2016 Annual report

At Lake Heights Public School, our motto is ‘Strive for Excellence’. Over the past year, our efforts have been centred on encapsulating this ideal as we strive to strengthen and deliver on school learning priorities, and guide our students in their own pursuit of excellence. We have high expectations of all of our students and support them in their learning through an ongoing commitment to the improvement of pedagogies, the building of relationships and strengthening of leadership within our school. An assessment of our progress against the School Excellence Framework has shown that we are continuing to make gains across the framework and are achieving within the Sustaining and Growing phase in many areas.

Over the past few years, Lake Heights Public School has made significant changes to the way that we approach student wellbeing in our school, to ensure good conditions for learning and  address our strategic direction of attendance. We recognise that enhanced wellbeing leads to improved student outcomes, and understand the social circumstances of our school demographic impact upon some students’ attitude towards school and their willingness to learn. For this reason, this year our focus within the Learning Elements aspect of the framework has largely been centred on the Learning Culture and Wellbeing aspects.

To enable our students to better cope with the issues that may arise in their day-to-day lives, we have continued to implement a consistent, whole-school approach to wellbeing, which is underpinned by our school values and promotes the social and emotional wellbeing of all students. We have furthered this work during 2016 and improved upon our ability to provide a learning culture that is built upon strong, caring relationships, high expectations for student behaviour and achievement, and programs that reflect the explicit needs of our students. Our KidsMatter Action Team have now completed their training and have trained teachers in components 1 and 2 of the framework. Using information gathered from surveys of staff, students and parents, our Action Team has developed a plan to formally launch KidsMatter to our school community during 2017.

Over the course of the year, we have invested both time and resources into fostering positive relationships with families and the wider community. This has included expanding methods of communication and increasing opportunities for families to engage in learning experiences, both in person and online. Our evolving online social media presence and multifaceted approach to communication has played an integral role in engaging parents and our wider community in celebrating and showcasing learning at our school. Data drawn from our email provider indicates that an average of 90% of our families now access weekly emailed newsletters in some capacity. Our active social media account and Class Dojo platforms provide additional measures for parents to engage with their child’s learning and provide direct contact to teachers. By ensuring learning and information is increasingly transparent and accessible to parents, we are beginning to remove the barriers to open communication channels between home and school, and are therefore better equipped to develop positive and respectful relationships across the school community.

As a school, we recognise that to support our students, we also need to support and engage the families and community to which they belong. This year, we have developed a shared community space within the school, where parents can freely access information and key online services. Parents are becoming increasingly active users of this space, seeking out information on school policies and engaging with the provided resources. Through informal parent-teacher conversations, scheduled at times to suit working families, and evening parent information sessions on current pedagogies used within the school, we’ve begun to change the role of parents within our school community, from passive bystanders to active participants in their child’s learning. We’ve also strengthened productive relationships within the community, becoming involved in a mural project to revamp a local area, expanding our lunch order service with the local corner store, hosting Grandparents and International celebration days and working with our feeder high school to incorporate the effective use of PLAN data in their planning and teaching.

Our efforts to improve the learning culture within our school have not only resulted in attendance rates which now exceed the national average, but have also reinvigorated the school community and reconnected with some students and families who were somewhat disengaged. Our focus for the year ahead is to put in place, specific measures to target our Aboriginal population, whose attendance rates are still below the national average. Personalised attendance goals will be set in conjunction with students and parents and revised throughout the year, with planned cultural celebrations as an incentive for meeting these goals, in addition to the whole-school celebrations introduced during 2016.

With strengthened parental engagement, enhanced wellbeing and more productive partnerships in place, our direction for 2017 is now centred on translating our improved learning culture into improved student outcomes.

We have begun to plan and prepare for this next phase through the introduction on various new whole-school programs such as Words their Way, Focus on Reading and Seven Steps to Writing Success during 2016. In addition to this, we have funded the training of four additional teachers in the L3 pedagogy over this year, ensuring L3 is implemented cohesively across all K-2 classes. Our within-school professional learning activities have drawn on the expertise of identified members of staff and have enhanced teachers’ understanding of how to deliver effective and engaging literacy lessons. This has been supported by collaborative, planned lesson study observations, where teachers have had the the opportunity to give and receive feedback on their teaching practice, using our previously developed protocols.

Through the introduction of L3 across all Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 classes and the implementation of Focus on Reading (FoR) across all Stage 2 and 3 classes, data has played a more central role in teaching and learning within our school this year. Internal student performance measures indicate a majority of students are progressing at the expected levels and have allowed teachers to identify areas of need for particular students and groups. This information is being used to inform whole-class learning intentions, as well as personalised learning goals on a classroom level, and to allocate learning and support resources and guide some decision-making on a school-wide level.

The opportunity to collaboratively enter PLAN data across all grade levels has ensured the collection of data each term, however, a need for professional development and improved consistency of teacher judgements has been identified in this area. Providing professional learning experiences which build teacher skills in the analysis, interpretation and use of student performance data will be a priority for the leadership team during 2017, and a whole-school data wall has been established in the late stages of this year to prepare for these changes. With more regular analysis and improved consistency, our internal measures of data will be used by the leadership team with greater certainty, to allocate resources, inform key decisions and identify new priorities within the school. It is expected that our newly appointed instructional leader will offer expertise and guidance in this area during 2017.

Lake Heights Public School recognises the need to implement effective, evidenced-based teaching methods, which result in measurable improvements in student achievement. By investing in professional learning in proven pedagogies such as L3 and Focus on Reading, we have ensured that explicit, specific and timely feedback is delivered to students across all classes. Providing feedback on personal learning goals and success measured against success criteria during reading and writing, has been our starting point for providing teachers with the knowledge and skills required to deliver feedback effectively. As teachers become more proficient in their ability to deliver feedback effectively, these skills will be transferred to other curriculum areas, with the expectation that feedback will become a central part of effective pedagogy within all curriculum areas.

Throughout this year, we have endeavoured to provide a school and class environment that is intellectually, socially and physically supportive of learning. Our students have had access to a rich variety of learning opportunities that enable them to build on their existing experiences and personal strengths, and work in their preferred ways. This has included the use of technology, with 1:1 chromebooks having been trialled in our Stage 3 class this year and with plans to extend the program into our Stage 2/3 class during 2017. Access to technology has been improved across the school, with each class now taking ownership of seven laptops and four ipads, in addition to desktop computers in many classrooms. The use of technology supports our focus on 21st century and inquiry based learning across all curriculum areas.

Our move towards more flexible, student-led pedagogies has also also created the need for more flexible physical environments. To facilitate this,  Lake Heights has repurposed several of our physical learning environments over the year, upgrading our kitchen facilities to support extra curricular activities, extending our kindergarten room to provide additional space for flexible grouping and dismantling our computer lab to make way for a multi-use Learning Hub and renovated library during 2017. Engine tables to facilitate small group instruction are now present in all K-3 classrooms, with a minor furniture upgrade including engine tables, planned for primary classes next year.

Throughout 2016, all members of staff have continued to contribute beyond the classroom, taking on leadership roles within the school and providing input towards whole-school goals. Teachers have actively supported the communal growth in professional knowledge by sharing their expertise and learning gained from targeted professional development with others, specifically in the areas of managing dyslexia in mainstream classrooms, history, geography, the Maths ‘n’ Movement program, SAMR model and Focus on Reading. Several opportunities for current and aspiring leaders within our school to mentor and train other teachers in their area of expertise, have contributed to the professional learning of both educators.

Over the course of 2016, professional development plans have been developed and regularly reviewed with each member of staff. This has provided the leadership team with an opportunity to work collaboratively with individuals to identify and discuss areas of professional need that would improve teacher practice and student outcomes. Members of staff have played an active role in sourcing professional development opportunities that are relevant to their own needs, and fit within the priorities of the school. Through these discussions, we have encouraged progress towards higher levels of accreditation, including supporting beginning teachers through a formal mentoring process. Led by our Assistant Principal, this program led to one teacher progressing to the Proficient Teacher level during 2016.

As in previous years, the decisions and main activities of the leadership team have been guided by the vision and strategic directions of our school. Clear processes have been established for ensuring the timely and effective implementation of our school plan, with all staff members playing an active role in routine reviews of milestones and the identification of next steps. With only one year remaining on our current three year school planning cycle, Lake Heights Public School is well placed to achieve many of the objectives within our school plan.
Our actions as a school during 2016, have been purposeful and responsive to the needs and feedback of our school community. Our progress against the School Excellence Framework continues to reflect the growth and ongoing development of our school as we strive for excellence in learning, teaching and leading.