Every Student Podcast: Tim Lloyd
Tim Lloyd joins Mark Scott on the Every Student Podcast to discuss how industry partnerships set up students for success.
Tim Lloyd joins Mark Scott on the Every Student Podcast to discuss how industry partnerships set up students for success.
Hi, I'm Mark Scott, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education and welcome to Every Student, the podcast where I get to introduce you to some of our great leaders in education. The person I am speaking to today was recently announced High School Principal of the Year at the Australian Education Awards - it's Tim Lloyd, the principal of Plumpton High School in Blacktown. Tim's 1,000 students come from 66 cultures and 80% are from low-income families. Now Tim is a passionate believer in bringing the real world into the classroom and has established an astonishing number of school partnerships with business, industry, universities all to prepare young people for life after school and to improve their chances of getting into uni or scoring a job. Welcome, Tim.
Thanks, Mark it's a real honour to be here and thank you for that wonderful introduction.
Well, it's a long way - you grew up on a farm at Coolah and then you completed high school as a boarder in Sydney, what did you aspire to do after you left school?
Initially, I didn't really know and I had a really patchy career through education in primary school I spent a significant amount of time outside the door, it just didn't interest me.
Just causing trouble, were you?
Probably just not engaged so causing trouble would have been probably yeah a big part of that. I guess leaving school not knowing what I wanted to do, I took a year off played rugby and then thought well I want to go back make a difference. And I thought I also wanted to represent Australia and then followed through and wanted to do education and be a teacher and put back into a system which I had mixed success with.
You became a gymnastics coach or something for a period of time?
I did yes and I spent a bit of time coaching for Australia and produced Australia's first World Champion in our history, Juanita Little who is the World Champion in 1997 for aerobics, a new sport within Australia and gymnastics internationally.
Then you trained as a PDHPE teacher and your first job was actually at Plumpton High School?
It was and I think I loved my opportunity to go to Plumpton having grown up in the bush and a lot of disadvantage in the bush and I thought that where I landed at Plumpton was similar in many ways to where I grew up big difference being the significant multicultural mix at Plumpton. It gave me an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of kids and to see how we could change some circumstances for kids and having a love of sport and the love of PDHPE that certainly gave me that opportunity.
You stayed there for 6 years and then you began a career which had you moving around the system somewhat. So where did you go after that?
I moved from Plumpton to Dunheved High School at that stage and helped create Chifley College which was the amalgamation of the five Mt Druitt high schools and spent a significant time there as the head teacher at PDHP and administration and I guess that's where I started some of my innovation in doing things differently. Looking at PDHPE, how do we put a gym into the school, how do we then have kids looking at exercise physiology and exercise science and pursuing fitness leaders courses and strengthening conditioning coach courses so that not only do they learn the skills but they actually gain a credential that served them well to gain employment or to have interest in going into further education whether tertiary or otherwise.
Let me deal with some unfair stereotypes. I think it would have long been held that if you're really kind of preparing kids and preparing kids for tertiary education and academic career there are certain subjects that do that. PDHPE targets the kids who aren't interested in that trajectory and that pathway.
I'd argue that in the past perhaps absolutely however when you look at what universities are seeking for those students who go into medicine or physiotherapy, exercise and sports science, exercise physiology one of the key things that universities are looking for now and I speak with our university partners whether it be Macquarie or Western Sydney and students who are studying their senior PDHPE course which doesn't just take in that exercise physiology and that scientific space, it also looks at health care, it looks at psychology and all manner of I guess speciality areas which are essential for us in the words of Seligman to 'flourish as humans' moving forward in terms of our psychological make-up and our wellbeing. One of our significant struggles in Australia being anxiety and students' mental health.
I've been reading again Grit by Angela Duckworth and she sites Seligman who of course was, of course, a mentor for her. To what extent do you think the attributes of Grit are really affectively developed through PDHPE for kids?
I think they have the potential to do be well developed through PDHP but I think it requires a little bit of thinking outside the box to add to that. We've implemented the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme as part of our PDHPE structure and that is embedded in Year 9 so it's mandatory for our kids to do that Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and for some of our kids who have grown up in Western Sydney a lot of whom never been east of the Anzac Bridge or west of Penrith. So taking those kids to do adventurous journeys in the Blue Mountains or other places; camping, learning to cook their own food, a little bit of adversity with temperature, setting up tents without those creature comforts certainly goes a long way to developing some grit and determination. That notion of that there's things I can do and some not yet if we look at in the words of a growth mindset in a Dweck space there. And that's significantly benefiting our kids and that ability to transfer skills then from things that they can?t do and then realising they can overcome that adversity with a bit of grit and determination and transfer that skill set into succeeding in maths or English or science or any other curriculum area; and it's been exceptionally beneficial.
Tell us about your work at Green Square.
When I was deputy principal at Leichhardt Campus of Sydney Secondary College, my college principal at the time Mark Anderson, knowing that I spent a bit of time out at Dunheved and with some challenging kids who had some challenging circumstances - put my name for to take an opportunity to set up a Green Square School and at the time Green Square School was the first of the new style of SSP (schools for specific purposes) where students were going into a re-integration plan. So students who had some challenging circumstances required some mindset shift to value education would go there. They'd be working with experts in terms of behaviour at Green Square and then reintegrate slowly back into their school. It also had the first of the long suspensions centres so I established that prior to the first principal coming on board for a term and a half. It was a great opportunity to meet kids from a very, very diverse background. But no only that to look at the way you could do things a bit differently to engage the disengaged and provide I guess the psychological support as well as the educational support. Many of those kids with gaps in their education since primary school. Most of whom have had long nonattendance patterns in Kindergarten and Year 1 which is the beginning of the reading and writing process. To be able to tackle some of those challenges to reengage the kids in education was a great opportunity.
You've got this really interesting career moving along here where you have given some big opportunities, setting up wellbeing programs, curriculum programs, working with kids who have behaviour issues. Then all of a sudden the corporate office calls, in part reflecting the diversity of your experience. And you're bought into work on the early stages of Local Schools, Local Decisions. What was appealing and interesting about that kind of work to leave the schools and come and work at the corporate office on that project?
Yes, that was probably the most amazing opportunity I've had to date. Why? Because that brought with it the potential and the ability to change the entire frame of education in NSW to begin a needs-based funding model which we absolutely need. But not only that to be able to contextualise that and meet the individual needs of every school in NSW across 2,200 schools which is second largest education system in the world behind New York City and New York. So that was just a fascinating opportunity, but not only that to be able to think outside the box and that blue sky thinking which is one of the things I like to do but not only that be able to not only the blue sky but absolutely to translate that into policy and process and guidelines to give people that ability to have licence to try things differently and be outside the box, always remaining inside the policy line but right on that very edge and think how you can think a little bit differently. But not only that have the resources that are necessary to try things differently, whether it be a wellbeing structure that is implemented and explicitly embedded in a school, whether it be formal programs around forensic science or whatever the case may be that are part of the journey from Year 5 through to Year 12 or whatever. But it gave us that opportunity to try really new things and to have an opportunity to influence the direction of education not only NSW but Australia in terms of what we can do for our kids and the diverse nature of our kids.
I want to talk a little bit more about that. You are right, NSW clearly one of the biggest education systems in the world some would also say pretty constrained; we're doing a curriculum review at the moment and one of the critics is a very overcrowded curriculum. HSC is rigorous and very specific in its demands, I mean I'm sure it is not an unreasonable thing for a teacher or a principal to feel that they're handcuffed by the system.
Definitely and Local Schools, Local Decisions I think was the licence to actually start breaking out of that and to be able to develop different pathways. And one of my notions is that we need to be preparing kids for the world outside of school. My clients arent the school down the road or up the road, my clients in terms of for my kids are what industry want. And having quality partnerships with industry enables me to bring those partners into the school to think: "Right, we need people with these skills. Ok, so how do we go about building people with these specific skills?" For example, Microsoft cannot get people who can grind data and analyse data very well; so how do we work with Microsoft and perhaps a university partner to develop micro-credentials for kids from Year 9 where they can go 9, 10, 11 and 12 and go into data a cadetship with Microsoft with a partnership university then employed and engaged. Because they're the jobs that exist. We have to be adaptable and I think education hasn't been adaptable.
Let's talk a little bit about your journey back to Plumpton. Because it is one thing to provide advice to schools on how they should be spending the money, it is another thing deciding you're going to test yourself. After four years of designing and supporting LSLD you put up your hand to go back and run a school and it's back to Plumpton. What do you find when you walk in the door back at Plumpton again after those years out on the road?
I discovered a school that was very different to what it was when I started there in 1992 prior to going and having the other experiences.
So you had been away for 15 plus years. How was it different?
Yes, the kids were disengaged. There was a lot of kids working really hard for a HSC that they didn't necessarily know where that would take them or what it meant for them. Kids who are working towards trades and a lot of kids were genuinely just disengaged and didn't know what their future held. I think the big goal five and half years ago was well how do we create a school and a team that can align our self with society and where society is headed.
One of the surest predictors of educational outcomes is socio-economic disadvantage or advantage. You arrive at Plumpton and 80% of your kids there are in the bottom two quartiles. To what extent did you need to address the question of high expectations, what these kids could achieve given what they have arrived at school with?
Absolutely and that was one of the big things. Kids who are disengaged and they want to get somewhere but they didn't understand what that meant or what was required so it was basically establishing where the water level was with the kids. And then saying: "Righto well you guys are intelligent but we need to work harder and smarter in the notion of growth mindset, you work hard with rigour, we will support you every step of the way. But you are going to have to work hard and there is no excuse for that or no way around that. But be assured there will be someone helping you along the way."
One of the things though that strikes me is you have got to be able to convince kids not to argue for their limitations but there are also issues with teachers and parents. And if in fact, you've got intergenerational poverty or teachers who have been at the school for a long time and haven't seen a lot of students go on to future success. How do you educate the community around high expectations?
That challenge is huge. And in some ways, we can try all we like to educate the community and a lot of our community are well and truly on board. But that socio-economic disadvantage cycle requires additional support, significant additional support - but not welfare, wellbeing. And that is around changing mindsets. Not only changing mindsets of kids but changing mindsets of parents that is to one of "well yes, my child needs to be at school for an additional two years rather than going out and getting a job straight away." It's about the changes shifting that mindset of the parents so that they've got a longer-term view that "if my child stays at school for longer, works harder, challenges themselves more then perhaps pursues tertiary education, whether that be a trade or university or other training their life circumstance will be changed forever. And the ability to support the family is changed forever."
One of the amazing things about your school is the list of partners that you have developed with industry. I've got it in front of me here. It goes for pages and pages and pages. Everyone from Microsoft and Google but also American Express, Citigroup, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Commonwealth Bank, the ABC, AMEX, United Way, just on and on and on. Let's talk a little bit about these business partnerships, why have they been important to keeping kids engaged in education?
Absolutely. One of the things that we believe in at Plumpton is authenticity if we can show kids people who work in that list of example industries that you have spoken of and they can meet those people, work with those people either in a science or a STEM-based activity or through a mentorship or coaching, so one-to-one, one-to-three - whatever the case may be, go visit those workplaces. And understand and gain a belief in themselves; that they're no different to the people that work in those places and they have the same capacity intellectually as well as in terms of wellbeing and potential to work in those places. That then has inspired a lot of our kids to chase that dream of going well beyond school, tertiary education. But not only that, to contribute in a greater way in society in terms of leadership with our kids being experiencing in project management through our student executive counsellors an example. Those partnerships have brought that level of authenticity into the classroom. And when we have business partners in our school every week or our kids going to AMEX or to Citigroup those things become less foreign and they become achievable and attainable because the kids are immersed in it. It is about opening doors and accessing networks that our kids would never even have known existed. When we have some successes and we've had quite a number over the last few years with kids then gaining positions with one to one mentorships or access to university on scholarships and those students then being picked up through cadetships or employment within those corporations, they can then be changed from the inside. In terms of an understanding of socio-economic disadvantage for those industries who can then go out and see that our 66 cultures at Plumpton have got the same potential as every other person working in this place and let's give them a go because they work really hard and they have that. In many instances, our kids who have come from different parts of the world have overcome significant adversity to the level of success that they have attained. And they're great, they're reliable, they're honest, they're trustworthy and loyal people and will do great work for those industries.
One of the challenges I wonder exists - if I look at this list and think of all the great opportunities your kids have going and working with people in different workplaces and the like - is whether it exposes the rest of the curriculum. You do all that, you're at Google or Microsoft or working in the state crime lab and then all of a sudden you're back doing Stage 6 maths. To what extent all those partnerships transform what is actually happening in your classrooms day today?
That compliments what is happening in the classroom because the kids are then able to be authentically working solving complex problems in our forensic science program with the state crime lab so then that thought of "well this is pretty interesting, this is maybe something I want to pursue". But in terms of curriculum and syllabus, it's really easy to draw a cross in the outcomes of the syllabus Year 7 through 12 when we go and work with our business partners all of those outcomes are being met and probably gone beyond by having that partnership with industry and business. Because of that level of authentic learning and solving problems in the world that are worth solving. And as such our kids come back far more engaged because it is less abstract, it's concrete, it's things they're engaged in that they would be engaged in following a university degree or TAFE course. And they're working at second- and third-year university level in Year 7, 8, 9 and 10. And they're succeeding - that in itself builds self-concept and a keenness then to continue to challenge themselves intellectually.
One of the things that we talk about in the NSW public education system is this commitment to improvement; every student, every teacher, every leader, every school, every year improving. I suppose one of the things we're working on now is conversations with principals around how they're measuring that improvement, how you know you're not just working hard and being busy but you are seeing improvements. What are you looking at when you try and track whether all this work is seeing benefits and improvements?
First of all, we're looking at literacy and numeracy without kids being literate or numerate, A; they can't access the curriculum and B; they're not going to be able to access society when they leave school in employment or further training or whatever the case may be. We've got significant structures that take kids from Year 7 right through to Year 10 and 11, 12 in literacy and numeracy. They're well-researched programs our accelerated reader program for our kids, we've got a structured writing program that we're implementing. We use ALARM [a learning and responding matrix] writing for Year 11 and 12, we have a partnership with RMIT in Melbourne, a multiplicative thinking program to build our numeracy skills?
What are you expecting to see from all that activity?
We are expecting to see our kids graduate school having the capacity to go and tackle university-level mathematics, to tackle university-level literary requirements or TAFE to gain accreditation through trades etc. We're looking to see that our kids are high order thinkers and deep thinkers and complex problem solvers and we do that we have a thing called Instructional Practices Inventory where we measure student engagement and higher-order thinking. Since we implemented the system our level of higher-order thinking has grown exponentially with reference to worldwide norms in that space. And if we've got kids who can solve complex problems individually and collaboratively and be leaders then they're set up intellectually plus self-concept and wellbeing to succeed outside of school.
You are also looking closely at attendance issues and other, in a sense, community engagement as well what are you seeing there?
We are seeing an increase in engagement from our students, our attendance last year was above the state average and that is the first time for a long time. That's not only our non-Aboriginal students but our Aboriginal students' attendance was above the state average last year. Which is significant and that's because our kids are engaged and when we look at the Tell Them From Me data we can see that our kids are engaged. We take that data right across our whole school as opposed to pockets. They're engaged and we know that because when you start to triangulate data across your NAPLAN results, our IPI data, our kids when they leave school having one percent of kids unemployed by March for the last two years in a row?
Explain that bit again, so by March after Year 12 where have your kids gone?
Our kids have gone to the university, they've gone onto trades or they have gone into employment. We had 100 students sit the HSC last year, we had 36 early offers for university, and we had 63 total offers for university across those 100 students. And by March, every student - or one percent, one student - wasn't actively engaged in either work or further learning.
In Mt Druitt what you've got an unemployment rate of youth unemployment at 24 to 25%. Also, I saw in a sense your encouraging community engagement as well.
Yes, we do we've got a high level really productive student executive council to build leadership capacity in kids. We run a commercial project management structure called Gazelle Project Management and our kids when they join the student executive council - and it is a standards-based model which means that any kid can apply if they meet some criteria, so we don't have a restriction on how many prefects we have in the school. We had 41 students do a speech last week, we've had 29 prefects this year; there were 16 the year before and 22 the year before that with the new model it was helped developed by the kids. So that as a part of those projects that the kids run using an authentic project management structure. We do a lot of charity work, we do a lot of volunteering work in the community and that is linked to our Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme that we run as well. So that kids understand that putting back into the community being a global citizen and contributing is part of what they'll hopefully carry on as a lifelong learner and it's part of our formula that we work with our universities to have our students gain early admission into university.
When you're running a big ambitious program like this, it strikes me you got to hold the course, you got to stick with it and it takes a while until you begin to see the benefits. You've also got to learn from what you're doing and get feedback and pivot where you need to. Any things that you've changed or reprioritised or looked at differently as you've spent several years now on this journey at the school.
Absolutely. We've changed we've been at this for five and a half years, we slowed down last year, we realised with our project-based learning model we have for Year 7 and 8 was probably too complex so we took the foot off the accelerator for six months while we did some really hardcore soul searching and thinking before we came out and rebadged it and revamped it with a greater level of consultation. Everything that we do is through consultation with our staff and working with our staff. That was one of the things we probably slowed down by about six months in that change process. The goal is obviously to embed everything after seven years which is what research tells us and five years for most change. We are probably around six months behind that but it's about bringing people on the journey so every time we think about that as an executive and as a staff; are people with us, do they know what our school plan means for them as well an individual and for the greater good of our kids, but also our whole community? When we take that temperature every year that's when we look at well are we changing too quickly what do we need to slow down with or what can we tweak and change to have a greater level of impact.
To what extent is part of that reading of how your executive and how your staff are going because this is pretty intensive work I would imagine?
It is hugely intensive and I think part of that is that through Local Schools, Local Decisions and the SBAR (School Budget Allocation Report) process that we have and the RAM (Resource Allocation Model) has enabled us to provide authentic time-allocations for people who do some of the extensive work that you see all of those programs and partnerships have people running them and they have suitable allowances to cater for that as part of their teaching load. If they're teaching forensic science and you're a forensic scientist well that's part of your teaching load. If you're the student executive coordinator council coordinator, of which there is two, they have a significant time allocation in a reduction of face-to-face teaching load so that they can deliver that program and that is a part of if you're going to do something you do it properly and resource it properly. Otherwise, it just won't happen and if that is the case don't do it.
Tim, earlier this year I went and fronted about 800 principals all around the state and what I said to them was "this is such a demanding and complex job, you're going to be exhausted but make sure that exhaustion counts by having an impact". And it strikes me that's what you're doing, full of energy, full of ideas, committed to improving the learning outcomes of every young person at Plumpton High, thanks for your time today.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Every Student. Never miss an episode by subscribing on your podcast platform of choice or by heading to our website at education.nsw.gov.au/every-student-podcast or if you know someone who is a remarkable innovative educator who we could all learn from, you can get in touch with us via Twitter: @NSWEducation, on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again and I will catch you next time.
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