Glenwood Public School, located in outer south-west Sydney, has an ICSEA score of 993 and serves approximately 230 students from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. The school features quality programs which focus on improving student educational outcomes in a safe, healthy, productive, enjoyable and balanced learning environment. Emphasis is placed on developing student literacy and numeracy skills; catering for the talents, interests and needs of all students; and implementing positive student welfare programs. The school has developed many networks with other schools and educators both locally and internationally. Students have a strong voice at Glenwood PS and staff are well-equipped to teach students of the 21st century, with learning spaces that suit their learning needs.
In 2016, Glenwood PS underwent an external validation process which enabled leaders to reflect in depth on a variety of data linked to the school plan. A school self-assessment survey against the School Excellence Framework identified learning culture and collaborative practice as areas for development. Further to this and based on research around the impact of teacher collaboration on student and staff learning, school leaders identified that fostering collaborative practice to build collective efficacy needed to be a school focus to ultimately drive whole-school improvement.
This thinking served to shape the school vision for their 2018-2020 school plan, and the school’s partnership with SVA was used to support this direction. By building a dynamic, high performing staff in a collaborative culture, school leaders aimed to promote high performing teachers who are actively engaged in professional development and who carry shared responsibility for student improvement.
What happened during the project?
At the outset of the project in 2017, the inquiry-based method ‘learning sprints’ was introduced across the school. Later in the same year, to help embed the process and encourage staff buy-in, additional release time was allocated for staff to meet called ‘TEAM Time’. This provided the time and structure to support the successful implementation of learning sprints and allowed deep reflection and teacher conversation based around individual classrooms.
Teacher professional development plans (PDPs) contained explicit goals and targeted professional learning around collaborative practice. Professional learning communities (PLCs) were created across the school to share learnings and discuss progress towards personal and shared goals. School leaders also built on collaborative practices by having a strong focus on structuring peer observation and reflective practices within the school. These were linked to PDPs and learning sprints throughout PLC time.
During 2018, leadership actively sought a connection with Sydney University to increase teacher capacity in STEM practice. Glenwood PS became part of the university’s STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy providing professional learning to a core group of teachers. As an extension of this initiative, the STEM team was encouraged to create a real-life problem-solving project for students, which would connect them with their community. In this phase of the project, using data with confidence became a focus for professional development and within TEAM Time conversations.
By 2019, the final year of the project, data and evidence were informing and driving collegial discussions and learning sprints. Data walls were used within the created TEAM Time room to support these conversations. Peer observation structures were reviewed and structures and proformas were put in place to support the embedding of the practice within the school.
What changed for the students?
Students at Glenwood PS now have teachers who collaborate more effectively within and across stages and faculties to ensure consistency of curriculum delivery, including strategies for differentiation and consistency of teacher judgement. There is school-wide, collective responsibility for student learning and success, with high levels of student, staff and community engagement.
Data from Term 1, 2019 learning sprints had 89% of focus students achieving the target goal. NAPLAN results from 2019 also showed improved student learning and development outcomes, with a significant majority of students demonstrating at or above expected growth in reading, writing and spelling.
Where to next?
To build on progress to date, Glenwood PS plans to continue developing school connections and networks initiated through the partnership with SVA. The school will also work to put additional structures and measures in place to ensure sustainability of all projects.
Building leadership capacity and enabling staff to build innovative learning opportunities remains a priority. To support this in 2020, the deputy principal instructional leader will continue to focus on building data confidence and teacher capacity and student engagement in literacy and numeracy.
The school will also continue to embed observational practices across the school and ensure time is allocated for this.
Glenwood PS learned the following were important to success:
- Relationships – Relationships, relationships, relationships at all levels from students to staff, to the executive and beyond to outside agencies.
- Time – Both a solid commitment to allowing time for true change to occur, and giving time to a project, shows it is valued. The process of change needs trust!
- Structures – Glenwood PS had to create and manage implementation structures to ensure extra time was given to all staff and consistency and value were placed on PLC’s.
- Collective efficacy – When school staff truly share the belief that with their collective actions they can positively influence student outcomes, then student achievement increases.
- Networks – Schools are able to excel when looking and building connections beyond their school gates.
The importance of collaboration
Q&A with the School Principal
Q: What has made partnering with SVA productive for your school?
Through connections made during our journey we have seen impact both within our SVA project and throughout our school plan. Examples of connections, influences and impact include:
- The Thought Leadership Gathering on Collaboration + Partnership = Powerful Learning, during which we created a PechaKucha around our project. This style was presented back at school to support our efforts to allow staff to collaborate and self-direct their professional learning based on their PDP’s. The end result was a PechaKucha presented by staff about their learning over the term.
- Reflection and affirmation of the importance of collaborative inquiry from the TLG on this topic. ￼Takeaways from Eddie Woo were implemented back at school, such as the WWW (What Works Well) from each classroom, which are now held in each classroom as we continue to find ways to build collaborative and open classrooms as they host the staff meeting.
Q: Outside of SVA itself, what has been the most productive partnership you’ve developed through your SVA project? Why has it been productive?
We took advantage of an opportunity to partner with Sydney University, which saw a core group of teachers participating in the 2018 STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy. The relationship saw STEM become an addition to our TEAM Time project and led Glenwood PS to partner with The Whiddon Group Aged Care in a ‘Grandbuddy’ program.
Contribution of another school to your journey
Many schools have contributed their best practice to our school journey and collegial discussions have been invaluable in building leadership knowledge and connections. Some example of this include:
- Connections made with Blairmount Public School, specifically around reporting to parents. Glenwood PS used shared resources to introduce learning conversations as a way to communicate with our school community.
- Meetings and conversations with Dandenong North Public School about their project on observations within schools. Their AITSL video and project was used later in our project when observations became a strong focus.
- A visit and subsequent discussions with Morphett Vale Primary School in SA, which led to the creation of TEAM Time: an allocated extra hour each week to collaborate within stages using learning sprints. This time was invested in teacher professional development and was seen as a way to give value to the project.