St Albans Primary School is located in the municipality of Brimbank, VIC. The student population is currently 288, has an ICSEA score of 952 and a high percentage of students have a language background other than English and high transience.
St Albans PS has a strong commitment to staff and student welfare. The school’s welfare officer oversees and implements a range of programs including a daily breakfast club, a before school fitness program and Sporting Schools. The school has a community hub which delivers a range of parent programs and activities that develop parents’ skills to help their child reach their full potential, as well as strengthen links between parents and the school.
The school curriculum, aligned with the Victorian Curriculum, focuses on improvements in teaching and learning through the provision of programs and teaching strategies which engage students and create a sense of belonging. The school’s programs reflect improved student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy along with high levels of student engagement.
St Albans PS has an outpost program of the Western English Language School operating four days a week. To further build community links, the school works closely with a range of community agencies including The Smith Family, Keilor View Club, ISIS Primary Care and Good Shepherd, who assist the school through volunteering and implementing a range of programs and activities to support its diverse community.
Through the school’s involvement with SVA, St Albans PS embarked on a project to build and strengthen their networks and gain inspiration and support from other school leaders. The focus of their project was on bridging the digital divide, improving staff and student digital literacies while learning how other low-SES communities were addressing this issue. They wanted to improve student learning outcomes by engaging students in their learning through the increased use of digital technologies and networking with other schools with similar cohorts.
What happened during the project?
It was identified that in order for St Albans PS to develop digital literacy for students, educators must develop high level skills themselves. This began with an audit of all aspects of school technology and the establishment of a staff strategy group, which resulted in the building of new technology infrastructure. This included the use of Google Drive to allow all staff to contribute to team planning and sharing of resources and student work across teams and the whole school.
Digital technology priorities were included in staff performance and development plans, as well as giving students access to technology in all aspects of their learning.
Several initiatives were implemented over the course of the ￼project:
- The school purchased iPads for all staff and iPad apps to support assessment tasks for specialist programs and individualised programs for students with learning difficulties and disabilities.
- Curriculum and planning documents were audited and updated to include ICT links and ideas to incorporate digital technology into units of work, for example, links to YouTube clips to prompt engagement.
- A personalised learning approach was introduced for inquiry promoting student voice and agency through choice in curriculum and independently researching and presenting their learning using digital technologies.
- Introduction of units of work in coding have been implemented across the school from P to 6 through the purchase of Bee-Bots and Spheroes.
What changed for the students?
All staff are now proficient in the use of digital technologies and are effectively integrating them into units of work for all curriculum areas to improve student engagement and learning outcomes.
The school has observed an increase in confidence and competence of both staff and students to use ICT, evidenced in a local survey developed to assess the impact of this project. Student survey data indicated increased engagement in student learning and students displayed confidence using online platforms.
Students now experience personalised learning and coding units to support student agency and future employment opportunities. Student leaders reported new personalised learning approaches were one of the highlights of the year in 2019.
As a result of this work, St Albans PS has seen significant tangible improvements for students in three years. This is evidenced in trending growth in NAPLAN results, especially in numeracy, spelling and grammar and punctuation. NAPLAN results have indicated a huge improvement in mathematics over the last two years with Year 3 results being above state average and Year 5 results showing positive growth for the second year in a row.
An unexpected consequence of the project has been a greater focus on student voice and agency through the introduction of the personalised learning approach into inquiry, and the school’s involvement in a community of practice (CoP) with a neighbouring school.
Where to next?
To build on progress so far and ensure the sustainability of projects, St Albans PS plans to:
- Continue to trial and improve the personalised learning approach
- Further develop digital technologies units of work
- Continue the CoP with a neighbouring school on student voice and agency, including visits for specialist staff in 2020
- Establish partnerships with external agencies regarding digital technologies, such as The Smith Family: ICT Explorers; Kidpreneur program: entrepreneurship education
- Extend coding and purchase more resources to support the program.
St Albans PS learned the following were important to success:
Readiness for change – The culture of the school including the shared beliefs, values and assumptions of staff, need to reflect a readiness for improvement.
Networking – Together you can make a difference. Building collegiality and collaboration not only in your own school but within the broader community can create significant impact.
Prioritise – A lesson learned for St Albans PS was not to take on too many initiatives at once.
Resources – To maintain and improve student learning outcomes and engagement in a 21st century classroom, teachers and students need access to the necessary digital technology resources.
Professional learning – Staff need professional development opportunities and support to drive successful school change.
The importance of collaboration
Q&A with the School Principal Joanne Richmond
Q: What has made SVA a productive partnership for your school?
The partnership with SVA has been a productive one for St Albans PS on several fronts, including providing the following learnings, connections and impact:
- An introduction to Personal Learning for inquiry
- Exposure to student voice and agency
- The partnership with Samsung screens
- Links to other neighbouring schools
- Reflective of best practice around engagement
- Education Support and parental engagement.
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 developed a community of practice (CoP) with a neighbouring school, King’s Park Primary School, around our common interest in student voice and agency.
This provided opportunities to further enhance our work in this area, which we initiated with SVA, including establishing an inquiry project around student voice and agency, school visits, learning walks and presenting findings across the Keilor/St Albans Principal Network meeting.
Setting goals, articulating goals and next steps to achieve goals, and displaying visuals, were all central to the project. As a result, we have decided to continue this work with King’s Park PS indefinitely.
Contribution of another school to your journey
As a result of visits to Prospect North Primary School, we developed our own personal learning curriculum linked to inquiry, adapting their original ideas and planning documents.
We liaised with St Albans Secondary College to clarify what entry skills are required for inquiry. Based on these conversations, personal learning at St Albans PS is focused purely on building skills, general capabilities and student collaboration. Teachers are planning for mini lessons and rubrics as part of a team to achieve this. The aim is to equip our students with high order thinking, skills and capabilities in preparation for secondary school.