lesson needs to include and developed proformas including all the components.
  • Ensuring the implementation of evidence-based practices in literacy and numeracy through high impact professional learning, then explicit, differentiated teaching and learning.
  • High Impact Professional Learning - learn a little bit, practice, come back, learn some more.
  • Hub days twice per term with stage teams to build teacher knowledge and to co plan lessons. Hub days are based on the teaching and learning cycle.
  • Using teaching sprints, a professional learning scaffold to develop and grow teacher capacity.
  • Teachers provided with explicit evidence-based instruction, with many developing further skills in specific and timely formative feedback related to defined success criteria.
  • Tiered Intervention across the school - this is planned through data analysis and targeted intervention - the AP, C and I's oversee the setting of the intervention, closely monitoring this and tracking progress. AP, C and I's meet with each teacher on a regular schedule to analyse data and plan interventions.
  • Interventions also target the students in the middle two bands to move them towards the top two bands.
  • Reporting is a three-way conversation, so parents are involved in their child's learning and can view the worksamples and evidence of learning
  • Wellbeing programs to get students ready for learning. Social emotional learning program to support trauma informed practice in a PB4L (Positive Behaviour for Learning) framework. Structured wellbeing support underpins the development of improved cognitive functioning.
  • Culture and Language programs. Taught to every class including preschool by a qualified language tutor with a whole school scope and sequence and planned lessons. Brospeak and Sistaspeak are also implemented.

At Epping West, classroom teachers work side-by-side with expert executive, learning support and EAL/D (English as an Additional Language or Dialect) teachers to design explicit learning sequences in literacy and numeracy, differentiated to support individual student needs. A range of external and internal data is used to track student progress. Higher order reasoning and critical thinking skills are embedded in programs. The 4Cs approach and broad student participation in our extensive arts and sports programs provides opportunities to develop student agency and the ‘whole child’.

Excelsior Public School has a focus on the explicit teaching of literacy and numeracy, with an emphasis on developing key skills in the early years. In 2018, the school conducted a review of the teaching Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 English. As a result, systematic teaching of phonics, phonological awareness and vocabulary were prioritised. Our school values collaboration and incorporates co-teaching and flexible uses of learning spaces to enhance teaching and learning. Data is regularly collected and analysed to ensure teaching programs, professional learning and intensive support are targeted to maximise the learning gains of our students.

Gosford Public School has achieved ongoing success as a high performing school by establishing and enhancing an organisational culture underpinned by excellence, understanding, tolerance and inclusion. 'Reflective practice', continuous self-assessment and 'evidence-based' decision-making has been embedded in the school's culture since 2017. The school leadership team has provided ongoing professional learning to staff to prepare and develop a culture that embraces continuous self-assessment practice. The school has established rock solid foundations built upon strong and sustainable quality systems to support current, innovative pedagogy. The commitment of all stakeholders to make ‘best practice, common practice’ in the domains of Teaching, Leading and Learning has been the key success. High expectations as well as consistent and equitable access to quality learning opportunities has been evident in all learning spaces. 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.

Since 2016, our reading results for students in the top two bands in NAPLAN for Years 3 and 5 have been increasing and went above set targets. The school implemented additional support in the Kindergarten to Year 2 classes for English, allowing for focused, explicit teaching of reading and writing in small groups. The Assistant Principal, Curriculum and Instruction has assisted in the implementation of the new K-2 syllabus and the school was part of the Accelerator Adopter program, which worked with teachers across the school.

We are very proud of our steadily improving performance in NAPLAN 2022. Among a range of other measures the school takes pride in, these results are hugely encouraging. Hillvue Public School is part of the Connected Communities Strategy in NSW.

The Connected Communities Strategy is an approach that schools and communities can use to strengthen the educational outcomes for Aboriginal students and all students. It brings the community closer with the school, brings in Aboriginal culture, and allows the school to work with government and non-government groups to help support the education of the school’s students.

This work includes a strong focus on explicit literacy and numeracy instruction K-6. Hillvue Public School staff have worked systematically to ensure teaching and learning programs are culturally safe, relevant and engaging to maximise the motivation and performance of their students.

The school enjoys a strengths-based approach when expertly designing teaching and learning that is differentiated across the range of learners. The school takes deliberate action to ensure their quality learning environments are rich and stimulating and that high expectations of all pervade across its learning community.

School Characteristics

  • A very rigorous and authentic approach to literacy. Reading and writing are reciprocal skills and are promoted through narratives and visuals
  • Active reflection in the teaching and learning cycle is our core business. Teachers improve when they are supported by experts in the classroom and they can defend the impact of their practice.
  • An area of pleasing growth is Writing K-6. This is because we write daily, for real purpose and with our audience in mind. Our children have the necessary skills to write both coherently and creatively.
  • Hillvue Public School students can nominate their learning strengths, challenges and next steps because we make learning visible and measurable. The positive Personalised Learning Pathways process which involves the students, parents and carers and school community builds and shares aspirations and strategic goals to drive successful learning for every student.
  • The school invests in its staff. We understand that teachers who are active learners, can describe their approach and impact and share their professional insights with others. This is highly encouraging as it helps our staff see themselves/their role in our School Improvement Plan.
  • Primary school teachers have to manage learning across six key learning areas. No one educator is equally proficient across these. This reality is a catalyst to collaboration and mutual trust in our school. We enjoy learning from and with each other in effective learning teams.
  • Celebrating our successes and challenging our beliefs and actions occurs everyday at HPS. Our learning community affords us many opportunities to acknowledge small incremental successes but, also allows us to hear constructive feedback that aligns with aspirations about our learning and wellbeing programs.
  • Parents are our children’s first and most consistent teachers and we enjoy a wonderful partnership with them in support of our successes.
  • Early intervention through our targeted Transition to School program is an investment in learning readiness, allied health support and pro-social development. This is 'money in the bank!'

Our teachers put the students at the centre of all decision-making and as a result, our students love learning. Our school’s high performance is a combination of strong educational leadership, quality teaching practice, and a consistent learning culture.

We put a lot of work into those early years, from Kindy to Year 3. Speech is one of the biggest factors in academic achievement. We had 27 children on a speech program in Kindy last year. Teachers also have more time for lesson planning, thanks to partnerships such as the weekly Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. We give the staff an extra hour of release from face-to-face teaching for collaborative planning and it gets the kids thinking about healthy eating from an early age.

As a school community, we are very excited and proud to be identified as a high performing school. Wilkins Public School has a long history of investing in instructional leadership to support effective, evidence-based literacy and numeracy instruction, which has been supported by previous principals and the school leadership team. The school's strong focus on wellbeing and inclusion has led to an individualised approach to learning, ensuring every student is supported to achieve within our diverse community. We are now looking forward to continuing to build on our success.

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