Homebush West Public School has an effective approach in preparing students for secondary school
The school, in the inner west of Sydney, places a strong emphasis on preparing its students for the transition to secondary school. This case study looks at their ‘middle school’ approach, where Year 5 and 6 students are introduced to secondary school structures and routines to prepare them for the transition.
‘Middle school’ helps emphasise the important transition the students will face
When students reach Year 5, the concept of ‘middle school’ is introduced. The students are given more responsibility and are provided opportunities to step into leadership roles. There is also a focus on teaching students to be more responsible for their own learning, including setting learning goals and participating in peer and self-assessment.
The approach allows students to experience secondary school structures and routines
This involves individual student timetables that require students to change classrooms, classmates and teachers according to subject and ability. The students say that this approach allows them to build relationships with more than one teacher and get used to differing teaching approaches and teacher expectations. It also creates opportunities for students to continue making new friends across the cohort.
The staff at Homebush West collaborate, engage in reflective teaching and foster a culture of high expectations
With their unique ‘middle school’ approach, the staff at Homebush West recognise the need to continually refine practice and to be able to differentiate learning to meet the needs of all Year 5 and 6 students. They also attest to the high levels of organisation and communication that are needed to facilitate this approach. They have a constant focus on high expectations, helping students to recognise the opportunities of secondary school and feel confident and excited about the transition.
Authors: Marita Merlene, Wendy Hodge, Kerry Hart, Alexandra Ellinson, Ofir Thaler
Evaluator company/business: ARTD Consultants
URL or PDF: Download the Evaluation of the 'Tell Them From Me' student survey trial (PDF, 1.14MB).
Summary: This formative evaluation provided insight and advice for the future implementation of student surveys. Mixed methods were used —surveys, case studies in five schools and semi-structured interviews. 172 secondary schools and 55 primary schools took part in the pilot online student survey and were approached to participate in the evaluation. The evaluation found that principals favoured the continuation of the student survey and the introduction of similar surveys for teachers and for parents.
This transition period is important because of the impact it may have on students’ engagement in learning and their sense of belonging at school. This publication examines the relationship between students’ sense of belonging and other types of engagement across the transition from primary to secondary. It includes an analysis of 12,000 students who completed surveys in Year 6, and then again in Year 7.
This decline is experienced even more by students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Between Year 6 and Year 7, there is a decline in the percentage of students who value school outcomes and those who are trying hard to succeed. Students’ sense of belonging also declines over the transition.
Students who report having a positive sense of belonging in Year 6 are more likely to have a positive sense of belonging in Year 7. Factors that help influence a student’s sense of belonging at the beginning of high school include their relationships with teachers and peers, the support they receive at school and at home, and school practice.
Primary schools should be attentive to Year 6 students’ sense of belonging and their relationships with teachers and peers, especially in the lead up to the transition. Secondary schools should develop strong, supportive student-teacher relationships as early as possible. There are more practical tips on how to do this in the publication and the Homebush West case study.
Research shows the benefit of effective teaching and student engagement. The Improving high school engagement learning curve (PDF, 1.6MB) uses data from the NSW Tell Them From Me student surveys in 2013 and 2015 to look at how students' engagement, performance and experience of classroom practices in Year 7 affect their engagement and performance in Year 9.
Learn more about the Tell Them From Me surveys.
Based on the modelling work in this publication, the following summarises the strategies that the research evidence identifies as most effective for improving engagement and achievement in Years 7-9. You can also download these strategies as a PDF (115kB)
Authors: Ann Daly, Meg Dione-Rodgers, Robyn Leggatt, Brendt Evenden
Evaluator company/business: School Policy and Information Management Unit, NSW Department of Education
URL or PDF: Download the Report on Cooks Hill Campus - Implementation of big picture education philosophy and design (PDF, 1.06MB)
Summary: The Big Picture Education Australia (BPEA) philosophy and design was implemented in the Cooks Hill Campus of Newcastle High School in 2014. In 2015, the department commenced an evaluation of the initiative's key features: personalised learning; learning through leadership; and authentic assessment. The evaluation adopted a mixed methods approach, including observations, surveys, and analysis of school administrative and achievement data. It found that the school community was very supportive of the initiative, and that it had a positive impact on teacher practices and student attitudes, behaviour and performance.
Authors: Wendy Hodge, Sue Leahy, Marita Merlene, Kerry Hart, Ioana Ramia, Ofir Thaler, William Hodges, Tracey Whetnall, Patrick Shepherdson, Julie-Anne Lacko
URL or PDF: Download the Independent Evaluation of Connecting to Country - final report (PDF, 1.11MB)
Summary: The evaluation analyses the effectiveness of Connecting to Country as a professional learning program for teachers and principals. The evaluation covers the delivery of the program from its inception in 2011 to the end of December 2012, where 344 teachers and 95 principals or delegates from 109 NSW schools participated in 27 cultural immersion workshops, 12 teacher and 9 principal professional learning workshops held across the State. The evaluators used a combination of site visits, observation and pre- and post- surveys of participants to measure changes in participants’ understanding of local Aboriginal cultures, histories and perspective and the impacts on willingness and capacity to integrate local Aboriginal content into lessons and school leadership practices.
The Primary school engagement and wellbeing publication (PDF, 1.1MB) presents findings from the 2015 Tell Them From Me primary school survey. The survey measures the engagement of primary students in Years 4, 5 and 6 and classroom, school and family factors that influence student engagement and achievement.
Learn more about the Tell Them From Me surveys.
Student voice refers to the views of students on their own schooling. This publication explores:
• why student voice should be measured
• how and when it should be measured
• what questions can and should be asked
• how student voice should be interpreted.
The act of capturing student voice gives students the opportunity to provide feedback and influence their own school experience. This can have an impact on their effort, participation and engagement in learning. Student feedback may also help teachers develop new perspectives on their teaching and can contribute to broader areas of school planning and improvement.
It is important to consider how student feedback is intended to be used. This will help inform when to capture the feedback, which methods are best for capturing the feedback and what questions to ask. Measuring student voice over time can help examine whether particular strategies have led to changes in the way students perceive school or learning.
Tell Them From Me is a suite of surveys used across NSW public schools. The surveys can help schools understand students’ perspectives on their school experience, including their engagement, wellbeing and exposure to quality teaching practices. Read the Tell Them From Me case studies to learn how other NSW schools have used Tell Them From Me for school planning and improvement.