Hampton Park Secondary College services a highly-diverse cohort of 1200 students in outer Melbourne. Among the student body, 52 nationalities and 67 different languages are represented, including a large number of refugee students with special learning and wellbeing needs. The school has an ISCEA of 920 and the community body comprises a high proportion of single parent families, with the majority of primary parents currently unemployed or working in unskilled labour.
Hampton Park SC believes learning should be: transformative, deep and focused on value adding, inclusive of all learners, respectful of self and others, collaborative and cooperative. The school’s values of Respect, Learning, and Working Together are embedded in whole-school practice and are supported by the Positive Behaviours Program and an extensive Wellbeing Team.
The college is involved in a number of community partnerships with organisations such as The Smith Family, SELLEN, Operation Newstart Victoria, Schools Plus, RMIT, Deakin University, Monash University and Hampton Park Community Renewal Group.
At the beginning of the change journey undertaken by the college, there was no coherently documented curriculum around a common teaching and learning framework. Classroom practice was varied with an inordinate focus on covering content as opposed to the development and mastery of skills.
School leaders engaged with educational consultants Dr Esther Weichert and Peter Handley to support the design of a whole-school curriculum using a backward design model and key skills. A school review in 2017 confirmed progress toward the documentation of the curriculum and a focus on formative assessment practices. However, the review also highlighted a disconnect between documentation and the work occurring in the classrooms; teachers were struggling to translate this curriculum into effective pedagogical practice.
This realisation led to a strategic plan focused on building teacher and leadership capacity to enact the curriculum effectively in all classrooms through collaboration and a focus on student learning data to inform planning and teaching interventions.
What happened during the project?
In 2016, teacher collaboration time was structured around curriculum mapping and opt-in professional learning (PL) based on perceived teacher need/interest. During this year, the school embarked on peer coaching (PC) training and professional exchange with Craigmore High School with a focus on student voice and agency.
In 2017, professional learning communities (PLC) were restructured to focus on analysing lessons, student learning data and student feedback on teaching and learning programs, to evaluate and adapt how the curriculum was being taught. This new focus would support the development of a consistent community of practice and improve the quality of teaching across the whole school.
A peer coaching model was introduced to build staff capacity to collaborate in designing curriculum and teaching interventions in response to student learning data. This encouraged active collaboration and reflection and enabled teachers to identify problems of practice and make informed, targeted changes.
In 2018, Hampton Park SC initiated further refinements to the PLC structure and processes based on staff feedback. The school began to see improvements in data. Through the year, peer observation was expanded to include mentoring, coaching and video.
Teacher collaboration was maintained throughout 2019, embedding a culture of trust and collegiality across the school. This resulted in improved, consistent practice focused on quality learning and aligned to the whole-school curriculum model designed three years prior.
Throughout the course of the project, a concurrent focus on increased student voice and feedback evolved through our relationship with Craigmore HS in South Australia. Student agency in school decision making was significantly extended in 2019 to include consultation about subjects offered, students involved in interview panels and providing feedback on teaching and learning to individual teachers and in relation to learning programs.
What changed for the students?
Restructured PLCs have lifted the quality and consistency of teaching across all KLAs and in all classrooms through effective collaboration, bringing improvements in student engagement and learning outcomes.
All staff peer coaching has encouraged and enabled staff to actively collaborate and reflect on their practice and create change. Through this model, teachers have been able to articulate problems of practice, reflect on their chosen data and make informed changes to their teaching practice. Meanwhile, classroom environments have become more open to observation, team teaching and sharing of practice.
Anecdotally, evidence-informed changes to teacher practice have improved student engagement by directly targeting problem areas. In addition, Hampton Park SC saw a significant increase in school performance indicators from 2017 to 2018, including the 2018 VCE English score, and a marked improvement in 2018 NAPLAN results. While outcomes were not replicated in 2019 this was most likely due to significant change at the college, including a new principal, changes in direction and re-planning for 2020.
Over the three-year period, however, the overall effects have been positive. The school has seen the development of a collegiate, trusting culture of reflection and continuous improvement with more consistent teaching practice better able to adapt to and meet student learning needs.
In addition, the concurrent focus on student agency has been reflected in an increase in the student voice and agency indicator on the Attitude to School Survey (ATSS).
Where to next?
Hampton Park SC plans to refine and consolidate its teaching and learning design, and related PLC framework, in light of new curriculum structures.
The school is on track to include increased student choice in subject selection in the middle years, including multi-age classes 8 to 10.
Staff will be supported with professional learning to design and scaffold student learning within year level and in vertical, mixed-age classes.
The school will also continue to support staff to work collaboratively within a broad range of teams. Further steps will also be taken to closely monitor teacher impact through the analysis of data to ensure continued school improvement.
Hampton Park SC learned that the following were important to success:
- Change management – Contexts are continually evolving and change must be managed effectively.
- Setting priorities – To optimise learning outcomes, there is a need to prioritise the work of teachers and resources (time, extra staff and PL) around the core business of teaching and learning.
- Supportive and distributed leadership – This builds staff confidence and sense of efficacy and, in the process, their capacity for change and improvement.
- Balancing needs – Leaders must balance the demands of change with ensuring that staff morale is maintained, and levels of distress are mitigated.
- Shared vision and values – It’s important for staff to commit to a common vision and beliefs that are embedded in evidence-based practices and a growth mindset.
Q&A with the School Principal Karen Sheil
Q: What has made SVA a productive partnership for your school?
Our partnership with SVA has enabled engagement in a community of practice with like schools. This has led to the development of important professional relationships and the sharing of resources relevant to other schools and cohorts that contribute to system-wide improvement.
The partnership has provided the opportunity for “critical friends” to provide honest feedback and insights that will support continued improvement.
Through SVA, both staff and students have also had opportunities to engage with educational and wider community events that expand our horizons and establish community/business relationships.
Q: Outside of SVA itself, what has been the most productive partnership you’ve developed through your SVA project? Why has it been productive?
The most productive relationship we have established outside of SVA is our partnership with Salesforce. We successfully secured a $20,000 Salesforce grant which enabled Hampton Park PS to fund a range of STEM resources and programs in the school.
To date, we’ve purchased drones for the Drone Club, robotics and coding equipment for classes 7 to 10, cameras and computers for the Photography Club, and a 3D printer. Students have also participated in class excursions to the Salesforce office to experience an innovative business environment and coding lesson.
In addition, Salesforce has committed to a further three-year funding program for STEM class resources, such as coding kits.
Contribution of another school to your journey
At the Thought Leadership Gathering (TLG) in Sydney in 2015, Hampton Park SC established a relationship with Craigmore High School, SA, in relation to their student voice initiatives. Following the TLG, two of our lead teachers visited Craigmore HS to see their student voice team in action.
In 2016, three of our teachers and two students attended the Adelaide TLG and again took the opportunity to visit Craigmore HS. This visit served as a provocation for Hampton Park SC to start thinking about how they addressed and engendered student voice and agency in the college, and how we could utilise the Amplify framework to support staff in doing this in a teaching and learning capacity.
Consequently, we created a student engagement role and allocated a lead teacher who has led major initiatives to enhance student voice in the college, such as:
- Training student leaders in teaching and learning frameworks.
- Conducting student feedback sessions each term on teaching and learning experiences.
- Increasing the involvement and the role of students within school decision making, including employment interview panels and student feedback surveys on classroom experiences for every student, every term.
- Enhanced student agency in subject offerings and selection with all subjects except maths and English elective from Year 8.