If you spend any time reading about education in the media, a common thread quickly becomes apparent. Schools can easily be measured and compared by a few simple statistics. But is this really the case? No student should be measured by statistics alone and it’s the same for schools. Just like fingerprints, no two schools are identical. Each has a unique set of values, programmes, resources and opportunities. Director of Teaching and Learning, Melina Sangster, looks at the dimensions that collectively indicate the success of a school and the factors that should be considered when looking at the ‘fit’ of a particular student to a school.

The Curriculum

Students spend a majority of their waking hours in the classroom. It’s a great place to see the curriculum in action as the learning environment is central to the effectiveness of the content being delivered. Do students have the chance to learn through real-life opportunities and challenges? How do teachers cater to the different learning pace of students? Does the curriculum enables problem-solving, higher order thinking and reflection that will bring out the best in its students? The International Baccalaureate approach aims to actively involve students in their learning and equip them with skills that enable them to succeed, be it in higher education or in the workforce.

Co-curricular Programmes

Students who are involved in activities that interest them have a greater sense of connection, a vital protective factor for adolescent mental health. Co-curricular programmes complement the core school programme with activities that match a student’s interests and talents. They enrich learning and strengthen personal development. The programmes should include a range of different options such as community service, leadership, outdoor education, sports, the arts and technology. Leadership and community service in particular are attributes highly sought after by universities and future employers.

External Results

Every parent ultimately wants their child to do their best, to achieve their full potential. In order to understand how a school is performing, you must first start by comparing it with ‘like’ schools. Selective schools with selective schools, those that are not academically selective with those who also meet the needs of a broad range of students.

Go to the school’s websites and look for their HSC summary. Identify the courses where the school has performed well and how each subject performed against state average. Look at which subjects are offered by the school and in which courses the school produced ‘Distinguished Achievers’. A school with a track record for success in Ancient History and Biology isn’t necessarily a great match to a student whose strengths lie in Mathematics and Music, or Chemistry and Languages.

When talking to school staff, how do they review, analyse and improve on their HSC results? Look at the percentage of ATARs above 80 and 90. Does the average ATAR score remain stable or build incrementally each year? NAPLAN results are important to help schools determine whether students are reaching certain educational outcomes but provide a very narrow measure of student performance.

Teaching Staff

Students will always remember the teachers that changed and affected their lives. Teaching is one of the highest contributors to student achievement, second only to a student’s ability (Hattie, 2003). Research shows that what teachers know, do and care about has a profound impact on student learning. There must be strong engagement in the classroom with constructive relationships between teacher and pupil. Teachers need regular professional development and adequate class preparation time. A highly skilled teacher differentiates their approach based on the varying ability, rate of learning and skills within their classroom, creating the best possible learning experience for all students.

“Every child is unique and has their own learning needs”

School is over in the blink of an eye and the students are set forth into the world with the knowledge, experiences and skills that they have learnt during their schooling life. All student need to be given the best opportunity to fulfil their potential and open as many pathways as they choose. A TIGS education gives students a solid foundation of academic, Christian and caring values to build their lives upon.

“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish”