Low SES schools shine with new leadership program

by Sarah Bachman13 Apr 2015

One city’s disadvantaged schools are seeing a boost in student learning outcomes thanks to a new program.

The EDvance program - developed by the not-for-profit Fogarty Foundation - recently finished a three-year trial in several schools across Perth.

The program provides mentoring, training and peer support to principals to help them set and achieve goals to improve student outcomes.

Participating schools said the program had seen their schools lift their performance across key areas, improving grades, enhancing student-parent engagement as well as standards of behaviour.

Through EDvance, Majella Catholic Primary School principal, Lina Bertolini, was paired with a mentor she trusted and who had given professional assistance in the past.

"The opportunity to have input from someone who is a mentor, a coach and a critical friend, who has built an intimate knowledge of the school and has had their own experience in similar schools - it's been fantastic," Bertolini told ABC Online.
 
"I think one of the strengths of EDvance is that I've been working with colleagues who work in the same context - without having to explain myself," Bertolini said.

Prior to signing up to EDvance, Majella’s academic results and standards were declining, motivating Bertolini to sign up to EDvance.

"We couldn't afford to not make progress for any longer, we needed to do something. We needed a framework and support structure in place," Bertolini said.

The areas of improvement the school chose to focus on were literacy, the professional efficacy of staff and parental engagement. According to Bertolini, there has been significant improvement over the three years of the EDvance in all areas.

"In terms of literacy especially, our kids have made some huge gains and we're seeing some really good results with our own data that we've collected here, but also with standard data like NAPLAN," Bertolini said.

"For the first time ever last year, our year threes and fives performed as well, if not better, than students in like schools.

"My mentor said he could really feel the change in energy around the school, the tone of the school is very different.

Megan Enders, EDvance program director, said principal attrition was one of the biggest challenges, citing research that revealed the annual rate of principal turnover in WA public schools was around 40%.

"In these low SES communities, the relationship between the school and the child and the family is paramount, and the relationship doesn't get built overnight," Enders said.

"Building trust takes ages, so you really do need to have a headmaster there for at least five or hopefully 10 years to make a difference. It takes a long time to make real substantive change."
 

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