High Notes, Vol 17 No 17, June 10 2016

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From the Principal

High Talent
At the School Championships in fencing, William Zeng (10T) won gold in the U15 epée, with Matthew Pellen (8R) winning bronze. In the U15 sabre, Varun Sharma (8S) won bronze. Well done, boys! Congratulations to our Year 10 debating team (Guy Suttner, Symeon Ziegler, Lincoln Hui & Alexander De Araujo) who won the grand final against SGHS at the UNSW Debating Competition. Commiserations to our Year 12 debaters who lost both finals last Friday, PDC Hume Barbour regional and Eastside, to their nemesis – SGHS. Our Year 11 boys also lost the Eastside final against SGHS in a split decision.

Annual Tax Time Appeal
More and more Australians are thinking about philanthropy, about giving something back to society to help others. Universities and schools are benefitting more than ever before from this growing social conscience. High is a state school trying to provide all the opportunities of an independent school. We succeed because of the goodwill and financial support of our staff, our parents and our alumni. This year at tax time please make a donation to a SBHS project – preferably to the Sydney High School Building Fund. Our priority project this year is The Governors Centre. Alternatively, you could support our solar initiative by donating to the Building Fund but adding a note that you want the money directed towards the solar power project.

If you would like to donate directly into sports, go to www.sydneyboyshigh.com  click on ‘Sports Donations’, then scroll through the projects until you find the one you want. Simply click on ‘Donate to…’ in blue for the sport of your choice.

To fast track a donation go to www.asf.org.au/make-donation/sydney-boys-sailing/  but substitute ‘sailing’ with your preferred sport.

The School Excellence Framework -Part 2
In April I summarised the school’s self-assessment on Learning as one part of the framework.  At Executive meetings this term we are working on our self-assessment of Learning and Teaching.  Next term High will be the subject of an external validation review aimed at establishing an agreed assessment of where our school sits in the School Excellence Framework.  Teaching is the focus of Part 2.  “In schools that excel all teachers are committed to identifying, understanding and implementing the most effective teaching methods, with a higher priority given to evidence-based teaching strategies.”  Every teacher would say they were trying to do these things but evidence is necessary to prove that we are walking the talk.  We have rated ourselves as ‘sustaining and growing’ on the element of ‘effective classroom practice’.  The school leadership team does demonstrate instructional leadership, promoting and modelling effective, evidence-based practice.  As yet we do not have sufficient evidence to show that teachers regularly review learning with each student, ensuring all students have a clear understanding of how to improve their learning.  We would need a teacher feedback log to record up to three feedback occasions per term before we could claim feedback as a ‘regular’.  Added to that there are two personal feedback appointments with the Principal scheduled for each student.

On the element ‘data skills and use’, in schools that excel “student assessment data are regularly used school wide to identify student achievements and progress in order to inform future school directions”.  We rated ourselves as ‘sustaining and growing’.  We couldn’t yet claim that teachers demonstrate a ‘sophisticated’ understanding and use of assessment and data literacy concepts.  We have informal, but not hard evidence that teachers take responsibility for changes in practice required to achieve improved school performance and are using data on a regular basis to monitor the effectiveness of their own efforts. We work well in most faculties with RAP analysis and the data but the diagnostic power of the NAPLAN assessment tool has not been fully utilised.  We could have more evidence of pre and post testing and student evaluations.  We might reframe some of our data against for/as/of assessment criteria. In element 3, ‘collaborative practice’, in schools that excel, “there are explicit systems for collaboration and feedback”. We certainly have structure in our Professional Development Plans, lesson observations, PLEs (professional learning exchanges), quality teaching, cyber management and wellbeing teams.  Teachers collaborate within and across stages but we need to make our modelling, mentoring and feedback loops more visible.  We have not gathered evidence of consistency of curriculum delivery in respect of differentiation or teacher judgement.  We need to tie together and make more coherent our strategies to drive school improvement.

In element 4, ‘learning and development’, in schools that excel, “learning is aligned with the school plan, and its impact on the quality of teaching and student learning outcomes is evaluated”. We could not claim that our school is recognised as expert in the provision of support to beginning and early career teachers.  We are unclear as to the recognising agent.  We need to make more explicit the forms of support we provide for beginning and early career teachers.

In element 5, ‘professional standards’, in schools that excel, “all staff demonstrate personal responsibility for maintaining and developing their professional standards.”  We have evidence that teaching staff demonstrate and share expertise but have not gathered evidence about the levels of contemporary content knowledge and teaching practices. We cannot reliably determine how many teachers rely on evidence-based teaching strategies.  We need to gather more evidence about our own teaching practices.  Strategies derived from ‘dispositional teaching’ and ‘making thinking visible’, along with explicit teaching of PEWCC skills, are evidence based.

MIC New Title
The School Executive recently decided that it would be more appropriate for our leaders in sport and co-curricular activities to be called ‘manager in charge’ rather than ‘master in charge’. The abbreviation MIC keeps faith with the terminology used by GPS schools. Our new title reflects a gender neutral attitude to roles at a time when many MICs are female.

Year 7 Reports
Year 7 parents should be asking to see their sons’ reports, as they were discussed with boys this week. In addition to the academic assessments of progress, this year’s reports have an added feature, an assessment of individual boys’ progress in developing ‘future-focussed earning skills’: problem solving, evaluation, working in teams, communicating ideas, creating and innovating. We are experimenting with a paradigm shift in our pedagogy towards incorporating more dispositional teaching into our practice. Our idea is to present a profile of skill development over the three years of learning growth in the Junior School. Mr Dowdell has provided a full explanation of the report format as well as a table of the rubrics used by each Faculty to assess their allocated skill. He included a column indicating the frequency for each level of development of each skill. To access this information, go online and just type sbhs.co/reports.
Dr K A Jaggar

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