Saturday, 7 September 2019

Archaeological Dig Unearths Invaluable Treasures

After returning from a trip to Rome, a city known for it's archaeological treasures,  I was astonished to discover that our school review would mirror an "archaeological dig". The"dig" was an authentic, hands on experience, where open ended questions generated rich, deep dialogue and the unearthing of layer upon layer of invaluable treasures.

An archaeological "dig" in Rome.
In April 2019, our leadership team began gathering evidence of student, staff and parent voice to inform our Specific Focus School Review (this link provides background information about the review). The evidence reflected our core value focus around respect and positivity and included records of conversations, emails, See saw posts and notes from meetings with the Student Representative Council. Preparation for the review involved completing a self-assessment of the Leadership and Management, Student Well Being and Religious School Improvement Framework (SIF) Rubrics from Catholic Education Melbourne. We also revisited our Enhancing Catholic Identity survey data and RE surveys in light of the Horizons of Hope education framework for the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

The review led by Mary Wilson (renowned international, executive coach ) took place towards the end of August 2019. The agreed focus question that drove the review was:

How could our research and inquiry culture be further developed to maximise impact for the learner?

Striving to remain loyal to the voice of staff explicitly articulated in a vision narrative developed with the Schools That Deliver Network early in 2018, meant making sure our review specifically aligned with the vision. You can read about the vision process at this link.

In the shared vision it states:

“The whole staff are involved in decisions regarding Action Research. Any research is relevant to the needs of our learners and is used to strengthen outcomes, ensuring the curriculum has a positive and meaningful impact.”

The agreed review methodology was:

1. Staff action research will inform the review and the future focus.
2. The action learning process will be utilised throughout the review period as the data is used to design action, perform the action, gather more data and design new action, perform that action and so on.
3. The review will involve all staff, students and wider community.
4. The review will be led by the leadership team.

On the second day of the review, Mary invited the leadership team to carry out an archaeological dig of the evidence. We worked in pairs to examine the evidence in depth, leading to the revelation of treasures; affirmations, commendations and recommendations. Here were some of the questions that guided the archaeological dig:

How has our research inquiry process maximised impact for our learners ?
What are the things we need to develop further ?
What are the key impacts of our action research based culture ? and What have we done really well ?

Commendations -  Based on the data, what are the key things we have embedded with great quality ?
Affirmations - What are we doing well and need to keep working on ?
Recommendations -What are the next steps going forward ?

At the end of the "dig", we met with staff and shared the process but not the treasures with them. Staff were given time to work in pairs and record their commendations, affirmations and recommendations.

SNAP !! When we matched the leadership treasures to the staff treasures - they aligned perfectly.

What are the treasures ? What are the affirmations, commendations and recommendations ?
Once we receive the formal report from Mary, we will proudly share our treasures and our next steps forward.

Rest assured, feedback about the experience of the review was resoundingly positive.
Some of the words and phrases used by staff to describe the review included :
ownership, transparency, collaboration, explicit, supportive, energising, exciting, trust in the process and the facilitator, the archeological dig, the time for rich dialogue and reflection with leadership and staff, triads gave everyone a voice.
One leader said, "In the past, reviews have been academic centred. This was more about the social and emotional well being of the students"
Another leader stated, "I am proud of the progress we have made. We now have a positive staff culture where everyone is committed to our vision and the well being of all learners ".

An archaeological dig unearthed invaluable school treasures. 
The treasures align with our vision.
We can be assured that:
Learners leave St Patrick’s self motivated and ready to make a positive impact on their world.

A recent student led Daffodil Day

Special thanks to Mary Wilson, Maree Holmes (Principal Consultant, CEM), our St Patrick's leadership team and all staff, students and community members who contributed to the review. Thanks to Catholic Education Melbourne for allowing our school to take ownership of the process and enable the review to be an authentic, organic, energising and engaging action research project.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Specific Focus Review Through a Core Values Lens

What is a school review ?
Every four years, a school is formally reviewed to compliment the school's ongoing self-review practices. A formal review is an opportunity to ensure the full flourishing of every student in the school's care and the school's commitment to achieving the highest possible standards.
Our school is due to be reviewed this year.
The following information is a summary of Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM) resources with regards to a school review.

These are the key questions a review should answer:
  • How do we ensure that review covers the multi-dimensional nature of learning?
  • How do we ensure that review has a clear focus on supporting teacher quality?
  • How do we ensure that review leads to specific and disciplined cycles of improvement?
  • How do we ensure that the religious dimension is deeply embedded within the review process? 

How do we make the review an authentic part of school life and not an extra ?
Schools can decide on the review style that best meets their needs. In order for the review to purposefully align with our shared vision and core value work, we have chosen to have a Specific Focus Review. For this style of review, we engage an independent expert to work with the school and plan the review in partnership with the CEM regional office. The independent expert is known as a critical friend. The critical friend supports the leadership team to carry out a rigorous review and concludes with a report. The report provides recommendations to ensure the school is committed to achieving the highest standards possible and contributing to the full flourishing of every student. Our Specific Focus review will take place in Week 7 for two days during Term 3.
The final review report is prepared by the critical friend.
A necessary component of all styles of review is the compliance audit. This is carried out over one full day by a VRQA (Victorian Registration & Qualifications Authority) compliance auditor. Our compliance audit will take place for one day during Week 8 in Term 3.
By the end of Term 3 our review will be complete and we will receive a personalised report to inform our school improvement planning for the next four years.

Religious Dimension for 2019
 All CEM schools engaging in school review will engage with the religious dimension during 2019 through a process of self reflection which incorporates a newly developed School Improvement Framework Religious Dimension Scaffold and Rubric.
The Religious Dimension Scaffold will suggest ways in which all of the dimensions of the review might be considered from a Catholic perspective. The scaffold will also support schools to evaluate those elements of school life which are explicitly religious: prayer, Religious Education, liturgy and pastoral care. The rubric will highlight the critical areas of school life which need to be evaluated to ensure that its Catholic identity is at the centre of the school’s ongoing improvement agenda.

Core values agreed on by staff
 How will we gather evidence for our review ?
We will use the core values as the lens through which we gather data for the review. The values were chosen by staff in 2018 as the five key ways to treat each other at our school. The values link to the CEM Horizons of Hope curriculum with a clear focus on honouring the sacred dignity of the human person. If we concentrate on the human element, we will build a sense of belonging and increase student wellbeing data whilst contributing to a natural lift in academic standards.

We will spend about eight weeks focusing on each of the core values beginning with We respect and value one another, followed by We are positive. We will develop shared meanings of the values and  be explicit about what they look like in action. This will help to strengthen them and bring them to life in our community. Staff and children will be able to be "core value detectives" and gather real life examples of children demonstrating the values happening in a positive way in the playground and in the classroom.
During Term 2 and the first half of Term 3 we will review the way the core values are maximising impact for the learner by gathering evidence of the values in action through:
  • Stories and feedback from conversations with parents
  • Academic data through NAPLAN and assessment reports
  • Insight SRC data
  • Resilience Survey Data
  • Stories from children at school
  • Newsletters, website, social media, staff meetings and board meetings 
  • Personnel around the school such as teachers, office staff, LSO's
  • OSH Team Kids (share the core values with them too)
  • Awards recognising the core values in context
  • Seesaw across the school
  • Explicit reference of the values during dialogue and meetings with each other, children and parents.
  • Linking the values to school wide displays
It will be important to share what we are doing with our community and encourage parents to let us know if they see something that doesn't align with our core values.

We aim to ensure we have authentic, real, caring, compassionate human beings in the classrooms, in our school and within our community.  The core values are our "soul stuff". Through using them as a lens for our review we will be able to enhance performance for the benefit of our whole community.