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Sponsored by: There could not be a more apt time for innovative education. The Productivity Commission, the Australian government’s advisory body on economic and school affairs, has delivered its interim report, part of a five-year inquiry into national productivity.
“Education is ripe for disruption,” says Productivity Commission deputy chair Alex Robson. “The traditional model in schools or universities could change drastically over the next 10 or 20 years. What we saw during the pandemic is that different methods of teaching and online classes can work.”
So there’s no question that innovative learning is primed to become a greater part of Australia’s educational landscape. The Educator’s 5-Star Innovative Schools are leading this change, introducing new technologies and methodologies. It’s being prompted by teachers and leaders to create a more fit-for-purpose education system for young people; so, in some ways, the future is happening now.
“We take an individual focus on each child in the classroom and provide students with learning and feedback tailored to their individual progress. Each learner is placed at the centre of the considerations of curriculum and classroom practice”
William Wallace, Golden Grove Lutheran Primary School
Part of the new breed and one of the 5-Star Innovative Schools is Golden Grove Lutheran Primary School, one of the leading independent schools in Adelaide. It has developed a pioneering model of peer leadership that focuses on community service and charity work. Since its inception, the model has introduced a strong focus on student agency through an elective learning program for Year 3–6 students. This has enabled the design, selection and evaluation of learning in a similar manner to the way in which secondary students choose electives.
“We take an individual focus on each child in the classroom and provide students with learning and feedback tailored to their individual progress,” principal William Wallace tells The Educator. “Each learner is placed at the centre of the considerations of curriculum and classroom practice. Our smaller class sizes also enable greater individual attention to each child within this structure.”
Wallace says the school’s approach enables children to learn in an award-winning ‘village style’ cluster framework as students move from ‘discovery’ in the Foundation Year to 'foundations and growth' in Years 1 and 2, 'collaboration and experimentation' in Years 3 and 4 to 'specialisation and launching' in Years 5 and 6.
“Our teaching and pedagogical practices are highly effective due to our innovative cluster structure, which reduces the likelihood of using a lockstep approach to learning and better enables the flexible progression of students through the curriculum, particularly in relation to the literacy and numeracy developmental progressions,” he says.
“Research has shown that within this philosophy, children become more confident, can operate better as part of a group, are more assertive, become more independent learners and become better problem-solvers.”
“The program helps to develop a tradition of ex-students remaining connected with the school and, as a result, creating a culture of giving back to the school. ‘Giving back’ can be in many forms – financial, volunteerism, knowledge and expertise”
Debbie Henry, Loreto Kirribilli
Another 5-Star Innovative School breaking ground is girls-only Loreto Kirribilli, which connects ex-student talent and expertise with the potential of students on the brink of their post-school careers.
Development manager Debbie Henry says the program provides an avenue to highlight the diverse and successful careers Loreto Kirribilli women have forged and expands students’ horizons.
“The program helps to develop a tradition of ex-students remaining connected with the school and, as a result, creating a culture of giving back to the school. ‘Giving back’ can be in many forms – financial, volunteerism, knowledge and expertise,” explains Henry.
“Some notable networking event outcomes included job placements and internship opportunities, as well as cadetship opportunities.”
Henry says close to 200 mentor–mentee connections have been made.
“During COVID-19, the team provided ex-student mentors from across the globe for 130 Year 12 students, providing personalised career guidance and support within the career interests of each student,” she adds.
“A notable mentor–mentee example during COVID-19 was an outstanding mentor who challenged her young mentee and newly established business to drive through hardship and reinvent her business model to remain financially afloat.”
“Lessons are delivered through interactive smartboards; hence, teachers have the opportunity to cater to visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners”
Jay Halai, Minarah College
Over the past 12 months, Minarah College, another 5-Star Innovative School, has undergone an overhaul in programming to fully align with the models of Deep Learning and 21st Century Learning.
After reviewing the learning cycle and pedagogies, principal Jay Halai says the need for a holistic approach to engaging students of varying needs – and not only the academically oriented – was evident.
“The high focus on traditional ways of delivery of lessons through textbooks and lecture-based teaching was to be replaced by interactive and collaborative learning, resulting in the development of students’ creative and critical thinking and communication skills using a range of resources, including ICT,” Halai tells The Educator.
Additionally, the school’s introduction of one-to-one devices enabled 21st Century Learning through the use of e-textbooks, e-resources and programs. Students have been more receptive of these and are developing the skills they will use in their future workplaces.
Staff at the college engage in making data-driven decisions to develop programs and learning sequences. Lessons are no longer ‘one hat fits all’.
Halai says the syllabus outcome is now achieved through differentiated tasks aligned to the students’ capabilities and learning needs.
“Lessons are delivered through interactive smartboards; hence, teachers have the opportunity to cater to visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners,” Halai explains. “With less focus on textbooks, students now engage more in experiential and enquiry-based learning and have ample opportunities to work in collegial groups, using various thinking routines.”
Halai says staff development is highly focused on the enhancement of ICT skills through regular professional learning with Microsoft Teams.
“The success stories on Deep Learning from classrooms were shared by the staff as part of professional development, and these presentations were well received by the teachers and seen as a learning opportunity and peer appreciation.”
The 5-Star Innovative Schools’ achievements reflect the ongoing technological transformation in Australia’s education sector. A partner in this transformation is Sentral, a leading cloud-based school management system powered by Microsoft.
Sentral is proud to sponsor The Educator’s 5-Star Innovative Schools report.
Sentral was founded with one mission: to empower schools and their communities to work better through innovative technology.
The company strives to better understand what schools and teachers need the most. Our common goal is to cut out the noise and simplify daily processes so schools can concentrate on nurturing the needs of every student in their care.
Our aim is to achieve the best for schools and continue to innovate towards improving school and student administration.
We are pleased to partner with The Educator in publishing this special report and we congratulate the award winners on their success.
Co-Founder & Head of Strategy
Over July and August 2022, The Educator invited schools across Australia to participate in the publication’s 5-Star Innovative Schools awards. Now in its eighth year, this report recognises the schools at the forefront of change and innovation. Entries were open to all educational professionals who believe their school is pioneering a new direction in education. From teaching approaches to learning spaces and curriculum design, the report looks at schools reshaping the future of education. By the end of the judging process, the entries were narrowed down to 46 of the country’s most forward-thinking schools, which make up The Educator’s 5-Star Innovative Schools 2022 list.
This special report is proudly sponsored by Sentral.