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How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning explores the role of student engagement and classroom practices for improving student learning. Specifically, it looks at the impact of engagement and effective teaching experienced in Years 5, 6 and 7 on academic performance in Year 7.
• A culture of high expectations is as important for learning in primary school as it is in high school. Year 5 students who report having teachers with high expectations are over 6 months ahead in their learning by Year 7.
• Socioeconomic status has an impact on students’ engagement at school. The proportion of students engaged in primary school is lower for students in the lowest socioeconomic quartile than for more advantaged students across measures of both classroom and social engagement at school.
• Other aspects of effective teaching also matter. When students understand the purpose of what they are learning and teachers deliver clear instruction and relevant content, student achievement improves.
• Having positive peer relationships and classroom behaviour during primary school are also important for learning.
• Students with a positive attitude towards homework during the final year of primary school have better numeracy outcomes in the first year of high school.
The publication is accompanied by professional learning reflection guides for principals and school executive staff to support school leaders in considering the implications of this research for practices in their schools. Two accompanying case studies, from Liverpool West and Warwick Farm public schools, provide additional resources to showcase how schools can effectively promote engagement and ensure high expectations of their students.
The NSW Department of Education Strategic Plan 2018-2022 includes the commitment to ensure that every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools. High expectations reflect an understanding of students’ capacity, ensuring that they feel known at school and are challenged in their learning. Schools can use the department’s Tell Them From Me surveys to capture students’ perceptions of the expectations that they experience. This knowledge can then help build an accurate and timely picture that schools can use for practical improvements.
Achieving high participation rates in the Tell Them From Me (TTFM) parent survey helps schools reliably identify areas of strength and areas for improvement from the perspective of parents, and helps inform practical changes where needed.
The 2017 post-school destinations and expectations annual report (PDF, 3.3MB) presents key findings from the 2017 survey of secondary students' post-school destinations. Over 6,995 young people shared their experiences with the research team. Surveys were completed by early school leavers and Year 12 completers across government and non-government schools. The report also presents the findings from a longitudinal follow-up with 2,704 students who responded to the survey in 2014 and 3,342 students who responded in 2016.
The 2017 post-school destinations technical report (PDF, 3.5MB) outlines the project background and overview, survey methodology, questionnaire design and data processing undertaken by the Social Research Council (SRC) to produce the annual report. It also includes materials used by SRC to undertake the project.
The post-school destinations report provides information about:
• post-school education pathways, attainments and destinations of young people in NSW
• factors that drive engagement, retention, education achievement and pathway choices for young people in NSW
• findings from longitudinal follow-ups with students who responded to surveys in 2014 and 2016, and Year 10 students in 2017.
Over 13,000 early school leavers and Year 12 completers across government and non-government schools completed surveys in 2017.
The NSW Department of Education and NSW Skills Board have collaborated on the annual survey since 2014.
Further education and training was the most common post-school destination
The majority of Year 12 completers (69.9%) and early school leavers (55.4%) were in some form of education and training six months after leaving school. However, the proportion of Year 12 completers entering some form of education and training has continued to decline since peaking in 2015, and the proportion of Year 12 completers and early school leavers entering VET also decreased in 2017.
Post-school destinations differ between Year 12 completers and early school leavers
The main post-school destination among Year 12 completers continued to be a Bachelor degree (50.1%), however Year 12 completers identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander had lower rates of entering a Bachelor degree (23.9%) than other Year 12 completers. The main post-school destination for early school leavers continued to be an apprenticeship (30.0%).
Reasons for leaving school early varied
The most common self-reported reasons for leaving school early continue to relate to wanting to pursue employment and career opportunities, school ‘not being for them’ and not liking school or teachers. Less frequently cited reasons included not coping at school or failing subjects, finding school boring, wanting to study elsewhere, ill-health and being bullied.
The Supporting school completion: The importance of engagement and effective teaching (PDF, 1.3MB) explores links between students' engagement and experience of teaching practices in the middle of high school (Year 10) and their likelihood of completing Year 12.
The Supporting school completion: Resources and case studies for schools, teachers and parents/carers (PDF, 3MB) accompanies the Learning Curve and outlines practical strategies that may help facilitate high school completion and post-school transition.
In Australia, socioeconomic status remains a key factor in school completion. By age 19, only 61% of the most disadvantaged students have completed Year 12, compared with 89% of the most advantaged students. It is important that all young people are given the opportunity to complete Year 12, or an equivalent pathway, particularly students who are at risk of not completing school due to their socioeconomic disadvantage.
Using data from the NSW Tell Them From Me (TTFM) secondary school student survey, this Learning Curve explores the links between students’ engagement and experience of teaching practices in the middle of high school (Year 10) and their likelihood of completing Year 12 two years later.
Positive engagement and effective teaching increase all students’ chances of completing Year 12. When students develop positive relationships with teachers and are supported and challenged by teachers, they are more likely to complete school. Likewise, when students put effort in at school, see value in doing homework and believe school is important and useful for future success, they are also more likely to complete Year 12.
Engaging disadvantaged students increases their chances of completing school. When students from low-SES backgrounds report high levels of engagement and effective teaching practice in the middle of high school they are more likely to complete school than students from high-SES backgrounds who are not engaged in school.
Students from low-SES backgrounds are more likely to be disengaged in key predictors of school completion than students from high-SES backgrounds. In NSW, around half of all high-SES students in Year 10 report positive teacher relationships, positive attendance and value the outcomes of school, whereas only a quarter of low-SES students report a similar level of engagement.
This Learning Curve is accompanied by the resource, Supporting school completion: Resources for schools, teachers and parents/carers, which outlines practical strategies that may help facilitate high school completion and post-school transition. The resource includes four case studies from low-SES schools across metropolitan and regional NSW.
Some of the common themes that emerge from the four case studies are:
Student engagement and wellbeing in NSW (PDF, 2MB) presents findings from a pilot study undertaken in 2013 which measured student engagement, wellbeing and quality teaching in a group of NSW government secondary schools.
Authors: Louise Taggart, Diana Eqbal, Meg Dione and Barry Laing
Evaluator company/business: Quality Assurance Team Policy, Planning and Reporting Unit, NSW Department of Education
Summary: The evaluation of the Year 11 and 12 Norta Norta Individual Sponsorship Program aimed to measure the extent to which Norta Norta has achieved its objectives in improving learning and levels of achievement, creating more positive attitudes, strengthening engagement with school and improving attendance and retention for Year 12 Aboriginal students. Data was gathered from school staff, students, tutors and Higher School Certificate results. More than 90 per cent of school staff and tutor survey respondents rated the overall program as either highly or moderately effective. The apparent retention rate for Aboriginal students increased from 33 per cent in 2009 to 43 per cent in 2012.
Evaluator company/business: Policy, Planning and Reporting Unit, NSW Department of Education
URL or PDF: Download the interim report of the Norta Norta individual sponsorship program evaluation (PDF, 432kB).
Summary: The purpose of this formative evaluation was to measure the extent to which the Norta Norta Individual Sponsorship Program had achieved its objectives of improving engagement, attendance and retention of Year 12 Aboriginal students. Data was gathered by online surveys from school staff, students and tutors from more than 100 schools and interviews with principals, teachers, Aboriginal staff, students, tutors and parents and community members in a sample of 18 schools across eight NSW regions. The study found that almost 80% of all eligible students took part in the sponsorship program in 2011. While the authors noted that was difficult to directly attribute improvements in learning outcomes and student engagement to Norta Norta alone, early observations indicated an improvement in educational outcomes for students such as improved course completion; improved engagement with schooling in general; improved attendance and increased rates of completion of Year 12 and completion of the HSC and enhanced post‐school aspirations.