Hoxton Park High School in Hinchinbrook, south-west of Sydney, welcomes and accommodates students from different backgrounds and with different learning needs. It has an ICSEA of 941 and adheres to the Hoxton Honour Code of safe, respectful and active learning for all. The student population of 674 consists of 86% of students from language backgrounds other than English. The school provides a broad range of academic courses, vocational education (VET), school-based apprenticeships and traineeships (SBAT) and TAFE courses. High performing students are catered for within the Self Select class program. The school is part of the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) with strong links with American Express and Genworth as business partners. A comprehensive student leadership and welfare program includes strong links with partner primary schools and the school is part of the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) program and the Australian Government Quality Teaching Program (AGQTP).
Three years ago, Hoxton Park HS formulated a new school plan to ensure every student and staff member was inspired to achieve excellence and success. What became “High Expectations for Leaders, Teachers and Students” would be underpinned by evidence-based teaching practice and clear academic and enterprise pathways.
What happened during the project?
To drive change for all staff, the Executive Team undertook the one-year NESLI Leadership Colloquium course. This provided a common language and set of expectations, which was outlined in the Executive Code, giving leaders a clear vision for pedagogy around the school.
Executives then led their faculties through a period of evidence-based research and evaluation to benchmark current practices and set new targets for each key learning areas and project team. This guided teams as they worked collaboratively to establish an Action Learning Project (ALP) specific to their need. In order to support and ensure a cohesive school vision and keep on track, direct support was provided through the formation of the Head Teacher Professional Practice position.
All faculty ALPs identified strategies to improve student engagement, learning outcomes and evaluation methods in the classroom. The Careers and Wellbeing ALPs specifically focused on developing student engagement across the curriculum through enterprise and leadership opportunities. A STEM course was also established to extend students’ soft skills, such as communication, problem solving and collaboration and encourage deeper engagement and reflection of learning, supported by a mentor program through business partnerships.
Through evidence such as student work samples, comparative data on assessments/tasks and surveys, staff evaluated the impact of strategies on student outcomes, which helped to identify new methods to further enhance teaching practices.
What changed for the students?
The project has seen the development of a whole-school shared leadership culture. The executive redesigned the processes needed to drive pedagogical change and deliver high expectations within their faculties. Working collaboratively with faculty staff to design ALPs specific to their identified needs, ensured change would be authentic and sustainable. Staff engaged in deeper conversations about pedagogy, reflecting on and researching best practice, applying their learning and evaluating its impact on student outcomes.
Students are learning through teamwork and real-world issues (enterprise solutions). A new student leadership process provides students with opportunities to embrace the high expectations the teachers model, develop their leadership skills, then refine them through specific roles with the prefect team.
Comparing all ALP data from 2018 to 2019, all projects were able to demonstrate an increase in student learning, dramatic drops in non-submission rates for assessments and an increase in student leadership and efficacy.
Where to next?
In 2019, the school saw an increase of cross-team collaboration to develop common practices in the areas of literacy and inquiry learning. The focus is now on building more opportunities for each faculty to share their learning across the school.
Plans are afoot to develop a formal professional learning community comprising representatives of all key learning areas and school teams. This aims to ensure continual opportunities for aspiring leaders and the continued development of a cohesive school language around pedagogy.
This team will develop a professional learning model based on the common elements of the ALPs, as well as streamline the internal language of the school for literacy, pedagogy, project based learning and community partnerships.
Hoxton Park HS learned the following were important to success:
- High expectations and support – It takes high expectations and high support to achieve exceptional results. This ensures leaders feel empowered to take ownership of school improvement and drive change.
- Strategic planning – Reflective practices and using data allow all staff to analyse current practices and make informed decisions for the path forward, working smarter, not harder.
- Time management – It takes time for projects to establish themselves and grow and it’s more effective to focus on a few key targets across the school instead of trying to fix everything at once. Allowing longer timelines for projects enabled change to “stick”.
- Staff buy-in – In order to implement whole-school transformation, all staff must accept the need for change.
The importance of collaboration
Q&A with the School Principal Leny Wallace
Q: What has made SVA a productive partnership for your school?
Our SVA partnership has provided quality networking opportunities for all of our faculty and team ALPs. A large majority of our staff have been able to see different projects across different school contexts. Against these we have been able to evaluate and reflect on our own journey. This has provided answers, directions and validation to our projects.
SVA provided connects with new business partners and learning in “corporate speak”. This helped bridge the gap to build more authentic partnerships, making us better equipped to understand the motivations and needs of our business partners.
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 Schools Plus and Salesforce partnerships have improved through our support from SVA. These partnerships, initially funding the Smart Farm initiative, have grown to support whole-school, sustainable projects.
These projects include, for example, our newly created 7-10 STEM course. This course focuses on developing key enterprise skills through STEM concepts and also provides authentic learning through on-site mentoring by Salesforce volunteers.
Our student leadership/prefect team has undertaken communication and leadership training with Salesforce’s communications team. Our Year 10 students have also participated in a trial work placement program co-designed by Salesforce and our careers advisor. The program was successful and will be utilised as a model for other schools interested in work placement for their students.
Contribution of another school to your journey
The best part of being in The Connection is the many opportunities to share practice with different schools across NSW. Through this we have seen evaluative practice through Learning Spirals and Sprints.
Granville East Primary School inspired us to develop our own whole-school model of pedagogy, through their Powerful Learning Framework and the insightful conversations we’ve had with staff. St Albans Secondary College influenced our plans to develop student voice and Casula High School helped us to establish our STEM course.
All schools have provided unique experiences that demonstrate how to build whole-school models of practice, student voice and teacher engagement.