Guise Public School is located in the south-west of Sydney in the suburb of Macquarie Fields. There are approximately 204 students, including 25% Indigenous students, 27% language background other than English, and a significant Pacific Islander cohort. The school has an ICSEA of 869. Guise PS also has an Autism support unit consisting of three classes.
The school is a part of the Early Action for Success initiative with a Deputy Principal Instructional Leader appointed in the school to support quality teaching and learning. Staff provide tiered interventions that focus on improved literacy and numeracy outcomes for all students Kindergarten to Year 2.
At Guise PS there is a strong focus on collaborative practice and data analytics. Processes are embedded throughout the school to ensure regular opportunities to collaborate within and across stage groups to incorporate data analysis into planning and identify skill gaps for improvement in student learning.
Before embarking on this project, school leadership recognised that students didn’t have a sense of agency or engagement in their learning, or positive learning dispositions. The aspirations of students were generally low and there was minimal engagement from parents in conversations about their child’s learning.
What happened during the project?
The school engaged in professional learning (PL) in future-focused learning (FFL), with a focus on inquiry-based learning (IBL) to develop their understanding of these principles. This was driven by the school leadership team through staff meetings, staff development days and Spirals of Inquiry sessions.
There was PL and mentoring to support teachers around integrating technology and inquiry authentically into teaching and learning programs. An IBL mentor position was created to provide guidance and expertise on the inquiry process. In-class sessions with Datacom helped to upskill teachers on new ways to use technology in their classroom and boost student skill levels.
Staff provided avenues for students to develop voice and choice and improve their mindset around learning, including contributing to designing and implementing school programs via initiatives such as Inspire Team, Digital Leaders/Coding Club and Art Leaders. And through their IBL projects, students have had more opportunities to collaborate, problem solve and innovate. Teachers and students give and receive feedback on their learning with regular ￼Data Days, Spirals of Inquiry, Learning Boosts and Student-led Instructional Rounds.
To encourage whole-community engagement, teachers regularly uploaded IBL projects on Seesaw, Twitter and the school website and students added their personal reflections on their projects on Seesaw. Parental involvement in student learning was also encouraged by the launch of Family Partnership Meetings.
What changed for the students?
Guise PS has become a school community where engagement and challenge has significantly increased. The culture and narrative of the school has dramatically changed with a rapid increase in enrolments (up to 204 in 2019) and a decrease in suspensions (down to seven in 2019).
There has been an increase in staff capacity to drive FFL in their classrooms, as evidenced by observations, surveys and project sharing sessions. Teachers and students are demonstrating increased skill and confidence around integrating technology and inquiry into teaching and learning. In turn, students have indicated they’re feeling more engaged in their learning through IBL.
Collaborative practice and teacher reflection has increased, driving improvements in teaching pedagogy and learning outcomes. Students are also more reflective, including regularly uploading items and reflections on Seesaw.
There has been a significant boost in student voice and choice throughout the school through the various school-based initiatives and a partnership with Deloitte. Students are more engaged and have more ownership over the direction of their learning and this has led to improvements in positive student mindsets and dispositions to learning.
Conversations and engagement about student learning have increased with parents through Seesaw and parent/teacher meetings, with more parents engaging in and making comments on their children’s work, and a significant boost in the number of parents attending new Family Partnership Meetings. Overall, conversations about learning with families have risen from 10% in 2017 to 78% in 2019.
Where to next?
The school plans to continue its work around IBL. Staff are also exploring a student-centred and student-led STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) Community of Schools initiative with a local high school.
Teachers will continue to be supported in building their expertise with ongoing mentoring in FFL and IBL and professional learning in IT integration. Likewise, the school will also continue to utilise the Pivot student feedback tool related to teaching standards.
The school will explore further opportunities to increase student voice, with activities including the introduction of STEM Ambassadors through the STEM Alive initiative. Guise PS also plans to develop its work on Growth Mindset and The Learning Pit to continue building student self-efficacy and positive learning dispositions.
Guise PS learned the following were important to success:
- Shared vision – It’s vital to have all staff on board and bring them with you through openness and collaborative practice.
- Quality time – It is important to implement change at a sustainable pace. It’s important to prioritise and be disciplined about this, and make the things you’re doing are really ingrained and embedded.
- Self-efficacy – There’s no point building great teachers and teaching practice if students and community don’t believe they can learn and contribute. It’s necessary to focus on mindsets and learning dispositions, alongside other areas.
Q&A with the School Principal Megan Predl
Q: What has made SVA a productive partnership for your school?
Our partnership with SVA has been a productive one for our school for a number of reasons. It has provided opportunities for collaborative practice, enabled us to build trusting relationships and be part of a network of sharing.
Strategic partnerships enable schools to leverage change and add value to the work of the school. The SVA partnership has assisted our leadership in the delivery of the school plan.
The relationship has pushed my own leadership, encouraging me to stretch outside my comfort zone and reach beyond local networks.
The SVA partnership has also initiated collaborations with other agencies including Deloitte’s Human Capital team and Pivot and encouraged partnerships and the sharing of best practice with South Australian schools through TfEL Compass.
Q: Outside of SVA itself, what has been the most productive partnership you’ve developed through your SVA project? Why has it been productive?
Deloitte’s Human Capital team has been the most productive partnership developed as part of a Community of Schools (CoS) initiative. The CoS professional learning for staff and student workshop on Growth Mindset, presented by Dan Haesler was especially helpful.
We needed to focus on student mindsets and dispositions to learning as too many of our students felt they were unable to learn and succeed. Staff and teachers participated in a series of design thinking workshops facilitated by Deloitte based on the question: “How do we influence the mindsets of our students, so they are empowered to make good choices for themselves today, for tomorrow?”
To gather more data, students across CoS completed the South Australian Teaching for Effective Learning (TfEL) compass – teacher feedback tool. Results for our school were in the area of ‘Develop Expert Learners’ – teaching students how to learn and what to do when they get stuck in their learning.
Additionally, we started the Inspire Team through an EOI process. This group of students codesign with teachers and then teach lessons across school on growth mindset, the learning Pit, the Power of Yet, Persistence and strategies to get out of the pit.
Contribution of another school to your journey
We worked closely with Curran Public School, who initiated our partnership with Deloitte after a TLG. This became a two-year Community of Schools initiative with our local feeder high school and Curran PS. Representatives from Deloitte’s Human Capital team worked with us to explore how we could leverage partnerships to build impact on a scale larger than our own school sites. We participated in design thinking workshops with Deloitte representatives to embark on a program of change.
After attending a TLG in Adelaide we saw a presentation from Prospect North Primary School who had Digital Leaders in their school, and we initiated this same student voice activity in our own school. Our Digital Leaders assist teachers in classrooms, run sessions for parents on new technology and a Coding Club for all students K-6 at lunchtimes.
Following a visit to Morphett Vale Primary School in Adelaide where we saw their Lead Learners program, we implemented a student led Inspire Team at our school. This group of students attended the Term 3 Staff Development Day to conduct an empathy mapping activity with staff and worked closely with teachers to co-design and co-plan a series of lessons to support our COS Project on Growth Mindset. Students in the Inspire Team teach lessons each fortnight with teachers on Growth Mindset, The Learning Pit and the Power of Yet, during our “You Can Do It” lessons.