Peer Review Report Executive Summary
Drysdale Primary School (DPS) is located in the rural town of Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula, around 20 kilometres from the regional city of Geelong. The school has been providing education for the children and families of the township and district of Drysdale for more than 140 years. The current enrolment of 575 students represents an increase which mirrors the growth of population in the surrounding areas. There has been an increase in the Student Family Occupation index over the period 2013 to 2017. School families are engaged in a wide range of pursuits including agriculture, small business, trades and professions.
The school has extensive grounds which include an oval, paved areas and passive and active play areas. Buildings include a range of classroom styles added over the history of the school, a community hall and a group of relocatable classrooms which are due for replacement. The review coincided with the opening of a newly built senior study area. The Prep hub is to be completed for the commencement of the 2018 school year. Ongoing remodelling and refurbishment of classrooms is helping to create contemporary learning spaces.
DPS follows the Victorian curriculum and offers four specialist programs – Visual Arts, Music/Performing Arts, Physical Education and Languages other than English (LOTE) Indonesian. The school is part of the Maths Science Specialist Teaching Program. Performing Arts and Sport have traditionally been strengths of the school. Inclusion is a key feature of the philosophy of the school. Students with a range of additional needs are supported in their learning by a comprehensive program of interventions including differentiated curriculum, small group tuition and 1:1 support. Throughout the period of the current review cycle, the school has worked to strengthen wellbeing programs to support students and families.
The leadership of the school comprises a Principal, two Assistant Principals and two leading teachers. The staff profile shows a mix of experienced staff and recent graduates among the 32.8 fulltime equivalent (FTE) teachers and 7.9 FTE support staff.
Summary of the School’s Performance
Summary of the School’s Performance against the previous Strategic Plan
Drysdale Primary School has continued to build on strong foundations established over time. The school met all of the Department of Education thresholds on the 2016 Performance Report.
The School Strategic Plan (SSP) 2014 – 2017 improvement goal for student learning was “Learning and teaching are tailored to maximise the individual achievement of each student throughout the school.” Success in meeting this goal was to be measured in improved outcomes in NAPLAN results, annual student progress and outcomes of high attaining students.
The review found that NAPLAN results at Year 5 achieved sustained improvement across all domains measured, with the improvement in Reading being the strongest. Greater fluctuation occurred at Year 3, with NAPLAN results reaching a peak in 2015, declining in 2016, then recovering modestly in 2017.
Data from teacher judgements against the AusVELS showed that in 2016 there had been clear improvement in the percentage of students making 1 year of learning growth in 12 months of learning, across Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and Mathematics.
The percentage of high attaining students who were attributed A grades, met the target in 2015, for five of the seven grades.
The improvement goal relating to Engagement in the SSP was – “All children feel connected to Drysdale Primary School and are engaged in their school.” Success was to be measured by a reduction in absences, and the development of integrated curriculum and individualised learning.
Over the period of review the school reduced the average number of absence days at all year levels Prep – Year 6. The tracking and recording of absences was improved and streamlined by the use of an electronic platform. Despite achieving fewer days absent than the state average, DPS still exceeds the number of absences at similar schools.
Differentiated learning intentions are now evident in curriculum planning documents at the school. Parents and students were able to articulate a range of ways in which the learning needs of individuals are being met by DPS.
The improvement goal in the SSP for this area was “Each student’s resilience and self-awareness is optimised.” Progress toward achieving this goal was to be measured in improved outcomes on the Student Attitudes to School survey (SATS) in School Connectedness and Connectedness to Peers and in the inclusion of Personal learning in curriculum documents.
Data from the 2016 SATS showed that improved outcomes had occurred in both School Connectedness and Connectedness to Peers. DPS score on these measures exceeded that of the state and the region in 2016.
During the period of the SSP, the school introduced a school wide program for Social and Emotional learning using Kids Matter and Bounce Back resources. All stakeholder groups reported that this has been an effective initiative in improving the wellbeing of students.
The improvement goal relating to productivity in the SSP was “Clarity about best practice is developed which is then consistently and accountably adopted throughout the school.” The school aimed to increase productivity indices compared with 2012 and to improve student outcomes through innovative teaching.
Data from the Pre-review Self-evaluation document showed that there has been a significant increase in the productivity indices in each of the four domains measured. This indicates effective use of funds to support improved outcomes. The staff has participated in a range of professional learnings which have supported contemporary approaches to classroom practice.
Summary of main findings and considerations for the next Strategic Plan
The review found that Drysdale Primary School has continued to work towards creating a culture of inclusion and high expectations for all students.
Excellence in Teaching and Learning
The panel agreed that, although some excellent practice was evident at DPS, whole school approaches to teaching and learning were not yet established across all domains. Collaboration and teamwork, common understandings and a shared language with which to discuss teaching and learning are not viewed as strengths by a significant number of the staff. The model used to improve teaching in Mathematics has proven effective in lifting student achievement outcomes and may be extended into other domains during the next improvement cycle.
It was acknowledged that assessment against the curriculum standards is often conservative and that the regular use of multiple sources of achievement data is not embedded in practice across the school. Continuing to build the capacity of staff to triangulate data using a range of summative and formative assessments is indicated for future improvement. By strengthening the capacity of staff to analyse data, monitor progress and respond to individual learners using high impact teaching strategies, the school will increasingly provide challenging learning experiences at all levels
Building a culture of shared responsibility and collegiality is an opportunity for the school in the next SSP. Working collaboratively to develop an instructional model specific to the particular needs of DPS, and implementing it at all year levels will support the school to achieve this.
The review panel formed the view that in the next Strategic Plan the school should continue to focus on improving outcomes in the key areas of literacy and numeracy.
The panel acknowledged that it is only very recently that the school has achieved stability in the leadership team. Considerable staff changes throughout the period of the review cycle, including the employment of numbers of recent graduates, created gaps in middle level leadership at the school. Developing the leadership capacity of staff will be important work going forward. Aligning professional learning with strategic direction of the school will assist in developing teacher capacity and creating a consistent culture.
Positive Climate for Teaching
Throughout the period of the SSP, the school has placed increasing emphasis on being fully inclusive. Carriage of this important initiative is included in the responsibilities of one of the Assistant Principals. All stakeholder groups involved in the review agreed that individual student needs are well supported throughout the school. The school is generally agreed to have an orderly and respectful environment, though the challenging behaviours of a few students created negative perceptions with some of their peers and some parents.
Student agency – taking an active role in managing and monitoring their own learning- seems an obvious next step in improving outcomes for students at DPS.
Community Engagement in Learning
Parental engagement is encouraged through a range of opportunities, both formal and informal, for parents to be involved in activities at the school. Parents appear satisfied with the communication from the school but expressed the desire for more frequent and timely information about their child’s learning. Attendance at Parent/Teacher meetings has been less than optimal and a restructuring of this is suggested for the next SSP.
The Parents Club is undergoing a transition and will re-commence in 2018 in a revised form.
DPS takes an active part in community events and activities and has the support of many local businesses and organisations. The school oval is shared with the Greater Geelong.