Collaboration drives success at Grafton High School

Since joining the Educational Pathways Program (EPP) as a pilot school in 2020, Grafton High School continues to be innovative in its approach to implementing the program’s initiatives, with collaborative efforts and strong leadership recurring themes. We talk with EPP Principal Champion Scott Dinham, his careers team, as well as the EPP team supporting the school to find out what makes the EPP a success at Grafton High School.

Grafton High School Principal Scott Dinham is often asked what makes the EPP a success at his school. He puts a lot of it down to his willingness to give everything a go and creating a risk-free environment for his staff and the team to put forward ideas.

“The EPP has helped us give more purpose to our vocational education offering. Building strong relationships and trust with the EPP team and my staff has been a big part of our success,” says Scott.

Collaborative Efforts

It’s a full team approach at Grafton High School, with Head Teacher Careers David Youman, and SBAT Engagement Officer Rachel Copeland regular faces around the school.

“I feel welcomed and supported when I visit the school. My connections with all faculty leaders and staff have come from staff identifying that the EPP can assist in the delivery of whole-school curriculum,” says David.

A recent change at Grafton High School has been the creation of a Pathways and Transitions SIP (Strategic Improvement Plan) team, with approximately 12 staff, including David and Rachel, at the school working to improve the transitions and pathways for the students.

“We discuss student progress, address challenges, and brainstorm new opportunities,” says Aaron Hartmann, Transitions Adviser and SBAT Coordinator at Grafton High School.

“We are constantly adapting and changing to support the students,” he adds.

Strong leadership

Principal Scott Dinham’s leadership is hands-on and characterised by a continuous pursuit of improvement, always asking, "How can we do better?". He regularly meets with the careers team and EPP staff to map out opportunities for students, and discuss how the EPP can be integrated to align with the school’s goals and student needs.

"My work is to lead a school that has initiatives in place that give opportunities and purpose to all students," says Scott.

“Scott is approachable, sensitive to the needs of his students and community, and willing to support the EPP from a whole school perspective,” says David.

“The outstanding support for the program begins at the top but filters down through the executive as they learn about the EPP offerings and understand how they can be used to support the students,” says Rachel.

Innovative Solutions

Scott has implemented many initiatives as the school leader, as well as hiring specific roles to support pathways and transitions.

A challenge at Grafton High School is the lack of access to face-to-face training facilities for students completing SBATs. The solution was a collaborative effort with the school and EPP team working closely with training providers and employers to shift the training component online.

“I will always advocate for more face-to-face options and services in the regions, but for now we work within our reality. It's having a big impact and adds a lot of flexibility and expands our options,” says Scott.

To support these students to complete their online training, the school made a decision to hire a School Learning Support Officer (SLSO), Krysten Scott.

“Between Aaron, Krysten and myself, the SBATs are fully supported throughout their journey with weekly catch-ups and mentoring sessions,” says Rachel Copeland. “The school has also established an SBAT support room within the library.”

EPP opportunities

The school currently participates in all EPP initiatives, and has 17 School Based Apprentices/Trainees (SBATs).

Aaron Hartmann and Careers Adviser Carly Piper agree that the success of the SBAT program at the school is the end-product of a lot of pre-training and industry visits made available through the EPP. Initiatives such as the TAFE NSW Start Your Future and Apprenticeship and Traineeship Head Start students can get a taste for an industry and know whether the SBAT is the right path for them.

“There’s something for every student. We just need to keep saying yes and know the EPP opportunities are going to provide positive outcomes,” says Carly.

Scott’s next focus is bringing the careers and transitions work forward and starting the conversation in year 9.

“The EPP team is really important for this and can help introduce students to things like work experience much earlier,” says Scott.

Advice for new schools

As 20 new schools join the EPP, Scott’s advice is to embrace creativity and focus on controllable elements.

"Get creative with ideas to work around any barriers because those barriers will probably always be there," he says.

David Youman’s advice for new Head Teachers Careers is to be present at the school, meet the students and build relationships with all the staff.

“Connect with the school community and industry networks too, build on the networks that the school already has in place,” he adds.

Grafton High School’s journey with the EPP shows the importance of collaboration in creating opportunities and meaningful career pathways for students.

“It has taken time, self-reflection and purposeful planning to get to where they are today. There is always work to be done, but together we are making a difference and providing opportunities and successful career pathways,” says Rachel Copeland.

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