PiL Program Spotlights–John Fawkner College
John Fawkner College is a small 7 – 12 secondary school located 18km from the CBD in Melbourne’s Northern Suburbs. Approximately 450 students are enrolled at the college with approximately 120 of these students participating in the off-site Sports Education Development Australia (SEDA) program. The college has a Student Family Occupation (SFO) index of 0.73 and therefore receives significant funding for disadvantage. Over 60% of students come from English as an Additional Language (EAL) backgrounds.
To provide a dynamic learning environment that engages students who work to achieve their personal best in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.
Aspire and Achieve
Respect, Commitment, Integrity
In 2009 the college, known at the time as Fawkner College underwent an external diagnostic review. The review identified that the school had a history of below standard outcomes, falling enrolments and not being valued by the local community. Data indicated that approximately 700 secondary school age students living in the enrolment area were bypassing the two local secondary colleges to attend school elsewhere.
As a result of the review the Department of Education and Childhood Development (DEECD) and Northern Metropolitan Region made the decision that John Fawkner College and another local secondary college would become part of Project Excellence, a unique initiative based on the Fresh Start Program in the United Kingdom.
As part of Project Excellence:
- Fawkner College was closed at the end of 2009 and reopened at the beginning of 2010 as John Fawkner College
- All staff were named over entitlement and asked to reapply for their positions if they wished to remain at the college. This process resulted in a 48% change in staff.
- A new Leadership Team was established
- Additional resources were provided through National Partnership funding which included two Leading Teachers (Literacy and Numeracy), Teaching and Learning Coaches (Literacy and Numeracy), an Executive Officer to support the Principal, funding to upgrade the facilities and support from an educationalist from the United Kingdom who acted as a critical friend.
After nearly three years there is no doubt that Project Excellence has been an outstanding success as evidenced by the significantly improved data - NAPLAN, VCE, VCAL, student, staff and parent surveys and school generated assessments.
A new school culture has been established based on a focus on continuous improvement, teachers working in teams, improved teaching and learning practices, consistency between classrooms, high expectations, an orderly learning environment and authentic student voice.
A key element in the school improvement agenda has been the strong commitment of the college to the Northern Metropolitan Region strategies, Achievement Improvement Zones (AIZ), Powerful Learning and Curiosity. These strategies provided a clear framework to improve teaching and learning and reduce variation between classrooms.
Consistent Teaching and Learning practices
- A common approach to student management
- The use of an agreed whiteboard structure to inform students on what they are learning
- Students being aware of the learning intention and success criteria in every lesson
- Regular feedback to students to support their learning
- The use of the High Reliability Literacy Teaching Strategies (Getting Knowledge Ready, Vocabulary, Reading Aloud, Paraphrasing, Identifying Questions the Text will Answer, Summarising, Review)
- Teachers working in teams to plan and review curriculum and monitor student progress
- Strategic ongoing professional development of staff on agreed practices.
The college has strong partnerships with business and industry which have been invaluable in linking students with the world outside of school, providing them with a wide range of experiences, connecting them with mentors, developing their knowledge of the vast range of vocational opportunities open to them and building their confidence and communication and interpersonal skills.
The support of organisations such as Minter Ellison Lawyers, Australian Business Community Network (ABCN), Melbourne Heart Soccer Team, Netball Victoria, Moreland City Council and the Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN) have benefited students in all Year levels of the college.
The college has a strong commitment to the use of information technology to enhance student learning.
A relationship with Promethean has resulted in the installation of interactive whiteboards in eighteen classrooms and the Library. Staff have participated in professional development to develop their skills in the use of the boards. Feedback from students and staff on the impact on teaching and learning has been extremely positive.
In 2011 all students in Years 9-12 were provided with a Netbook computer. A number of class sets of Netbook computers are available for the use of students in Years 7 and 8. Netbooks are used every day by every student.
The college recognises the power of ICT in supporting student’s learning but is well aware that a great deal of work still to be done to ensure that students and staff have the knowledge and skills to maximise its potential.
Partners in Learning
During 2010/11 the Principal and Executive Officer participated in a program matching them with a business leader. As chance would have both worked with a representative from Microsoft Australia. A follow on from this association and the success of Project Excellence was that the college was invited to participate in the Partners in Learning Program.
A key belief at John Fawkner College is that student learning is enhanced through enquiry, collaboration and effective feedback. This is the focus of our Partners in Learning Project. The goals of our project are to:
- Develop student’s ability to work collaboratively and provide them with the opportunity to work regularly in group situations
- Develop student’s understanding that learning is enhanced through sharing knowledge and challenging others thinking
- Encourage students to develop knowledge and understanding and apply their learning through an enquiry approach
- Use One Note to enhance collaboration, challenge thinking, apply knowledge and provide feedback to promote student’s higher order learning
A small group of teachers worked closely with a local primary school which was implementing an enquiry learning approach called Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLE) promoted by Professor Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK. SOLE was to be the basis for our project and therefore it was important that teachers fully understood the associated theory and practices. Our project involved students using ICT in their enquiry and specifically OneNote to challenge theirs and other’s thinking, support their collaboration and provide feedback to each other on their learning.
John Fawkner College has just begun this exciting journey however we look forward to the challenges ahead as we strive to provide our students with the knowledge and skills required to be successful in the 21st Century.
Glenn White, Gus Napoli and Jess Sartori
John Fawkner College
18th October 2012