As with all members of the department’s senior executive team, my best days are days spent in schools – talking with students, being in classrooms, listening to insights from administrative staff, teachers and principals.
Last week I spent time at schools in Bathurst and Orange. At Carenne School, a SSP in Bathurst, I met the team who won our inaugural Education Game Changer Challenge with their wonderful vision for a wellbeing space at their school. As is often the case when I visit our SSPs, I was struck by the commitment to the improvement of every child. Our teachers and support staff there are listening and watching carefully, tracking progress, promoting engagement and sparking interest. Every student is so clearly known, valued and cared for at Carenne.
At Perthville Public, a beautiful small school outside Bathurst, there was low-key pleasure about their NAPLAN results. There has been a constant focus at the school on improving engagement with numeracy, and for staff to focus on teaching numeracy effectively. This was clear to see in every classroom and also evident in the NAPLAN results, which saw a further big lift of students into the top two NAPLAN bands. What was evident talking to the school was they had not focused specifically on NAPLAN, but on quality teaching and learning – the results were just a pleasing by-product of being committed to the improvement of every child.
At Orange High School, a major project is underway to work through a number of the key areas identified as part of our strategic plan. The challenge of ensuring every student is ‘known, valued and cared for’ is significant in a large high school, but it is a clear focus for the principal and his executive team. For the second year in a row, a new strategy is underway to give HSC English students additional, focused support in their final weeks of preparation – a commitment to ensure the improvement of the students, teachers and the school. Making the strategic plan real in practice.
Education will always generate headlines and never suffer from a lack of dogmatic opinions. The evidence I see when I visit schools is that the real experts are those on the ground, who innovate and draw on evidence to ensure we are not just caring for students, but are committing to best prepare them for a fast-changing, demanding and ever more complex world. The best schools know the status quo is not good enough for our students and press to find ways to improve teaching and learning and ensure all students are engaged, secure and supported.
We know it is all so intense and demanding – so as schools break for the end of term, our thanks to everyone who is on the frontline, supporting the learning of 800,000 students. And thanks also for all who work in support in our offices: those who provide educational services, who support the systems we need to run such a large organisation or who enable other parts of our education portfolio to operate effectively. If you get a short break, please be safe and enjoy. We’ll all be back soon enough for that big final push to the end of the year.