Kilmore Primary School Leading Teacher, Carolyn Crowther is already working on a school start-up program for 2018 that creates a positive climate for learning.
The Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) model highlights the importance of four state-wide priorities that are proven to have a bearing on the effectiveness of a school.
The program at Kilmore PS addresses the Positive climate for learning priority and the two dimensions of empowering students and building school pride and Setting expectations and promoting inclusion.
In the midst of an incredibly busy Term 4, Leading Teacher Carolyn Crowther sat down with fellow leading teacher, Brendan Thompson to discuss whole school start-up programs and how this approach sets students and teachers up for the year ahead.
Why did you develop a whole school start-up program?
A whole school start up program ensures consistency across a school. I've been involved in developing similar programs for the past 14 years, across three schools. Initially, I worked with a small team on the 'blue print' and each of us have now adapted it to suit our current settings. The benefit of a whole school program ensures staff, students and parents begin the year together with a shared understanding of expectations.
Our program is called Ready, Set, Go and it's the perfect opportunity to lay the foundations for an enjoyable and successful year.
John Hattie's 'Visible Learning' research identifies a range of factors that influence student achievement and each aspect's effect size. His approach identifies the key areas of 'developing student-teacher relationships' as having an effect size of 0.72, 'classroom cohesion' as 0.53 and 'classroom management' as 0.52. These three areas feature strongly throughout our program. The program aims to create safe and supportive learning environments with high expectations and supports for students to develop the mindset needed to reach their full potential. Ultimately, the program leads to improved student outcomes – socially, behaviourally and academically.
What does the Ready, Set, Go program include?
Our Ready, Set, Go program includes a set of lesson plans, activities, templates and a list of expectations. Some activities are essential in order to ensure consistency across the school and between classrooms.
It doesn't matter which classroom you walk into, each class spends time focusing on our school values, behaviour matrix and creates their own start and end of the day processes, bookwork expectations, classroom monitors, class meetings and anchor charts for literacy and numeracy.
This information is collated into a Class Learning Plan that students share with their parents. We also have copies on display at the office.
Ensuring a consistent approach
Some activities in the program are suggestions and teachers are able to choose their favourite way to achieve the desired result. Teachers can put their own spin on the activities without losing the consistency needed for a program to be truly effective across a whole school. For example, there are a hundred ways to get to know a class and teachers often have their own preferred methods.
The program includes content descriptions from the Victorian Curriculum strands 'Personal, Social and Community Health' (Health and Physical Education) and 'Self-Awareness and Management' (Personal and Social Capability). For teachers who are more confident in this area, there is also scope to include STEM based challenges. At Kilmore PS we also focus on promoting kindness, mindfulness and resilience.
It is vital that parents are aware of the role that the Ready, Set, Go program plays in setting their children up for the school year.
We inform them of the importance of the activities their child or children will be completing and invite them to participate in our TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) Challenge Day.
There is a common language across the school and a shared responsibility to make sure everyone follows our values. Students are involved in developing classroom routines and expectations.
Including student voice increases the commitment to following the processes we've created.
Values are not just taught at the beginning of the school year, they are consistently revisited and interwoven throughout the school day.
What impact does this have on the school values and building culture across the school?
During Ready, Set, Go, classes meet their 'buddy' grade, a class who they will work with throughout the year to complete a variety of activities. There are multiple opportunities for students to work with their buddy grade throughout the program, culminating in a 'TEAM Challenge Day' on the final day. We change it slightly each year to keep it fresh.
We often receive feedback from parents about how well our older children work with our younger students. This fosters a sense of becoming role models which we draw upon throughout the year.
Each year, we seek staff, student and parent feedback via a survey to gauge the success of the program. This feedback is used to tweak the program for the following year.
More formally, the success of the program can be measured through reduced behavioural incidences, an improvement in attitudes to school, staff and parent opinion data sets along with improved student outcomes.
Advice for other schools
Do it! Start small and build upon the program each year.
There are so many resources available online that are a great starting point and often plant the seed for an activity that can be adapted and tweaked.
Involve all classes and have very clear expectations as to how the program will run across the school. Seek feedback, plan ahead and collect ideas throughout the year based on feedback received. Ensure that the program constantly evolves to meet the needs of the school community and remains fresh and engaging for students, teachers and parents.
For information on the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes model, see: FISO
Resources developed by Kilmore Primary School
For the resources, see:
Ready, Set, Go overview
- Ready, Set, Go parent letter
- Ready, Set, Go sample day one
- Ready, Set, Go sample pages
- Grade 3/4 class meeting code
- Grade 5/6 class meeting code