Level 4 - Identify Student Needs and Plan for the Future

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

In the section on Level 3, you entered information about your school’s support programs and interventions on the right hand side.

Undertaking a gap analysis

If you have worked through Levels 1, 2 and 3, you now have the skills and information you need to take a strategic overview of your students’ needs and your school’s responses.

The question driving the gap analysis is simple – “Are there support needs in this school that we are not currently meeting?” Arriving at an answer will be a challenging process engaging you and your leadership team.

By scanning the data in the left hand side of the Tool, using the filter function, you will gain a broad understanding of the extent of your school’s issues with attendance, behavior management and learning, and the disadvantage your students experience as a result of disability, or socio-economic background. You will be able to identify whether the issues are particularly significant for students of a particular age, gender or cultural background (e.g. refugee, Koorie).

You can then make a judgment about which of these issues effects the most students, or is the greatest obstacle to student learning. You might develop a priority list in order of importance or greatest impact on learning outcomes.

Then scan across to the right hand side and consider whether the school’s response to these issues is proportionate and reflects your priority list. If the school has a high number of internal and external suspensions, you might consider whole-school behavior management to be a greater priority than student leadership programs. If the school’s performance in maths is a cause for concern, does the school offer any remedial support? If too many students are leaving to ‘unknown’ destinations, or disengagement from learning and employment, is the school investing in skilled pathways support?

In the end, this will be a subjective judgment by you and your leadership team. You will want to test your thinking with other staff and possibly with your Senior Advisor for Regional Performance and Planning. However, these conversations and debates will be informed by the ‘hard data’ provided by the Student Mapping Tool which can successfully address anecdotal evidence and common misperceptions.

At the end of this process, you should have developed a priority list of support needs and a parallel list of what, if anything, the school has in place to meet them. Do not jump to ‘how will we fix this’ until this list is complete. Problem-solving too early will distract you from the task of developing a shared understanding of priority needs.

You might also create a list of support programs currently offered that do not address priority student needs. No matter how worthy or longstanding these programs might be, you may wish to consider discontinuing them and transferring the resources to areas of greater need.

Planning for the future

As school leaders, by the time you reach this stage you will already be thinking about what it means for the future. What will you stop doing? What will you do more of? Where are the gaps?

(At this point, you might like to collect information about the costs to the school of each existing support program or intervention to further inform your thinking. Remember to count time release for staff as a cost.)

You may not have the expertise within the school to address some of the very challenging issues confronting your students. You may consider your current programs or responses are not proving as effective as you would like. You are now in a position to seek targeted, strategic assistance. You know what issues you want to tackle first, and you are looking for interventions or support programs that have proven effective elsewhere. Introducing a new support program is not the aim – you want to introduce an effective new support program.

The Effective Strategies to Increase School Completion Report (PDF - 1.3Mb)  was commissioned by the Youth Transitions Division and developed by Associate Professor Stephen Lamb and Dr Suzanne Rice from the University of Melbourne. The Report identifies proven effective intervention strategies to improve student engagement and increase rates of school completion that are within the capacity of Victorian schools to deliver. A Guide to help schools increase school completion (PDF - 1.3Mb) has also been developed that documents how the effective intervention strategies identified in the Report can be implemented by schools. The Guide explores how schools can plan and implement the strategies to improve student engagement and increase student retention and how to put these effective strategies to work in the school and community. The Australian What Works and Dare to Lead programs contain an extensive body of research into educational and support programs that have proven effective with Indigenous students.

If you decide to implement something new, there should only be two options:

  • You choose a program or intervention that has proved effective elsewhere, and you put in place processes to review its effectiveness in your context, or
  • You choose a program or intervention that has no evidence of previous effectiveness, but which you believe is likely to succeed. In this case, you must approach it as a pilot or trial. Before you commence, you put in place processes to review its effectiveness.

Using the Tool to review the effectiveness of an intervention or program is covered in more detail in Level 5.

Reaching out for assistance

When you consider your list of priority needs, it is important to start with the assumption that your school does not have to ‘fix’ these problems on its own. Armed with your priority list, you can approach

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments fund a range of children’s services and youth support programs. Understanding all of them is a big job. Finding those that can help you with your immediate priority needs should be more manageable.

Do not forget to ask for evidence of past effectiveness before you engage with an external provider. You owe it to your students to be a discerning consumer of services – even if they are free. All external providers should also be made aware that you will be monitoring the impact of their support on particular students and/or the school. Describe clearly the impact you are seeking and explain that, unless that impact has been achieved after a reasonable period of time, you will be withdrawing from the program/partnership.