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Welcome to Teach, a South Australian podcast about teaching and learning. This series is an open discussion about life as an educator and the best educational approaches to drive quality learning. You’ll hear from expert teachers and inspiring school leaders who have tried, failed and triumphed and have the scars and gold stars to show for it.

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Season 2

26 September 2022

If you’re tired of spelling lists and stuck for ideas to support spelling in the primary years, discover the way forward without spelling contracts. 

Literacy coaches Ashlee and Daina share their practical advice about quality spelling instruction and resources available to teachers.


Teach is produced on the traditional land of the Kaurna people. The South Australian Department for Education would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to all elders past, present and emerging.

Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the South Australian Department for Education.

Georga Tyson: And I'm Georgia Tyson, Largs Bay school teacher. This episode is all about spelling. Our guests today are literacy coaches who are calling for the death of the spelling contract and have some ideas for practical activities to support quality spelling instruction.

Dale Atkinson: That does seem extreme. With us, Ashlee Dewet-Cowland and Daina Wilson. Welcome to you both.

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Thank you for having us.

Dale Atkinson: So first off, can you tell us a bit about who you are and what your roles are?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Sure. So this is Ashlee. I've been working with the Literacy Guarantee Unit now for a year and a half and I have to say it is the best job I have ever had. In fact, it's not a job. It's just me doing what I'm very passionate about every day. I've been a JP teacher for over 22 years in Victoria and South Australia. So it's just been a very long journey to get to this point.

Georga Tyson: And you are working in schools as well?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Yes. So, part of our role as literacy coaches, we work in identified sites and work towards building quality evidence-based literacy practices in the school, leading to greater literacy outcomes for our students.

Dale Atkinson: What about you, Daina? Where have you come from?

Daina Wilson: Very similar. It is absolutely the dream job. So lucky to be working with a group of like-minded people who are passionate, and we get to talk all day, literacy, all the time. JP background. So came a bit later to teaching in my more mature years. And so have been teaching for around 10 years and have then come into this position with literacy coaches.

So the same, we work with a wide range of teachers across many different sites and working with them to improve their knowledge and understanding about reading development.

Dale Atkinson: So, you operate in schools, but you also provide some guidance through the literacy guarantee conferences. Now, the name of your seminar was ‘Death to the spelling contract, the fundamentals of quality spelling instruction’. What are spelling contracts and why do they have to die?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Well, it comes back to the purpose really, of spelling activities. But I guess if you want to go a little bit deeper, it actually is about teacher knowledge of spelling. And what we've found is, and I am putting it out there, I have absolutely used spelling contracts. In fact, I brought some along today to show you both that I call them chewing gum for the brain, because really there's no purpose often to these activities. And the reason for that is that teachers use them in place of explicit instruction because many teachers don't really understand how to teach spelling.

Spelling is a linguistic skill. And we didn't learn this at university. I'm lucky I have a linguistics degree, so I have some knowledge or I had some knowledge of language before I started teaching. But spelling contracts really, they lack purpose. When it comes to teaching children about our language and spelling.

Georga Tyson: I think what you're saying is true, there is a lot of unknown for teachers about spelling and absolutely the title, ‘Death to the spelling contract’, definitely hooked us in. And that's why we're chatting with you today, but how do you think the teaching of spelling has changed?

Daina Wilson: Well, I think a lot of it, and Ashlee and I have had this discussion over the last few weeks leading up to our conference presentation, and I think this is the catalyst of some change, is this knowledge and understanding behind our language and the structures behind our language. I think in the past few years, we've had a lot of resources and development into our junior primary sort of sector around teaching phonics and that early reading development and what's happened is that it's then teachers are going “well, what do we do next? So where do we go from here?”. And so, I think a lot of it, it has been about teachers really wanting to implement strategies and practices that create impact and create that improvement for their students, but not quite sure about how to go about it.

Dale Atkinson: So, what is the key to quality instruction in this area?

Daina Wilson: A lot of it is about evidence, so we know so much more about how the brain learns. There’s so much out there, research and evidence across multiple countries, multiple languages about what happens in the brain when we learn to read. And obviously then when we learn to read and write. And so that has definitely increased, I suppose, the conversations that come about, about how we teach reading and then obviously, and spelling which is the focus of ours.

Dale Atkinson: Why do you think some teachers might be stuck with the teaching of spelling?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: I found it when I was starting this science of reading, science of learning journey quite a few years ago, it was really hard to find information. And I wasn't sure where to look. We asked children questions. Well, what do you think about this? Well, if they don't know anything about a subject, they don't know what questions to ask. All I knew was that my students spelling in their writing, wasn't reflecting what I was teaching them in my spelling lessons or phonics lessons. So, it made me wonder, what am I missing here? What do I know from my background? So, I would bring in lots of morphology and vocabulary into my lessons, but other teachers weren't. So, it really led me down a path. I discovered Lyn Stone. She was probably one of the first people I thought, oh, okay, now I'm getting it. So, it requires this deep knowledge of how the English language works. And when we understand that our English language is made up of many different languages, Anglo-Saxon, French, Greek and Latin words that allows us to understand why we have certain patterns in our spelling. And so, all of this started to come into make sense to me. And so, it just led me down this path of learning more.

I ended up doing a master’s in leadership, but it changed my direction and actually brought it back to, well, how do we improve literacy practices in schools through transformational instructional leadership? And it was down one of those rabbit holes where I found more knowledge to help me. So, I think teachers are stuck because they don't know where to look for help.

Georga Tyson: Of course. I agree with that.

Dale Atkinson: Can you tell us a bit more about Lyn Stone and what it was that gave you that ah-ha moment?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: It was when she was talking about orthographic mapping and how children transfer knowledge from their short-term memory, into their long-term memory. And we have this place in our brain where we store letter patterns. And when we've learned things explicitly and we've mastered these letter patterns, and we understand when we use 'ai' and when we use 'ay' and can differentiate between them and I'm telling you right now, reception children can do that. Then that helped me understand how to hook that learning into my student's brains. So orthographic mapping, and as soon as I had that word, I thought, right, I'm Googling this and off I went, I discovered Lyn Stone, David Kilpatrick, Tessa Daffern who will be coming out in October to our LGU conference. There's a lot of rot out there. So, you do have to be a critical consumer of research and articles and products, but really our goal is to develop teacher knowledge so that you don't need products. You can teach from just using your explicit instructional routine. So, a really good bank of activities and making spelling fun.

Dale Atkinson: So, what are those practical activities and, and where can teachers find them?

Daina Wilson: There's lots of really good activities. And again, in our presentation, we talk about these spelling knowledges. So, we talk about four spelling knowledges. So, we look at the phenology. So, the sound of our language, the sound within words. We look at the orthography, so the spelling choices and the spelling patterns. We then look at that morphology, so our English language is a morpho phonemic language. So, it's made up of sounds, but it's also made up of meaningful parts. And so that's that next level. And then the final level is that etymology or that origin of language. So, when we have a look at our kids' spelling patterns, we need to really understand which component or what stage these students are in, so we can really target the activities to the needs of our students. For example, if we are looking at that phonological level, students will be missing out letters. For example, if they're writing jumped and they're writing ‘jupd’, so they're missing out a sound within that word. We know that we need to do phonological activities. We need to make sure that they're being able to segment and hear those individual sounds within words. So, things like oral activities, manipulation, word chaining, sound boxes, Elkonin boxes, which also helps with the next level of that orthographic. So, the actual spelling choices that we make and Elkonin boxes which are now a fairly common strategy that is, is out there is a really great, powerful, easy strategy to use to really map those sound letter correspondences in words.

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Um, and it's really important that everything we do in spelling, children are writing it, because the more repetitions you have with writing the more that learning is going into that letter box in their brain, holding that learning in their long-term memory.

Georga Tyson: And what, what other resources are available to teachers to help them with spelling instruction?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: The best advice on writing spelling came out. So, you can find that on EDi. There's lots of great advice there for number one, the theory behind spelling. So, they talk about the four knowledges of spelling, and you'll find practical ideas in there to help you reinvent your spelling journey, shall we say? So that's certainly where you could look and what the beauty of the science of reading community and science of learning community is there's a lot for free. So, there's great Facebook pages, and I'm sure people are already on them. Reading Science in Schools, Sharing best practice, Think Forward Educators, well I could go on all day. They are fabulous communities where you can go online, people share ideas, just put spelling into the file section. You'll find lots of great ideas on there.

Dale Atkinson: And we'll include some links in the show notes for listeners if they want to access those a bit later on.

So, I am the father of a reception age daughter and you mentioned earlier that even at that age, they have an ability to understand while the sound may be the same, the letters are different. How does that work with someone so tiny?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: When I work with schools, I talk about a roadmap. So, when they're planning for learning, think of your roadmap in your head. And number one, I talk about having a scope and sequence. So, there are scope and sequences out there. And coincidentally, the department has just released the R to 2 phonics and spelling scope and sequence, which you'll find on EDi and watch this space because the 3 to 6 spelling scope and sequence is in development as we speak. These scope and sequences are developed, according to research about the most common or most frequently seen graphemes in writing or in their writing, it's actually based on the work of Carnine he came up with the idea that, you know, you should introduce these letters in this order order.

So, you have a scope and sequence. You need some really good explicit instructional routines in your classroom. So, you need to ensure that every day you are doing a daily review. So, you are reviewing the learning from yesterday, from last week, from a month ago. You are being really explicit with your learning intention, you are guiding them through the learning in small steps.

So, here's our new grapheme, repeat after me. Let's sky write it. Sky writing is hugely helpful, especially for reception children and beyond. Are they reading words with that grapheme? Are they spelling words with that grapheme? Are they leading to hand write that grapheme and when you put this together in a routine, what you're doing is you are reducing the cognitive load for those students.

They know exactly what they're going to do at every point of the phonics lesson. And you are guiding them through the scope and sequence in a logical order. So, you can find advice online through EDi. We've got our LGU instructional routine lesson plan on there that you can look at, but even better, you can watch our online phonics lessons. So, Our Learning SA, just navigate to the primary resources, literacy phonics, and watch our coaches teaching reception, 1 and 2 lessons. So, with that in mind, that's the roadmap. And so, you know that you are guiding your students through their learning. Logically you are matching that learning with decodable readers. So, they're reading these graphemes, they're practicing these graphemes in connected text. So, it's all part of this wonderful phonics routine that we go into schools and ensure that schools are using them. Because the department have actually, we don't mandate much, but we've mandated that, in the early years, students and teachers are using an explicit instructional routine and synthetic phonics.

Dale Atkinson: And I think that really draws us neatly back to the original premise of this podcast, which is death of the spelling contract. Cause what you've described there is really conscientious, deliberate, structured, ordered approach to education, which really makes perfect sense from the outside. And it sounds like it makes all the difference when you're in the classroom

Daina Wilson: Yeah. And exactly that point is we know, and people like Lyn Stone, who we've spoken about earlier, talks about the fact that we want to ensure the activities or the strategies that we are using are actually developing and improving their ability to use those skills. So, in spelling, we want to ensure the activities that we are using are helping them to map those spelling patterns or those generalisations of our language.

And we know that our language English is complex, but it is actually quite logical when you know the history behind it and the reasons why words are spelled in certain ways, there are logical reasons behind it.

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Absolutely. I mean, I'm just looking at this spelling contract here that I just downloaded off the internet, “use Scrabble tiles to add up the value of each spelling word”. So that's ultimately, it's a maths activity when you scramble letters and have to put them back. And what word is going to magically appear when I unscramble these letters. But put yourself in the shoes of a child, living with dyslexia, they don't have this ability to do that. So, they need this explicit instruction and systematic instruction. So, if we are teaching everybody with explicit instruction, a systematic instruction, then no child, theoretically, should be left behind.

Dale Atkinson: And I'm assuming here that the experience for the child is actually a bit better too, that the engagement levels go up when you approach it in this way?

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Yeah, absolutely. Just if I can share a little story, I was running a presentation yesterday in one of my sites and one of the teachers said, “oh, can I just share a little story? One of my boys told me what a great job I'm doing now. He actually gets reading and spelling now. So, he congratulated me on my new informed practices.” And I actually started crying in this staff meeting because the impact we are having on children by making small tweaks, leading to big changes, that's all we're asking just to rethink, you know, the activities you're putting in front of your students think about it, is this relating to their phenology? Is it relating to helping them understand letter patterns and where they are in, in words? You know, there's some great textbooks out there to help teachers. One of the first books I recommend to my teachers is The Next Step by Anne Italiano. Really simple way of identifying when to use this letter pattern. Why we use this letter pattern and here's some words that contain this letter pattern. Lyn Stone, Spelling for Life, is a fantastic resource. It actually instructs you in how to do a spelling lesson.

Dale Atkinson: Alright well, I am entirely convinced I'm on-board death to the spelling contract. Ashlee, Daina, thank you very much for joining us.

Ashlee Dewet-Cowland: Thank you for having us for having us.

Georga Tyson: Catch you next time on Teach.

5 September 2022

Today we’re discussing how to accommodate the needs of students who have been through trauma.

Trauma-informed practice in education aims to achieve a safe environment for all. It provides academic, social-emotional and behavioural supports to trauma affected students and promotes their engagement and success in learning.

Hear from the department’s Senior Social Worker for Children in Care and Senior Adviser for Child Protection.

Plus, Merryn Gomez from Eastern Fleurieu R-12 School shares how implementing trauma-informed practice has helped their school community.

Show notes


Intro: Teach is produced on the traditional land of the Kaurna people. The South Australian Department for Education would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to all elders past, present and emerging.

Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome to Teach a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the South Australian Department for Education.

Georga Tyson: And I'm Georgia Tyson, Largs Bay school teacher. Today, we're talking about trauma informed practice and how you can accommodate the needs of students who have been through trauma.

Dale Atkinson: And we are joined by three very experienced people in this area. We've got the Department's Senior Social Worker for Children in Care, Tanya Russo, Senior Advisor for Child Protection, Deidre Lockley, and Merryn Gomez, Assistant Principal for Inclusion and Wellbeing at Eastern Fleurieu R-12 school, a school that is implementing trauma informed practice across all their five campuses.

I think that's right, Merryn is that correct?

Merryn Gomez: Yes, that's correct.

Dale Atkinson: It's a lot of campuses, I guess the first question for people who kind of aren't sure. And this is perhaps for, for you, Tanya and you, Deidre is what is childhood trauma? What do we mean when we talk about that?

Deidre Lockley: So trauma is anything that means that we have a response that we feel is overwhelming.

It might be to a real or a perceived threat. It overwhelms our capacity to cope, and it feels like things are outside of our control. And often it means that we respond in a way that is based on fear rather than what is actually happening around us. In the department, when we are talking about trauma, we're talking about trauma that occurs for children and young people in our schools.

And usually we mean trauma that's relationship, complex, relational trauma. And so that means that the trauma is stemming from experiences of abuse and neglect or sustained witnessing of family and domestic violence. And what that means is that often children and young people can have feelings of hopelessness and shame they're associated with that.

So it's not an individual stressful event that can cause a trauma. Like we might have a car accident that we find traumatic. When we're talking about trauma informed practice, we're talking about complex trauma that is the result of abuse or neglect or sustained family violence.

Georga Tyson: And what should teachers be aware of in terms of whether their student might be experiencing trauma? Are there signs of it say difficulty concentrating?

Deidre Lockley: So sometimes people may not know exactly what's happening for a child outside of school. Often there's confidentiality when other people are involved, whether it be a psychologist or child protection, but things that we notice in schools are things like difficulty in concentrating, like you mentioned, but often it's more than that.

We might see behavioural difficulties. One thing we know about trauma is it impacts the development of children and young people, and that's because it's happening at that really early stage of their life when their brain is developing. And they're also developing understanding of relationships and complex trauma happens in relationship.

And so that means that sometimes they don't know exactly how to maintain a relationship or create new friendships. And we know that when we are in a classroom, the key way children learn is through that relationship with the teacher or the relationship with their peers. So sometimes we'll see that as a difficulty as well.

Tanya Russo:I think another difficulty that a lot of teachers see is around memory as well, and about their ability to retain information, which can be quite frustrating for some teachers. So it might be that they'd forget their belongings or be disorganised as well. And that was also a really difficult thing for young people in school, because obviously we are relying on a lot of their memory to do their learning and, and to be ready to learn in the classroom.

Dale Atkinson: So what are the types of things, Merryn, that you're observing as a frontline educator at the moment. Are you seeing those sorts of behaviours playing out in the classroom?

Merryn Gomez: Yeah, we are certainly seeing those behaviours R-12. We are in reception to year 12 school, so we're able to have that whole sort of educational journey to reflect on and it doesn't matter what year level, I guess, or what age a student is in. If they have been impacted by trauma in those early years, or as their brains are still developing, then it will impact the way that they are able to cope in a classroom. And for some students even walking through the door of a classroom and being in a situation where they are around a group of peers and not I guess experiencing that felt sense of safety for them as an individual can come out as behaviour difficulties. So that is certainly something that I think every teacher at the moment can relate to and something that's really important for people to be aware of that there is always more to the behaviours that we are seeing and it's our job to understand them.

Tanya Russo:I was just going to add to that. We may not always know what the triggers are and the children might not be able to articulate that either. Beause I think some teachers do want to know, you know, is there way I can prevent this? Or is there something that I can notice in that young person or prevent from happening, but we might not always know what they are.

Because it could be a smell. It could be a tone of voice. It could be the look of a person. And I guess that makes it a little bit tricky for teachers. So, we really do need to get them to know the children, to sort of identify what those stress cues are and really observe them and record, because that is a bit of a tricky thing, understanding their triggers.

Georga Tyson: You mentioned there, you know, about supporting the teachers. What is available to teachers to help accommodate the needs of students who have been through traum?

Deidre Lockley: So, we have a series of programs or professional development that's available to staff within the department around trauma informed practice.

They range from the Strategies for Managing Abuse Related Trauma program, otherwise known as SMART. We've been working alongside of the Australian Childhood Foundation for the SMART program for 17 years now. And so people can access that online through plink, through face to face training that we often hold at at EDC, but we also provide that in schools for the whole school, if they'd like it, or for small groups, if that's say a school has a small set of SSOs who they would like to provide some more information to around trauma, we have the SMART program, but then we have a large program called the Trauma Aware Schools Initiative. And that's where we have non-government providers who are experts in trauma, come and assist our schools to really build strong understanding of what trauma might mean, what it might look like in their school and different approaches that they might take. And I think Merryn will talk a little bit more about that in a minute and what it means in her school, but we've had over 200 schools in the last five years, undertake some kind of training through that initiative.

We also provide scholarships each year to graduate certificate in Developmental Trauma programs. We have a master classes for school leaders in Implementation of Trauma Informed Practice. We have an online learning community for anyone who undertakes any of this kind of training in Flinders Street, we have a team called the Child Protection and Trauma Informed Practice team who will very happily chat about any of these in more detail, if that's useful.

Dale Atkinson: So, Merryn, what was your journey as a school and professionally, individually at Eastern Fleurieu what was your journey in terms of coming towards implementing more trauma informed practice at the school?

Merryn Gomez: So, Ian Ken, our principal, identified pretty early on that we were seeing some really challenging behaviours across all of our campuses and that a lot of those students were sort of being stuck in that cycle of suspension and exclusion and relationship rupture without the opportunity to repair and reflect and look at how we were doing things and how we could do things differently.

So in his sort of investigation we thought what can we do differently? How can we look at this differently? In another way, he came across the Trauma Aware Schools Initiative, which Deidre talked about and signed us up straight away as a leadership team. And what that meant was that he was able to choose between three external providers to provide some training to all of our staff. Initially, we went as a whole leadership team and R-12 leadership teams and we did the four day Berry Street education model. That looked at understanding trauma, its impact on students, in a really practical way where there were strategies that you could take out of that and implement in your classroom the next day. The experience that we had as leaders involved in that training, it had so much impact on us that we actually decided that our entire R-12 staff, so teachers and SSOs included really needed to be immersed in that training and that understanding to be able to have the impact that we wanted to have on our students. So, from there, we went on to put our whole school through that four day training, interrupted here and there by COVID, which was really, really tricky, but that was the initial steps.

And from there, what we did was we identified a key team of leaders across our R-12 staff who would be the key implementation team. And we called them the, the TIPI team, the Trauma Informed Practice Implementation team to work on our whole school strategy and our whole school approach. And to monitor the effectiveness of that.

Dale Atkinson: What has the effect been? What have you seen?

Merryn Gomez: Oh wow. That's a huge question. We've seen not only a change in student engagement in the classroom, but what we've also seen that was quite unexpected, was a shift in the understanding. I think of ourselves as educators and how our own brains were functioning and window of tolerance and the strategies that we could use for ourselves when we are stepping into a classroom or when we are alongside a student who is dysregulated to be able to ensure that we are staying regulated ourselves in order to be able to help co-regulate those students. So, we've seen a huge change in behaviour. We're still seeing some really tricky behaviours. I think we always will because that's the nature of putting that many kids in one place and trying to teach them. But what we are seeing is the way that we are responding to those behaviours has changed and the way that teachers understand relationships and the importance of that has really shifted in a positive way so that we are now able to intentionally plan moments throughout our day to create positive interactions, even with the kids who are resisting that the most. And what then happens is over time that builds into them feeling that felt sense of safety and being able to participate in learning in the classroom. So, it's been, I could talk for hours about the difference that we've seen in individual students. But an increase in engagement for sure. And a decrease in those difficult behaviours, but the most impact has been the change has been the change, that paradigm shift to understanding behaviour as communication, and then looking at how do we respond to that and how can we ensure that those ruptures and that cyclical suspension process, we can interrupt that and create more understanding for that student around self-regulation co-regulation and most importantly, repairing those relationships.

Dale Atkinson: It sounds like there's a really profoundly positive impact on the experience that the student has through this, but is there also a personal benefit to the teacher around their own mental health wellbeing, their ability to cope with these scenarios?

Merryn Gomez: I think when you walk into a classroom, right, and you've got 30 or so kids, and there's always going to be a few who you need to do things differently for, to get them feeling calm and regulated and to be able to engage in the learning.

And initially, you know, as a new teacher, you often think that when you're seeing those behaviours it's to do with your lesson plan or your topic, or the way that you've sort of structured that lesson. And look, it really can be, but it's often about those relationships. So, when you understand that as an educator, you're not so upset that your lesson hasn't gone to plan because you understand that at the moment, what that child needs is connection. And once I get that connection, then I can focus on the learning because if we don't have that connection, no learning is going to happen.

Georga Tyson: Merryn, how do you bring a team together to support a child?

Merryn Gomez: We use a team around the child approach that Ian brought in when he came to Eastern Fleurieu School. And it's around a set of protocols that bring all of the providers or stakeholders or important people in that young person's life together with a team around the child. So, we call it a TAC. And what we do is we work really closely with support services. And if the children and care team are in involved, any other providers, DCP anybody involved with NDIS and we bring everybody together and have a discussion about that young person, identifying their strengths, identifying what their growth points are and how we can support them to move forward.

Whether that is with a new enrolment in the school or whether it. Some difficulty that they're having or whether it is just things are going well. And it's a check in and a time to, as Tanya said earlier, celebrate those successes. The team around the child approach has been absolutely crucial in supporting some of our young people in care and has really been the difference between there sometimes being, I guess, conflicting priorities between different providers to bringing a whole team together with that young person at the very heart of every decision that is made and really making that clear. That is what that team is there for regardless of anybody else's sort of motives and wants and needs for that child, it's about them and what they need and the importance of working together so that we can create that consistent and predictable routine for them in an environment where they begin to feel safe and feel seen and heard is what makes that successful.

Dale Atkinson: That sounds like an enormous relief in some respects to have that awareness around, you know, your own professional practice.

Georga Tyson: Are we seeing more and more schools becoming trauma informed, more and more sites?

Deidre Lockley: So, we see more and more people who are interested both as individuals, but as sites. And I think that's because in every classroom and every school, we are seeing children who have more complex needs and more complex behaviours. And I think we have staff across our system who are really seeking to know how they can contribute and how they can help out.

We're also seeing that in other systems that work alongside us, like the Child Protection System, where we see more and more children who are coming into care.

Dale Atkinson: And who should teachers contact to access support?

Tanya Russo:So, for children that are actually being removed, so we've got the Children in Care service. So that service was established by the Department for Education in mid 2019 as a systems improvement response to increase and support education outcomes for children in care.

So, we actually sit as part of Student Support Services and work alongside the Multidisciplinary Team in Support Services. But we also work really closely with Deidre's team in the Engagement and Wellbeing section, but also with schools. So, a lot within our agency, but also across with DCP, in their service as well.

So what we realise, what we need to do is to improve the visibility of children in care within our department and really promote those trauma informed practice principles that we've been talking about, about a safe and predictable environments and I'm increasing those safe relationships with trusting adults.

And I guess our job really is about building that educated capacity to be empathic toward these children and have an understanding about what their needs are. Having opportunities to celebrate the success. Success for these young people might look a little bit different to others, so we need to really tap into that and celebrate those things.

But also, and that not give up attitude. These children have got a right to be educated as well, and they should be at school and a lot of our children in care, actually in part-time for a whole range of reasons, but we are there really to advocate at an individual level, but also at a system level about their needs and their right to be at school full time. As part of our role, we are actually identifying some of those system gaps and working collectively with DCP to work on those.

We have a joint action plan with DCP, which we work very closely with Deidre's team. So, every year we have a number of actions. It's about 11 actions for 2022. So, we have a joint commitment to try and identify and collectively support these young people at a really high level. And we know that from research that none of this can be done in isolation.

So, the children in care service can't do it on their own. And a teacher at a school can't do it on their own, really need to collectively do it with our policy people, but also alongside our DCP partners as well. So, and we really want to promote that school can actually be a place of healing as well. With those really strong relationships school can be one of the most protective factors that they've experienced before they were in care, but certainly afterwards as well. Because we do understand that some of the placement options for young people in care are not ideal at the moment. And there's lots of resource issues around that as well.

So, it's really about trying to support them. And we have a duty social worker available at our office, so you can contact us through Felixtow Education Office and we have a duty social worker to help and we provide some consultation and advice and information, and that could be from a child in care, being enrolled in a new school that could be about identifying what's the process around ISP funding. It could be about how do we use our transition funding money for children in care, or it could be that we can't get in touch with DCP, we don't know what to do. Because we understand that a lot of the communication barriers are impacting young people actually engaging in schooling too.

So, we need to sort of refocus on what the child needs and be really child centred about our practice.

Dale Atkinson: And we'll have information about contact details and other programs in the show notes. One of my final questions, I think probably for you, Merryn, is what's the message to other teachers and educators, other schools who might be considering undertaking some training in trauma informed practice?

Merryn Gomez: I think acknowledging that it's a journey that there's no end to, you know, we've been on this journey since 2018 and initially I thought we'll have a list of things to do, and then we'll be a trauma informed school, but it is certainly not a checklist and we can always continue to improve. And that's really a part of that continuous improvement cycle that all schools go through.

But I think that probably the key message that I would love for every teacher and leader and SSO to know is that as Deidre said earlier, she was talking about relational trauma. So, trauma that happens within relationships, particularly for young people where their brains are still developing. And the way that we heal brains from relational trauma is within relationships.

And as educators, as individuals and as collective sites and partnerships, we can actually make a really significant difference in healing trauma within those relationships that we develop. And if we don't do that, and if we don't do that together, then those young people's brains, they won't heal, and they will continue on that same process and that same cycle.

So, I guess what I want people to know is that every single one of us has the opportunity to have a huge impact on that healing and that it does happen, it happens in schools, in those little micro moments every single day. So, when you're running welcome circles or brain breaks or whatever it is that you are doing with your class, those moments of connection are the moments that are making a difference for those kids.

Dale Atkinson: I think that's a lovely way to wrap up the podcast. Merryn, Deidre, and Tanya, thank you very much for joining us to talk about trauma informed practice.

Tanya Russo:Thanks for having us.

Georga Tyson: Catch you next time on teach.

22 August 2022

We speak to Stirling East Primary School Principal Jess Moroney to discover how the Future Leaders initiative can help emerging leaders identify leadership potential and fast-track preparation for leadership roles.

Plus Jess discusses the importance mentors play and how he’s dealt with the challenges bushfires and COVID-19 bring.


Teach is produced on the traditional land of the Kaurna people. The South Australian Department for Education would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to all elders, past, present and emerging.

Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the South Australian Department for Education. Our guest today is Jess Moroney. He's the principal of Stirling East Primary School up in the Adelaide Hills, with a student enrolment of around 550 kids, and just participated in the Future Leaders program, which provided the tools and resources to reflect on his leadership style and capabilities.

And when he was appointed as a leader, he was also provided with the program's leader advisor service, which helps connect people to experienced leaders for ongoing coaching and mentoring. So, Jess, thanks very much coming in.

Jess Moroney: No worries, thanks for having me.

Dale Atkinson: So you're the principal of Stirling East Primary School. Can you tell us a bit about the school?

Jess Moroney: Yeah. So, as you mentioned, we have about 530 students from reception to year six. We have those spread over about 19 classes. Adelaide Hills, very cold this time of year, but, lovely group of kids and highly experienced and expert teachers. So very fortunate to be there.

Dale Atkinson: So, was it always your intention to become a principal or is this something that you kind of fell into?

Jess Moroney: Yeah, and it seems a very common theme amongst most leaders that I had no ambition in being a principal, sort of started off as a specialist PE teacher for quite a number of years and transitioned into the classroom. And I guess then found opportunities where I was in, acting in leadership positions and quite enjoyed it. It just sort of eventuated that way.

Dale Atkinson: So, what was it that drew you to those leadership positions in the first place?

Jess Moroney: I think it was being able to influence larger and larger groups of students. Initially in a classroom, you have your, you know, 30 odd children in front of you and then through leadership position sort of coordinator roles, you have a chance to work with larger groups and more teachers and more children, and yeah. Seeing that opportunity to improve yourself and improve others, and eventually that has the student outcomes attached to it.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, right. So, tell us a little bit about how the Future Leaders program helped you make that transition smoothly.

Jess Moroney: For me, it was that turning point of realising that I was probably ready. I went down the path initially I was certified as a lead teacher back in 2015 and was really keen on leading from the classroom working two or three days a week in a leadership position. The balance in the classroom was fantastic for me.

And I guess I never really knew that I was quite ready to not step away from the classroom, but to take on a full on leadership position. And I guess the Future Leaders program was one that gave me the confidence.

The feedback that I received was essentially that I was ready and most of the learning now was to be done on the job in a formal leadership position. So, it was almost the kick that I needed just to take the plunge and apply for some positions.

Dale Atkinson: And what's the biggest change that you have transitioning from being a teacher into those leadership positions and being a principal?

Jess Moroney: I think for me, it was quite surprising how similar it actually was in the sense that I guess the difference is rather than having 30 students in front of you, you have you know, a number of staff who require their own levels of differentiation, support, challenge. And so, I guess the difference was working more with adults rather than children. And on a day to day, I guess you often get people when they're emotionally charged, could be, parents could be, students could be adults.

The big difference is probably the end of the day. You're pretty drained. Sometimes you can have challenging conversations from the start of the day, right through to the end. But all for the right outcome.

Dale Atkinson: So, you made the transition in the last couple of years to Stirling East Primary. What year did you start there?

Jess Moroney: I only started there at the beginning of this year. So previous three years at Lenswood Primary, which was sort of polar opposites, it was three classes, 65 children, small community school, but incredibly rewarding place to be as well.

Dale Atkinson: And how have you found it? Because obviously, I would say during COVID 19 times, not the easiest time to transition into a leadership position, how you found that and the challenges?

Jess Moroney: Look, to a certain extent, it was probably not a bad way to start at a new school that everything could be paired back.We talk about week zero and the first couple of days, which as a new leader coming in could be high pressure. At times I just had the opportunity to talk to the staff and you know, this year we had four days to get ready for the hybrid approach to some students online, some face to face. So, we basically took the pressure off and said, get in, get organized, get ready. And I just had the chance to get in and meet the staff and all hands on deck, as opposed to putting on a big professional learning series.

Dale Atkinson: And was the mentoring relationship that you managed to develop ahead of time and throughout the last couple of terms, was that something that was helpful in that scenario?

Jess Moroney: Yeah, I think you mentioned the leader advisor program, which was fantastic when I first stepped into a principal position. So, I was appointed a leader advisor who I hadn't met previously and didn't know a huge amount about my context other than what I'd shared with him. And often I'd see a pop up in my, my calendar as I had a three hour meeting with my leader advisor and thought, what on earth are we going to talk about for three hours? And every time I walked away and just thought, you know how remarkable it was just to have someone to bounce ideas off of and have those conversations where, you know, you're probably tossing up which way to go with some bits and pieces going on in the school and having someone who was sort of non-judgmental and just there to support was great.

Dale Atkinson: And so what are the sort of challenges that you're bottoming out with your mentor? 

Jess Moroney: The day to day challenges that you have around certain contextual situations happening with staffing and, and students and families. And I guess just speaking with someone who's been there, done that before, and just knowing that these challenges are real and just being a sounding board really.

Dale Atkinson: That sounds like a really kind of positive thing. And, and not just during those three hours, there's accessibility isn't there, outside of that time as well.

Jess Moroney: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I always knew that my advisor was on the other end of the phone whenever I needed. And he would often just touch base from time to time just to check in and see how I was going and was there anything I needed. I think he was also a good reminder that as a leader, you had to make time for yourself as well. So, he'd often gimme a call and just say, look, if you're still working, put tools down and go out and do something and you know, that was great.

Dale Atkinson: And obviously a sort of different dynamic, different relationship than, you know, the mentoring relationship that you might have with your education director, there's a bit more freedom and flexibility there I'd imagine.

Jess Moroney: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, when I was reflecting on mentors, the leadership team and the education director within that is fantastic, but it was also nice to have someone who probably sat outside of that sphere. And you could just speak completely openly about everything that's going on and ask a couple of those curly questions as they popped up yeah.

Dale Atkinson: It was a bit easy than, uh, sometimes talking to your boss, I guess.

Jess Moroney: Yeah, absolutely.

Dale Atkinson: We're talking about one of the big challenges, I guess, under COVID situations for kids, for teachers, for all of us, I think is being able to manage the day to day work of, you know, trying to lift the academic achievement of the kids, but also supporting the wellbeing of your employees and supporting the wellbeing of the kids. How have you managed to balance those things?

Jess Moroney: Look, we had a bit of a trial run at this, that when I was at Lenswood, we had the Cudlee Creek bush fire sweep through just prior to COVID time. And so that was a pretty challenging time to be a leader and be a teacher and basically be anyone in that community.

I learned from that experience initially of essentially, we just had to pair back anything off of the calendar that wasn't absolutely necessary at that point in time. And that was hugely beneficial for the staff wellbeing, I guess we looked at everything and if it wasn't highly important right then and there in terms of educational outcomes for kids or wellbeing for staff and students, get rid of it for a short amount of time or permanently, and just focus on the things that were really important for us then and there.

So that's then continued through into COVID times and we're still right in the thick of it. And I think I'm finding now more than ever we're finding that staff are pretty flat. We've been working basically running on adrenaline for the last couple of years and ongoing changes that you can't necessarily prepare for too well.

So again, we are just back to, I guess, analysing everything that we do in a school and asking the question, how important is this right now? And can it wait?

Dale Atkinson: And so, what are the priorities that you've landed on for Stirling East?

Jess Moroney: One of the things that's been a true leveller, you know, right through the bushfire time and the pandemic is making sure that, you know, your key priorities remain consistent.

Just having that level of knowing what we're focusing on. We've maintained the site improvement plan, albeit we've given ourselves the capacity to say that some things can wait when we're tracking how we're going. If there's a couple of things that are still sitting in the orange or red for the second part of the year, that that's okay.

But we've probably just narrowed our goals and stuck with our initial goals of what we had on our site improvement plan and keeping everything else aside for now.

Dale Atkinson: Part of that leadership responsibility is deciding what you can green light, what you can red light, how you prioritise these things. And that's part of the challenge, isn't it?

Jess Moroney: Yeah. And I think, even though we are pushing ahead fairly heavily with our site improvement objectives, I think it's also knowing how we can alleviate some of the pressure on the staff there as well. And having conversations with my teachers, making sure that they know that we appreciate them fully, but often actions can speak a lot louder than words.

So rather than just thanking them, we've looked at ways that we can alleviate the pressure on them in a day to day or looking at ways that we can support them through it with additional release time or being a bit innovative to release each other in some of the challenging moments where they're busy writing reports, you know, interviews, assessment, schedules, those sorts of things, how do we help them through that.

Dale Atkinson: Just back onto the program a little bit, obviously it provides you a bit of feedback about your strengths and areas where development's needed, what sort of assessment process did you undertake to look into your strengths and areas for development?

Jess Moroney: And it was quite interesting because this was probably four years ago now. So, prior to coming in for the podcast, I had to look over my feedback again and I just realised how spot on it actually was about me, my personality, my leadership style. So, it was a pretty rigorous process. There was some self-assessments that you carried out a range of different surveys and then there was the day itself, which I probably won't speak too much about because I think the best thing about it was that you didn't really know what you were going into, but it was highly contextual in terms of putting yourself in scenarios that will become your every day to day as a school leader. So, then the feedback, I guess, that came from that was how you observed in different leadership scenarios.

So, for me, I found that the strength that came out were the bits that gave me a nudge to say, yep, you're ready. And the areas to developers, still things that I'm working on now, so it was pretty much spot on.

Dale Atkinson: And so how have you folded that into developing your own sort of personal development plan and the path to leadership?

Jess Moroney: Through the Future Leaders program, a development plan was created as well. So, it gave a few internal professional learning series that were worthwhile having a look at, but then also some external ones as well. So, one of those for me was the Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability courses, which through our portfolio, we engaged in. And then I guess I've just kept some of that feedback going. And some of the bits that I knew I had to work on in my PDP each year, with my education director. And so, yeah, I've just been sort of sticking the course with that one.

Dale Atkinson: So, like something that's incredibly focused and detailed. And if you go into it with an open kind of mindset, looking, thinking about what you can do to develop, that's where the richness of the conversation comes in, isn't it?

Jess Moroney: Yeah. And I think we all get into education, you know, knowing that we're always learning. As a principal, I'm always learning that I go back into the classroom and at the end of the day, I'd analyse my teaching and learning. Like I would expect my teachers to then likewise, at the end of the day or week, you have to have a look and reflect on areas where you've gone well and some of the areas that you need to rethink.

Dale Atkinson: What are the next stages for you four years in? How does this develop as a program for you?

Jess Moroney: For me, I think, as I just mentioned, I'm still, you know, still learning that I'm fairly early in my principalship. So, I guess it's just taking the time to look at what are the areas, where, and I think you have to celebrate the success along the way.

So, you take the time and look at the areas where you think you've done reasonably well, but conversely, the bits that you still need to develop as a leader. And when I look at the feedback from the future leaders, the areas that were highlighted are still things that, that I'll be working on for a number of years to come.

Dale Atkinson: So, what are some of the things that have surprised you about going from being purely a teacher in the classroom to being a principal.

Jess Moroney: I think, initially how similar some of it is, obviously contextually it's different, because you spend a lot more of your time working with adults than you do children, but the skills that you're required to be a quality classroom teacher or a teacher in, in any area are still very relevant as you move into leadership.

Probably one of the biggest surprises I had was how many interruptions you have in a day, and high quality and important interruptions. You'll often sit down to do something at nine o'clock in the morning, and it's still sitting there untouched at the end of the day, because they've been really pressing things that you prioritise ahead of whatever you had planned for the day.

So, I think I learned very early that you never leave anything to the last day to get it done, because that'll be the day where you have children needing your staff, needing your parents, needing you. So that's probably been the biggest challenge is to probably prioritising your time and managing that.

Dale Atkinson: I think one of the things I've observed about principals is their ability to segment the day into very effective, productive 15 minute segments is an incredible skill.

Jess Moroney: Yes. Yep. And, and very needed.

Dale Atkinson: Jess Moroney, Principal of Stirling East Primary School, thank you very much for joining us and talking about the Future Leaders program.

Jess Moroney: No worries at all. Thank you.

8 August 2022

Hear from 2022 Literacy Summit keynote speaker Professor Debra Myhill from the University of Exeter on the complexities of writing and how you can successfully teach all children to write.

Plus find out who some of the other speakers are and the research and advice they’ll share about writing improvement.

Show notes


Teach is produced on the traditional land of the Kaurna people. The South Australian Department for Education would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to all elders, past, present, and emerging.

Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the state's Department for Education.

Georga Tyson: And I'm Georgia Tyson from Largs Bay School. Today, we are talking about one of the most complex things that is taught in the classroom, the skill of writing, which is also a focus at the 2022 Literacy Summit that brings together international, national, and local experts in the field of literacy improvement.

Dale Atkinson: That's right. And we are lucky to be joined by a couple of those experts now in the form of the department's very own Bev White, our Assistant Director, Literacy and Numeracy Policy. And from the UK professor, Debra Myhill, who is Professor of Education at the University of Exeter and also keynote speaker at the Literacy Summit.
Welcome to you, Debra.

Debra Myhill: Hi, good to see you well, hear from you.

Dale Atkinson: Nice of you to make some time available to us. So, you are coming to speak to us about the dimensions for learning to write, which is one of the most complex things that can be taught in the classroom. Can you talk to us a little bit about why it's such a complex learning area?

Debra Myhill: Well, I think it's because it makes such a high demand on brain power, on mental processes, because you are trying to do lots of things at once. But at the same time, it's making high demands of your language skills and what you know about language. And at the same time, you have to understand what the expectations are about writing.

So, it is very, very challenging to manage. And unusually, writing stays challenging as we get better at it. So even experienced writers find writing a challenge, but they've changed the bar as it were. So, it doesn't get easier, the better you get.

Dale Atkinson: But does it get easier to teach, the better you get?

Debra Myhill: Yes, I think it does. I think because for very young children in particular, there is a stage where they're working very, very hard on simply managing to get words out onto the page, even at the level of, you know, the motor skills to shape letters, knowing how to shape words, writing lines, writing fluently, all of that for very young children means that they can't focus quite so much on the writing itself because you're so busy getting ideas out. Once you've got past that phase and that's become more internalised and automatic, it does free you up to think more about the text itself and what you want to do with it.

Georga Tyson: And what are some strategies teachers can try to support their teaching of writing?

Debra Myhill: Well, I think the strategies really rely on teachers having a strong grasp of these three dimensions of writing. What I was saying earlier about the mental process is that's a cognitive dimension. What I was saying about the language is the linguistic dimension and understanding expectations and being an also sociocultural, if you really want to bring in strategies to help children, you have to think about what is it I'm trying to help.

So, if you do have, just going back to those transcription skills, very young children who are still struggling to write fluently, you might want to play some games that really just get them doing lots of writing and shaping. You may be wanting to teach them how to hand write particular letters and give them practice at that.

So that would be targeting the transcription. On the other hand, if actually they were struggling more with thinking processes around planning, drafting, and revising, because they're older children, some of the explicit things that teachers can do is to explicitly look at how you revise or how you outline text rather than just giving instructions to do revision. And that would probably be looking at a very focused issue. So don't say, let's look at how we revise this story. We might say, let's look at how we revise the characters we've described in this story. So, I think the key thing about strategies in the classroom is that they match the learner's needs in the classroom and that they will draw differently on different dimensions depending on those learner's needs.

Dale Atkinson: So, one of the things we were speaking about in an earlier podcast about the science of reading in particular, was the need to be really deliberately sequential about how you build the learning in that child through an understanding of their individual needs. Does that go doubly, triply so when we we're talking about dimensions for writing?

Debra Myhill: Yeah. In general, I think it really does because you have to know where every child is at in order to know what it is they need to do next. I mean, one of the other reasons that writing is a challenge to teach, as opposed to a challenge to learn, is that writing is multidimensional in terms of the things that you have to learn to do. So, you've got the basic act of learning how to write words and how to spell them or learning how to punctuate. But then you've got learning about how to write argument or learning vocabulary or learning about sentence variety. So, there's so many things you could be looking at, at any one time. And so, it's really worth knowing what is the children need next. The one exception would be, is not to put a feeling on children's imagination or creativity, because I think even very young children who may not have wonderful spelling skills, can come up with wonderful ideas.

So, there's a real thing about don't limit what they can do because often that demotivates children, so let the imagination and the creativity flow, but then what they produce really look at closely in terms of explicit teaching and incremental learning. So, I think the learning is often incremental. The one thing where it differs from, I think from reading, I wouldn't want to make too big a claim on the reading side, on the writing side is that learning is incremental, but it's also spiral or recursive. So, you know, your six year olds can be really good at creating a story, particularly they might do it orally and then write it down. But you know, you have great novelists who are still working on creating a story. Learning about writing is both incremental and spiral or recursive.

Georga Tyson: And what is the connection between learning to read and learning to write?

Debra Myhill: Symbiotic. I think the thing about learning to read and learning to write is they really do go hand in hand and, sometimes there's a bit of a myth that you learn to read first and then you can learn to write, but there's a lot of research that shows that as we learn to read, it improves our capacity to write. But likewise, as we develop as writers, it improves our capacity to read, they're really interrelated processes. So, I would always say, you know, when you are teaching, reading, think about how you might involve writing with the teaching and reading.

And likewise, when you're teaching, writing, draw on excellent reading texts and children's own reading experiences in order to help them think about being a writer and being an author.

Dale Atkinson: That's great advice. What, what advice can you give us about engaging children in the writing process itself?

Debra Myhill: Do you mean the writing process? The planning, drafting writing? Or do you mean writing generally?

Dale Atkinson: Well, all of it. Yeah.

Debra Myhill: Well, I think one of the things that we know from talking to a lot of children and young people is that sometimes they really dislike writing in school, because we make it a little bit dull even though some of them love writing outside of school.

So, I think absolutely at the heart of being able to do all this incremental explicit targeted teaching is also creating a classroom climate, which is conducive to writing. So, we often talk about creating a, a community of writers. In the classroom. And that might involve things like using writing workshop approaches, where children are given plenty of time and space to write, using things like free writing, where you just sort of effectively dump ideas on the page to get going is very motivating.

And that free writing of course is not drafting. It's just getting ideas out. Sometimes, I mean, certainly in the primary schools here where we've worked with the primary schools, having what the teachers here called messy books, where they've got space to write about what they want to write about prior to writing it in a more perfect form for an audience that can really, really work.

So that sense of valuing children's ideas, desire to write alongside, they're being explicit about teaching them things. And I think part of that is also about a community of writers where you create lots of opportunities for collaboration and conversation about writing. One of the wonderful things about collaborative writing and that could be collaborative writing as a whole class where the teacher leads it and, and does joint composition collectively, or it could be collaborative writing, probably in pairs. I think collaborative writing in bigger groups is slightly harder to manage. One of the real benefits of that kind of collaborative writing is that you have to offer ideas and justify why you're making those choices, which is a real learning conversation about writing.

So, if you have to rewrite a paragraph from a science book as a narrative, and you're doing that in a pair in order to do that rewriting, there's got to be a lot of conversations about the writing choices you make and the value is in those conversations. And I think the other thing that's linked to the collaboration and conversation is lots and lots of opportunity for sharing writing, not necessarily always in very formal ways of celebrating finished pieces.

But just regularly reading aloud, work in progress and trying to create that climate where children can say I don't like that sentence, or I don't like that word and can talk about it with others to seek peers’ advice. And of course that grows with age. You wouldn't expect necessarily your youngest writers to be doing that, but you start the habit early by having classrooms, which create that climate for being a community for collaboration and for conversation.

Georga Tyson: Why do you think teachers find teaching writing challenging?

Debra Myhill: I think, I mean, that's a, it's a difficult question to be absolute about, but I think there's two reasons. I think one is that teachers themselves may not be enthusiastic writers. Teachers are more likely to be enthusiastic readers than writers.

And of course in primary schools, we know that they're not always even enthusiastic readers. And I think if you don't write yourself, it's quite hard to understand that sense of being an author. That sense of power as an author you want to try and make your reader feel in a certain way or think in a certain way.

And also if you don't write, I think it's very easy to forget what the experience of being a writer is like. You know, when children get stuck or go off track, those are experiences that most of us have when we are writing. So, I think that's one whole strand of it is that teachers themselves don't have enough experiences as writers to share and be aware of what children are doing in the classroom as, as authors in the classroom and then contend to make it a rather formulaic approach. You know, you must plan your writing without understanding, for example, that, you know, not everybody plans in the same way, or some people have to write first and then form the plan.

But there's one thing I think the other thing though, is back to the thing I said earlier, that from a teaching point of view, when you're teaching writing, there's so many different strands of writing you could be teaching at any one time from, you know, how to shape your letters, to spelling, the punctuation, combining sentences, all the way through to paragraphing text structures. And all of that is what you might say is the form aspect of writing. But you've also got all the things about how do you create the right images for your reader? How do you express strong opinions in an argument? How do you write a scientific text that makes you sound like an expert? So, it's bringing together all the time, writing different aspects of being a good writer.

And I think the risk is that we could spend too much time on one end of it and not enough on the other. And depending on classrooms that can work both ways. You know, you can have classrooms that are brilliant at all the content side and the ideas and the thinking about what you want to say, but not enough explicit teaching about the text itself. Or you have it the other way around where there's just too much emphasis on the form, which just demotivates children about the purpose of writing, which is all about communicating ideas. So, a balanced approach, but it is challenging.

Dale Atkinson: Well, this is a challenging area and made a little less challenging thanks to the conversation with you, Professor Myle. Thank you very much for your time.

Debra Myhill: You're very welcome.

Dale Atkinson: Thank you. And we are lucky to be joined by the department's very own Bev White, our Assistant Director, Literacy and Numeracy Policy.

Let's talk a little bit about the Literacy Summit. What is the point of the Literacy Summit?

Bev White: The point of the literacy summit is really to bring the research to classrooms to actually support leaders and teachers to understand what the current research is and how that can really influence and support the choices they make in planning and teaching for writing and in particular in 2022, it's about learning to write and writing to learn. So, we've had a, a focus on reading for a number of years now, and we do know that people are really keen to learn more about writing. So, we are hoping that we are going to deliver a series of presentations that will support schools to learn together and to really develop their programs.

Dale Atkinson: Now it's a really comprehensive program with a number of speakers from right across the world, internationally, nationally, and locally. Who can come along? And, and what sort of experience are they going to have?

Bev White: We have 10 speakers. And the fantastic thing about it is it's on demand. Once they're loaded up onto plink, you can access them anytime you like.

You can access them during staff meetings, you can use them to support pupil free days. You can do independent learning if it's a real interest for you as a teacher. Anybody who has a plink account in the education department can access the presentations.

Georga Tyson: Who are some of the other speakers and what do they discuss?

Bev White: Well, we have three keynote speakers. So, as well as Debra, we have Steve Graham from the United States. He is a world-renowned leader in the teaching of writing, both reading and writing actually, and talks a lot about the things that really make a difference. The evidence-based strategies that teachers can use and because he and his colleagues have done so much research in teaching writing, he actually has the research data to support what he's saying. So, he's talking about evidence based practices for teaching writing, and he makes connections to reading and learning. So, a very powerful presentation from Steve Graham.

Our third keynote is particularly for the early years, so preschool and the early years of school and that's Iram Siraj. A lot of our preschool educators will remember Iram from, last year. And she's talking about the essential precursors to teaching, reading, and writing and talks about the meaningful conversations that you need to be having in those early years environments to build the language in preparation. Those are our three keynotes. The rest of the presentations are more focused presentations. So, we are looking at focusing on either a particular area in teaching writing, or a particular audience. So, we have Tutita Casa who talks about writing in the mathematics classroom. But how do you teach writing in Maths so that you're actually supporting children to reason and to explain their thinking in, in mathematics. So, it's like using writing to improve your learning of mathematics. So that's one of my favourites. If you're a science teacher, we have Gail Forey, he talks about teaching students to talk and write like scientists and really goes into how you teach the language of science to improve content knowledge and to improve writing and oral language in science. We have a presentation from Dr. Damon Thomas from the University of Queensland. Now, this is an extended presentation because Damon is talking about meta linguistic understanding.

So a lot of teachers are asking for support with functional grammar and Damon delivers. He talks about what you need to teach in the English curriculum in the early years of primary, the middle years of primary and upper primary in terms of functional grammar and the language features that are going to support kids to express their curriculum learning.

And it's pretty full on, but I'm sure that schools will love it. And it's the resource that teachers can go back to many times to really build their skills in that area.

Dale Atkinson: Wasn't an incredible array of speakers that’s available to us. What a resource for all the teachers and educators out there.

Now these can be accessed online. There’s a lot of different ways that people can get them. We’ll include links in the show notes and information on our website, to make them available to you. So, what would your message be to the teachers out here listening and thinking, oh, I should get involved in that.

Bev White:

I think you'll find it incredibly valuable. Like we say, it's all very current research. It really builds on what we've been doing in South Australia for a long time, but I think it really helps teachers understand why teaching writing is so complex. And when we look at all of those three dimensions and bring them together and you get the whole picture, it's almost like, ah, now I get it. Now I know what to look for in my students, and now I know how I can help each one of them to improve.

Dale Atkinson: If you've liked what you've heard from Professor Myhill or from Bev, with the excellent rundown of the keynote speakers and the presenters who are going to be at the Literacy Summit 2022. Please tune in, check the website notes and, get involved.
Thanks very much for listening.

Georga Tyson: Catch you next time on Teach.


22 June 2022

In this episode we hear from past Public Education Award winners and how the awards changed their teaching career. Peta teaches at Gawler and District College B-12 and has written a book that will help teachers and parents open a discussion about how to manage and reduce anxiety. Plus you’ll meet Lucy from Kilparrin Teaching and Assessment School and discover how the Music For All project is making music education more accessible.


Teach is produced on the traditional land of the Kaurna people. The South Australian Department for Education would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to all Elders past, present and emerging.

Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the South Australian Department for Education

Georga Tyson: And I'm Georga Tyson, Largs Bay school teacher.

Dale Atkinson: Now imagine going overseas to study a teaching technique or, having a bit of space to write a book or create musical performances for the kids.

Well, public education awards winners have gone on to have those kinds of experiences while further developing their careers.

Georga Tyson: Today, we're catching up with some previous winners to hear what they're up to now and how the award changed their teaching career and how it could change yours. Joining us today, are Kilparrin music teacher, Lucy Standish, who won the 2019 Community Engagement Award, and Gawler and District College reception/year one teacher, Peta Thompson, who won the 2018 Early Years Teacher Award. Welcome to you both. And congratulations on your achievements.

Peta Thompson: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Georga Tyson: Why did you both decide to apply for the Public Education Awards?

Lucy Standish: I applied because I knew we were creating something really special that year. And that's why my principal nominated me.
So we were doing a big performance, the Music for All project and had that coming up. And so, I wrote the application with that in mind of what we were about to create. That was seen as something that was going be really special.

Peta Thompson: I had dreams of going to Italy to do some training in the Reggio Emilia approach.
But I knew that I would never be able to fund it on my own. I am really, really passionate about community and bridging that gap between home and school, and the whole Reggio Emilia approach is about the whole child, the community, the parent, the teacher, all raising and educating the child.

And I just dreamt of being able to go over and do that. So, I thought, well, this is the perfect opportunity for me to be able to actually obtain that.

Dale Atkinson:  So tell us a little bit about what that experience is like going to Italy and what you learnt from there.

Peta Thompson: Oh, well it's phenomenal. Firstly, I don't speak any Italian so that was the biggest challenge.
So I actually went to the town of Reggio Emilia and it's a two-week course where you are immersed in the learning and the schooling over there. There are conferences every day where you hear from parents of kids who go to their schools, you hear, from community members and how they actually have a part in the child's education.

And yeah, you get to visit schools and look at the setup, the wonderful ways that they approach education, which is looking at the whole child. So I was really, really passionate about the community aspect of it. And I took so much of that away and have implemented that into the way I teach now as well.

Dale Atkinson: It's an amazing night, it's an incredible time to spend with your family and celebrate now the great things that can be done in teaching. Can you just explain a little bit about what the experience of the evening was like for you?

Lucy Standish: Such a fun evening. The Public Education Awards really put on a great, great show and I think my category was quite late in the night. And so the tension was, you know, happening the whole throughout the whole evening. And I was like, I'm not going to win. I'm not going win. And then I won and had to go up and make a speech. And then it was just fantastic. Yeah. We had lots of Kilparrin staff come along to support me as well. So, it made it a really fun night. How about you, Peta?

Peta Thompson: Yeah, the whole process actually was really enjoyable from woe to go. Once you put your application in, you don't think you're ever going to be selected. And then, a couple of months later, there was a little envelope in my pigeonhole and it was like the Willy Wonka's golden ticket and I remember opening it and seeing you're one of three finalists and you've been invited to the celebration, the awards night. And so again, you go along, you think, oh no, it's not going to be me. You see the videos of the other people that you're up against. I remember not eating a scrap of food because I was so nervous staring at my meal, thinking, oh my gosh, then yeah. They call your name out. And it's a huge celebration. Lots of staff and friends were there as well from our school. And then it's just a whirlwind after that.

Lucy Standish: I even had Eddie Betts come and, um, tell me that I was the finalist so that was a pretty special moment.

Peta Thompson: Was that you? I saw that.

Georga Tyson: How would you say winning the award has changed your teaching journey or what impact has it had?

Peta Thompson: It's changed me as a person forever. It is something that I really could never have dreamt of. It's incredible. As a teacher, as an educator, you know, every single day, we're always trying to refine the process in what we do and reflect on our teaching, and I just gained so many skills and so much knowledge about children and how they learn and why they learn the ways that they do.
And that really shaped my pedagogy and what I do in my classroom. I could not thank the education awards team more for the opportunity they gave me.

Lucy Standish: Yeah. From the moment that Eddie Betts walked in that was, you know, really exciting for my whole school and Kilparrin. The students still remind me of that moment, but after being a winner, it's really shown the music education that we are, um, doing really amazing things at Kilparrin with our music.

And partnered with SASVI as well. And with Connecting the Dots in Music, we are really innovative in our field and people are recognising that. Music Eviva in schools has also approached me and my colleague at SASVI, Lily Gower to run some professional learning for them on diverse needs and just making a difference with Kilparrin students who have multiple disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing, vision impairments, sensory needs.
We need to make sure that everyone is having an accessible music curriculum.

Dale Atkinson: Now, before we came on air, you were talking to us a little bit about performance that you had a couple of weeks ago. Can you just explain a little bit about how that works and how that reaches out into the community?

Lucy Standish: Yeah. So we've just put on our second Music for All project. And this time it was called The Nest. The first one was Fancy Pants. We were lucky to have Connecting the Dots in Music. Emily G is the project manager. She's a friend of mine and has contacted me again and said, look, we've got to do this.

So, we've been working on it for a couple of years. COVID's got in the way. We were lucky that Tia Martin, who also works for Connecting The Dots in Music, she was our lead teaching artist and she was able to get some grant money from Carclew, which made it possible for us to put it on. And so last week we had musicians in our school that were teaching artists.

And we all created the music with our teaching artists. They got to know our students. They got to know our students' ways of communicating, because most of our students at our school use alternative communication. So that was a fantastic week. We created the music and then we put on a big performance at the end of the week.

Dale Atkinson: Ah, sounds amazing.

Georga Tyson: Incredible Lucy. You were also planning on heading overseas before COVID disrupted the plans. What did you hope to use the funds for?

Lucy Standish: I had planned to go to Helsinki to the International Music Education Conference, where I was going to speak about the project that we did the Music for All project and yeah, that didn't happen. So, I'm really interested to see what they do in Helsinki, because there was a special education music centre there that seemed really interesting and very similar to students at Kilparrin as well. So maybe that's something that I might do. I'm just waiting to see how travel goes for a bit.

Dale Atkinson: There's a lot of opportunities. So that’s, you know, a bit exciting. Now, Peta, your focused on writing a book called Settle Petal to help children manage and reduce their anxiety. Why was that an area you wanted to write about?

Peta Thompson: I'm really passionate about children's wellbeing. And I think as a reception, year one teacher, I see a lot of anxiety in kids, especially starting school and you know, a lot of separation anxiety from mum and dad.

And I'm really passionate about getting the wellbeing intact of the child before delving into the curriculum. I love that saying that no child can learn unless they're in that state of relaxed alertness. And so, when I was looking for resources, there are so many amazing wellbeing resources out there, but nothing that I could find that specifically targeted anxiety and I suffered terribly with anxiety as a child.

And sometimes I knew why, sometimes I didn't know why, it was just a feeling. I wanted to create a resource that opened up that discussion with kids, and also with families. So, I created a teacher resource. I'm really lucky when I met my partner, his family are also in education and his beautiful sister, my sister-in-law Emma Thompson. She's also a reception teacher at Salisbury Park Primary and she's an artist as well. And so, I said, hey, I've got this book that I've written, and I need an illustrator. So she said she would love to do that. So, we collaborated, and we came up with Settle Petal.

So, it's designed as a teacher resource. It comes with a resource pack of activities for teachers, but it's also really important for parents as well. It's a great resource for parents to have a discussion with their kids and open up those lines of communication. At the back of the book, there's a whole heap of, talking points and discussion points that you can do as a classroom teacher, or you can do as a parent.

Georga Tyson: And what was the book writing process like while working as a teacher?

Peta Thompson: I mean, as, as you all know, teaching, the list never, ever ends there's always something to do. But I actually found it therapy for myself, go home after a long day at work and I think about the kids and what could I have done differently and how could I have supported them more.

Am then I would just sort of delve into a, you know, couple of hours a night here or there and, and write the book. And I found that really helped me shape the storyline. So, the process was phenomenal.

Dale Atkinson: I think one of the things that kind of stood out about one of the things you said a bit earlier was around, it took someone else to nominate you to feel like you could then go and apply for the awards. And I think that is something that characterises a lot of teachers, which is a natural inherent modesty about the work they do. So, what advice would you give to anyone who's either considering nominating or considering nominating someone else?

Peta Thompson: Yeah, look, none of us think we're special. We don't think that we do anything special from day to day. Every single teacher is, you know, a miracle worker, the things that we do every day change the lives or impact the lives of kids, you know, constantly. And I would just say, if you can nominate yourself, go for it.

If you've got something to share, whether it's big or small, absolutely. Throw your hat in the ring and have a go. You know, this has been a life changing experience for me, and I've never considered myself lucky. I've never won a meat tray in my life. I didn't think there was any chance that I would be a contender, but you know, it doesn't come down to odds and a raffle.

It's putting what you do onto paper and sharing the things that you do in your classroom or in your school community and, you know, having a go. So absolutely. If you've got something to share, go for it.

Lucy Standish: Yeah. And I was lucky enough to be a judge last year. And I was really like, it's just so exciting to read about what other people are doing and you're doing something special at your school, you know, give it a go.

Georga Tyson: And what's next for you both?

Peta Thompson: Teaching. I've got 26 little people, report writing, yep, all of that. More books are on the horizon for me, I want to do a series of wellbeing books. And the beautiful thing about being in a classroom is you can see the need for things, so I'm getting my inspiration from that.

That's kind of the next direction for me. I'm also incredibly passionate about literacy in the early years. So, I would really like to get into doing some mentoring around explicit instruction.

Lucy Standish: After just finishing our Music for All project last week, just looking towards how we're going to create another one, version 3.

We're all excited from last week at school. Got to get our minds together and create something new, again.

Georga Tyson: Lucy, when you first did Music For All, were you imagining that you would go on to do a second and a third?

Lucy Standish: Not at all. No. I think before leading up to it, there was so much work involved, creating it and working out the model of how it was going to work. Now we've got the model sorted, we know how it works. We know how we could do the second one. We tweaked it here and there as well. Yeah. We are hoping that other schools will also see what we've done and then they'll continue and create something like what we did last week.

Dale Atkinson: I think that's the great thing about the Public Education Awards is that it's a wonderful recognition of, some personal achievements, but it also provides a real beacon to other schools, other teachers, leaders on really great practice out there. And, it's incredibly, incredibly motivating. So, I'd like to thank you, both Lucy and Peta for joining us today.

Peta Thompson: Thank you.

Dale Atkinson: It was wonderful to hear your story and thanks to everyone for listening. You still have some time to apply for the awards for yourself, or on behalf of a colleague.

Georga Tyson: Catch you next time on Teach.

26 May 2022

For the Public Education Awards this year, you can nominate yourself or enter a colleague. Find out some tips to help your application stand out from the crowd.

Show notes


Teach is produced on the traditional land of the Kaurna people. The South Australian Department for Education would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to all elders, past, present and emerging.

Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome back to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education. Today's episode is all about our people, our teachers, our leaders, and the people working in support roles, and also in central office. We think everyone from time to time deserves to be recognised for the stuff they do and deserve a bit of a cheer too.

That's why we're reminding you that nominations for the 2022 Public Education Awards will be open soon. With me today is Abbey Woolley, who is part of the team that oversees the awards each year. And I've got to tell you, I was there last year, it was an amazing night. Welcome Abbey.

Abbey Woolley: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Dale.

Dale Atkinson: Well, it's nice to have you. We all know it's hard to find some time to reflect on our achievements, particularly under the current COVID settings, and everyone's working incredibly hard. But I imagine the awards create a valuable opportunity for people just to take some time out and recognise the fabulous work they do.

Abbey Woolley: Indeed, they do, and a lot of the cases teachers are inherently humble. And so, it's nice to showcase and recognise the excellence that is out there in the department, and the awards give us that platform.

Dale Atkinson: So, they've been around since 2011. There's a little bit of a change that's coming in because normally individuals have self-nominated for the awards. So that's been the previous kind of set up. This year, what we're saying is that applications can also be submitted by a colleague on behalf of an individual. So why has that change been made?

Abbey Woolley: I guess it's been made because we really are looking for the best of our best, and like I mentioned, teachers can be humble and not necessarily want to put themselves forward.

We recognise that there are many outstanding staff that are reluctant to recognition, or simply not recognise the impact that they have with the students or their community. So this year, like you said, peers, leaders, and colleagues, we're asking them to consider if they work with an outstanding individual or team, perhaps that they should consider applying for them on their behalf and they can submit that application in collaboration with the person. But they indeed do need to seek consent obviously before submitting, or they can just tap them on the shoulder and say, hey, I think you're brilliant. Why don't you apply for an award this year?

Dale Atkinson: One of the things that really stood out at last year's awards is the sheer breadth of categories and the incredible range of things that people do that are amazing, but that they can also be nominated for. So, what are the types of things we're looking for and why should someone enter or be entered for the awards?

Abbey Woolley: We all know I guess that teachers are extremely passionate about what they do -   teaching and learning, and we really want to share their stories and showcase outstanding practice impact.

And that really does contribute to the department's world-class vision. Winning a public education award is a recognition of an individual team or the whole of the school community really. And it gives schools, preschools, and children's centres the opportunity to share their expertise and be recognised for that outstanding impact.

Dale Atkinson: And so what's the process of applying? What should people do and how do they get that underway?

Abbey Woolley: We've put together an application guide, which will be available at schools in a hard copy, but we do also have an online copy of that. So, visit our website for that. But, to apply, the first step is looking at the application guide, choosing a category, perhaps discussing that with your leader or your peers. And I guess when you're choosing that category, making sure that it is a category that you can most comprehensively answer all the criteria for it. The next step is seeking endorsement, because your line manager or principal will have to endorse your application before it goes any further in the process and then of course writing your application, this can be done on our online platform, or we have also provided some Word templates that are available on our website. Just in case you do want to collaborate or work on your answers offline before submitting online. We do say use plain English, read your application thoroughly before submitting it. We've just put those tools in place to make that a little bit easier for people.

Dale Atkinson: What are some things that people can think about to make their application kind of stand out for the judging panel?

Abbey Woolley: I can't stress enough, how important evidence is. Our judges are looking for evidence. Evidence is key, evidence, evidence, evidence. So, you know, real examples and details of lessons and the impact that they've had on learners, practical evidence of high quality, inspirational teaching, or approaches that enthuse, engage and motivate others, examples of how you have actively involved families in their child's learning, using quotes from students or colleagues to back up an argument or piece of evidence that you're providing. And I guess finally think about any additional opportunities that you or who you're applying for have created for children and young people for an example, extracurricular activities, or how you may have actively lived the public sector values, you know, and for more information on what makes a good application, we do have some more tips and tricks online if people want to explore that further.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, perfect. I mean, I think one of the things that kind of stood out at the awards last year from the videos of the awards' recipients, was just how the flow on effect of the work they did impacted their colleagues or the children they're working with, to try and drive those improved outcomes. And I think that's really one of the key things that we're looking for in the awards.

Abbey Woolley: Absolutely. And I think that, you know, showcasing this excellence and showcasing the fact that it is transferable, it's inspirational, but in a lot of the ways, these stories can be transferred into other sites and, and other central applications.

So that's what we're really after that, ripple effect of impact.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, and one of the great things about the awards is that winning an award contributes towards some professional development that people can get. All the winners receive $10,000 in a prize towards professional development. All the finalists receive $2,000 towards their professional development. What sort of things can the prize money be spent on?

Abbey Woolley: Yes. So, I guess there are many ways over the years that I've seen the prize money be spent. It can be used to either support you or your team's professional development. Some of our past winners have used the money for training or up-skilling or coaching. Some other examples of further tertiary study, attending conferences or events specific to your field of interest. And we've had previous winners and finalists learn from other jurisdictions as well, but you may not be aware that you can also spend the prize money on learning resources for the school or community, which is a great way to look at how that can be spent, and for it to benefit children and young people. So, some examples of that are e-learning tools, software, or hardware to support that, books, films, flashcards, anything that you can think about that you'd find in a classroom.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. I mean, one of the great things from awards winners is what I've seen previously, as it creates this kind of virtuous cycle of continuous improvement. So, they're away, they're using some of this money to work on some of their skills or to create these collaborative practice teams and really bring some of the knowledge back, extend that out to the broader school and partnership community. It's really impressive. It's great stuff.

Abbey Woolley: And I think Dale, like, that's what we want to get across. Winning an award impacts the whole community for the individual or team. That's really something that we would really love applicants to know.

Dale Atkinson: It's an amazing thing. Who are some of the previous winners that stand out for you, and what they've gone on to do?

Abbey Woolley: There are so many over the years, I've been with the program for, this is my fifth year now. And there's just been some incredible people that I've seen win, and be finalists. A few that do stand out to me, Antoinette Jones was the 2018 winner of the leadership award. She was the principal at the time of Mitcham Girls School, and she was very, very humble. And when we were filming at the school, she was very much about showing us what everyone else was doing, not necessarily wanting to put the spotlight on herself. And in true Antoinette style, she spent her $10,000 on providing a professional learning opportunity for her whole staff and invited community along and some surrounding schools to be a part of that. So, they all did a course on respectful relationships.

So, I think that that impact was felt quite heavily at that school, with her winning. Another lady that won, was Peta Thompson. She was Peta Tooley at the time of winning, and she was the recipient of the 2018 Early Years Teacher of the Year Award. Peta spent her money on a tour of Reggio Emilia, and she wanted to deepen her learning of that approach. And she came back, and she's since authored a book called Settle Petal which is a book about dealing with anxiety and children. And with that, she put together lesson plans to really embed that learning and key takeaways from the book, into the classroom. Yeah. They're just two pieces that make me smile, but there are plenty more.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, it's a real launch pad to think, almost creatively, about how you want to progress your professional development and your career. And you want to help out the rest of the people at your site.

Abbey Woolley: Indeed. And we are always here. The team are always here to snowball ideas or workshop ideas about, any professional development that finalists or winners may want to just talk about, and we can provide some advice where possible.

Dale Atkinson: Okay. So, it's exciting. What are the key dates? What do people need to know?

Abbey Woolley: So, applications are open from the 1st of June for the whole month. So, the 1st to the 30th of June applications will be open. On the 26th of August, finalists will be announced. After that time, we will go into a period where we will actually go out to sites and central offices, and film finalists, because at the award ceremony, we premiere a 1 minute video clip of them all. So that will be happening. And after that point, winners and finalists are invited, as we've mentioned, to attend the award ceremony, which will be held on the evening of the 4th of November at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Dale Atkinson: And it's a fantastic night. It is one of those great opportunities, great, rare opportunities that educators have from across the state to get together and really celebrate the thing that we do, which is an amazing thing. Abbey, thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. We're really hoping that this kicks off some conversations in those staff rooms and in corporate office and everywhere else about, you know, maybe somebody who's really worthy of being recognised or maybe get people thinking about, well, yeah, actually the work that I do is worth being, given some, recognition. So, thank you Abbey. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.

Abbey Woolley: Not a problem, Dale. Thanks for being here.

Dale Atkinson: And thank you everyone for listening. If this podcast has got you thinking about applying for an award or nominating a colleague, make sure you visit our website at education.sa.gov.au/awards or you can check out the show notes from today's episode, which can be found at education.sa.gov.au/teach. Catch you next time on Teach.

8 April 2022

Term 1 2022 has been unlike any other. With this in mind, we’ve turned our focus to student wellbeing and taken a look at how our teachers can support students to be mentally well and ready to learn. Thanks to Shaun Walsh and Lucinda Yates from Norwood International High School for sharing your insights.

Show notes


Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome to teach a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education. And this year I'm joined by a new co-host by the name of Georga Tyson, who we have pulled out of Largs Bay School, Georga welcome.

Georga Tyson: Thanks Dale, it's good to be here.

Dale Atkinson: So tell us a bit about your background. Why have we gone out and drawn you out of your school? What are we getting from you today?

Georga Tyson: Well, I've been teaching for the past 20 years in a few schools across South Australia, including some valuable experiences in my hometown of Whyalla, I've taught in a number of schools across metropolitan Adelaide. And at the moment I'm at Largs Bay, as you said, and I 'm in a unique role there as a specialist NIT teacher, taking kids for functional grammar and, and writing, which has been amazing. So I'm working with kids from R to 6

Dale Atkinson: Well, it's great to have you thank you very much for agreeing to join us this year.

And I think we'll have some, some fun adventures together. And the first of our adventures is today and we're at a Norwood International High School. Now for a lot of students returning to the classroom this year has been a fairly substantial challenge. I think it's safe to say we've had a staggered start. We've had COVID there's been a lot of unsettling activities nationally and internationally with flooding the situation in the Ukraine. It's a lot for any child to digest. And on top of it, Is the process of being a child and being a teenager. So given all of that, we thought the first podcast for 2022 should focus on student wellbeing and in particular, how our teachers can support students to be mentally well and to be prepared to learn when they come to the classroom.

Georga Tyson: And how lucky are we Dale to be here at Norwood International High School and this new facility, which is really impressive. I have to say. We acknowledge that we're on in the Eastern suburbs of Adelaide on Kaurna land. We pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. We're speaking to Shaun Walsh, director of wellbeing for learning and Lucinda Yates, a student wellbeing leader at the school. Welcome to you both.

Shaun Walsh: Thank you.

Lucinda Yates: Thank you.

Georga Tyson: What has the start of 2022 been like for both of you and the school community?

Shaun Walsh: Where do we start? Where do we start? It's certainly, I think it's going down in history as one of the most unique years that education's ever faced. Our school has nearly 1700 students in it. We've gone on to a one campus model. Prior to that, we had a middle school campus down the road and the campus we're on now was, currently that was the senior school. So we've had the complexities of 1700 students aged from around 11 years to 18 years of age, finding their niche areas and their little market spots within the school and accessing online learning right from the get go. So that's been a challenge.

Lucinda Yates: Bringing in year seven and eight new cohort has been particularly challenging. So at the start of the year, we had a lot of parents waiting out the front and there's been a lot of changes in regards to kids coming to school, leaving school, with the addition of masks, some kids have never seen our entire faces. So it's, it's quite difficult to make those connections sometimes as well.

Dale Atkinson: What you're describing there is something that a lot of other schools are experiencing, but you perhaps on a larger scale, which is students having to settle in, in a number of different ways facing a number of different challenges, like you say the seven to high school thing is creating some issues. You've got issues around the patriation of kids from two campuses into one, you've got the backdrop of of COVID and all those sorts of things. So what are the strategies that you guys are putting in place to kind of address some of those big issues for kids?

Lucinda Yates: So we started some of these last year. So for five of our year levels, they hadn't been to this campus at all. So our year twelves are the only cohort who have been on this campus. So we started by doing a transition day. At that point we didn't have all of the facilities open so they just did a walk through. It was about, you know, transitioning them, making sure that they were aware of where everything is having, just having a look generally. And then we also had the, have the addition of the new house systems. So we're trying to bring in a lot more community and relationships with staff and students and build up a connection to school. So we have a new house system. We have four houses. We recently, we previously had three and then we embedded things into our connect curriculum, things like a Kahoot quiz, every Thursday, a fitness Friday. so going out into the yard and just really getting them to think about wellbeing and things that make them healthy and connect to school.

Georga Tyson: Is this space that we're sitting in now, this wellbeing hub is this new to the school or was this at your previous site as well?

Lucinda Yates: Yeah, so the entire kind of wellbeing web is new to the school. So previously we did have a director for wellbeing, but it was, he, he was based on the middle campus. It was just one wellbeing leader on the middle campus, one on the senior campus. So there was no kind of group approach to wellbeing. We were separate. We met regularly, we did case management together and we worked very much as a team, but in terms of the support, it was just very separate. And so having now we have the director for wellbeing here. We have three wellbeing leaders. So we deal with two year levels each and then we have kind of a whole community approach up here. So we did previously work very heavily with the year level management and now we're able to separate that and go you level management deals with academics, attendance, behaviour. We are very much about wellbeing and the whole person approach.

Dale Atkinson: What sort of difference has that made in terms of how you're able to support the kids?

Lucinda Yates: It makes all the difference because yeah, we're able to support each other as well as supporting the students and if one person's workload is too much we're able to kind of separate that and say, hey, this has come up, is anyone available to deal with it? And so we have one person that's based here for every double lesson so then if students do come up and they're experiencing a heightened state of awareness, we're able to deal with that on the fly.

Georga Tyson: As I was coming in today, I saw a student coming in, actually, and, and I thought what a welcoming space. They'd just brought themselves in to catch up with one of your colleagues, I think.

Shaun Walsh: And it's great I think having three or four of us up here, because if a student can't find a connection with that person that's allocated to their year level, it means that they can go and work with another person sort of thing and I think that that's really important. I mean, the whole value of, it's not therapeutic, what we do, but the whole value of that relational safety and that connection to, to someone in your site is really important. So the fact that they, every kid in the school would have someone that they could come and connect with on some level is, is, is really great.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. That's amazing. Isn't it? I mean, I think like what I'm hearing from you and what I can see around here is that there's a, there's kind of a multi-layered approach here, where, you know, the overarching strategy is to create a sense of belonging for the kids and to create a real sense of kind of wellness in the space. But then there is, you know, resourcing there's, there's a really kind of intense focus on being able to support kids in, in like the acute circumstances that they might be facing. Is that, is that fair to say?

Shaun Walsh: Yeah, definitely you know, and I mean, I think it, and it's, it's brilliant in the sense that we have a principal that sees the, you know, the measurable value of having a wellbeing focus within her school and our focus is not just on our, our students. It's also on our staff and particularly at the moment with everything that's happening around, you know, staff coming out on COVID leave and all sorts of things, you know, we've tried to make as much focus as possible on making sure that our department's most valuable assets it's teaching an SSO and support staff you know are a huge priority alongside of our students too.

Georga Tyson: Which is really that whole school approach. Isn't it. And that's what the experts tell us is the best way to support mental health and wellbeing is with a whole school approach. And we understand as well that the wellbeing engagement collection, the survey data has been a big part of forming that whole school strategy. Can you tell us a little bit more?

Shaun Walsh: Oh, look obviously like every school, the WEC data, all form attendance, you know wellbeing, referral data, all adds to our vision and where we, where we see that we need to drive our supports. I think the 2021 data highlighted things like connectedness, school belonging, motivation to achieve, and students actually knowing who they can go and talk to and what they could talk to that person about, whether it be academic challenges, whether it be wellbeing challenges. Obviously things like bullying and keeping themselves safe and keeping their friends safe as well. So, I mean, obviously that data formed the focus for 2022 in relation to the way the program was structured, in the way the resourcing was structured, the staffing levels and what the teachers would actually be delivering in that, around, you know, the, the child safe curriculum, anti harassment, bullying programs, but also it drove where teacher training needed to be invested as well to make sure that the teachers were armed with the resources and the skills needed to actually deliver the programs and support the kids in their classes.

Georga Tyson: Connect program, does that take place where maybe in the past it would have been your home group?

Lucinda Yates: Yeah, we also had a look at the structure of the role of the connect teacher as well. So we worked with our staff around being mentors and not so much just the teacher that stands in front of the class, so when we say, where do you go to for support? We not only say the wellbeing team and year level teams, but we say very much that that connect teacher is someone that you can go to if you need to talk to someone, and if you need support in any area.

Dale Atkinson: I think one of the interesting, that you kind of touched on Shaun is like in a school of 1700 kids that will have vastly different backgrounds, how do you make sure that you provide kind of a differentiated, kind of personal support to the kids that meets them where they are?

Shaun Walsh: There was a massive amount of work that went into the transition for the year six's coming into seven and the sevens into eight. And I mean, I've only been in the school eight weeks, put my hand up and say that, but I was blown away in that sort of initial week, zero time when we came back together just at the learning community leaders, how they just knew who their kids were, and they'd worked extensively with the primary schools in the lead up through the transition programs. So that sharing of information and not just with students from six to seven and seven to eight, but also within the school itself. So the eights moving into nine. And I think the structure of the learning community leaders has actually meant that the handover of information is quite spectacular for a school this size, but also the fact that everybody knows something about one of the students in there in their cohort of kids, in their class sort of thing, there's always information and the learning management system as well, we use Day map, we put a lot of information and maybe not highly sensitive, but a lot of sort of, you know learning information, but also wellbeing information about students on that. So it's a ready tool for teachers to access if they've got a student that they're a bit concerned about.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, right. Is there like, is there a way that you guys kind of foster nice interactions between the teaching and the staff to kind of share that information? Is that a formal thing or do you kind of just do it on a kind of one-to-one basis.

Shaun Walsh: It's a mixture. I think it's a mixture. Yeah. I think we get you know, you'll have, you'll have really switched on staff who will come and say, look, I'm really concerned about this student in my class. I've noticed that their attendance or their looking a bit sad or a little bit under the weather today. Obviously the learning community leaders track attendance data and that's in a school I think one of the biggest indicators that something's not quite right for a student is looking at that data. So obviously we flag students in relation to those that are the ones who, even if they're approved absence, you still start looking at the mount up and think maybe something's not quite right. So obviously, you know, the wellbeing leaders in, in consultation with the learning community leaders will connect with families, will connect with students and almost create that, I guess, a team around the child approach in, in relation to sort of making sure that that child is supported.

Lucinda Yates: It kind of comes naturally as well with our leadership team. So we've got the different levels of leadership teams. There's exec, then there's wellbeing team. Then there's the different management teams of the senior and then the middle. And then there's the curriculum leaders. And then, of course there's the year level teams. So the learning community leader will work very closely with their year level team. And we would work very closely with the teachers that have those high level well-beings students in there. But I think just the, the leadership structure, the way that they all work so well together kind of bleeds out into the general staff as well.

Dale Atkinson: Yes. So got to be a real big kind of culture piece for you guys.

Georga Tyson: Who do you turn to for support?

Shaun Walsh: Each other, each other, each other. I mean, even though I've only been here eight weeks, I feel like I've worked here for a very long time and I'm very blessed and fortunate to have an amazing team that I get to lead. But certainly, you know, we all bounce off each other and if one is in crisis, then we're all there alongside that person. Obviously accessing external supports, like incident management team, the SWISS team, our own private networks as well outside of school. I think they're all the things that we amongst ourselves promote, but also promote them amongst the staff too. And as I said earlier on we, we, you know, one of my passions is staff wellbeing and we've really started to work on that sort of thing around, you know, how do our staff look after themselves and what's their window of tolerance and you know, how much time do they spend outside of the window of tolerance and you know who is their trusted colleague or their trusted person that they can just purge when they need to sort of things. So they've got the opportunity. Sometimes that's us, you get the kids purging at you and sometimes the staff purging, but that's the nature of the job that we've chosen to do.

Georga Tyson: Along with the pandemic, more recently, we're seeing mages of record-breaking floods in Eastern Australia, and the war in Ukraine, how do you help students deal with these, with understanding these events that are happening in the, in the broader community?

Shaun Walsh: It's about establishing, not just about individual events, but a culture of safety and connection. I think that any, any natural disaster, anything globally that happens, and I mean, we have a massively diverse student cohort from many different backgrounds and cultures. So you don't necessarily know, at the time who's being impacted by what's happening around the world. So, you know, through, through our, our language that we use through our you know, our our sort of, you know, commitment to young people through our leadership, as Lucinda's already mentioned, it's around our core value is safety and diversity, and actually making sure that every student that comes through our doors as much as we possibly can with 1700 feels safe and that they've got someone they can connect to. Our teachers, I mean, I had the opportunity to walk around to the classes a lot and you watch the very topical discussions that happen in the morning connect and during extended connect time and things like that, and there's a real culture amongst the, amongst the teachers that have talking with kids about what's happening around the world and actually unpacking it and giving them probably that educated view rather than just what they read on social media or what the, you know, the media itself is barraging at them as well.

Dale Atkinson: Now Shaun just finally, before we wrap it up, you've been in a number of different settings, so you've, you've spent a fair bit of time in the Southern Behaviour Centre leading that up, you've been in Willunga High School. What are the differences and similarities between, you know, places like that, which would be perceived, I think, to be very different to, to Norwood International. What, you know, what's the experience across those sites?

Shaun Walsh: When I won the job here, people said, oh, eastern suburbs you'll have no behaviour issues. I scoff at that because we have our fair share of, of students with challenging behaviour and, and who will test the boundaries but that's adolescents. The similarities is, is kids are kids. They bring with them, the complexities they bring with them, the joy of coming to school. There are lots of kids here and there's lots of kids at Willunga and there were lots of kids at the learning centre who found a sense of comfort and joy in actually attending school because it's a safe haven for a lot of our kids, you know, sort of thing. And I say that sadly, and I don't mean that, but you know, they don't necessarily get that at home. I would say that probably, I notice here families are in the whole far more proactive in seeking external support for their children than I've experienced in previous schools. When you do talk to a family, they'll say, look, we've been to the GP, we've got a mental health care plan. We've got them connected with a psychologist. I would say this area particularly has highlighted to me that there are more services, I think as well, because I think maybe financially people are able to pay for things more than they necessarily might be able to do in some of the southern areas as well. Not to say that there weren't amazing families at Willunga or through the learning centre as well, but I just get the feeling too, because we're closer to the CBD, there's a lot more option for families to sort of shop around for supports and they might in the southern area.

Dale Atkinson: So there's issues of capacity, engagement.

Georga Tyson: In your role over that period of time, have you had to have more connection with outside agencies then than before, or.

Shaun Walsh: Definitely. And especially the last three years at the learning centre, our role was really to be, I guess, the intermediary between schools and support services. And I'm a huge advocate of support services, schools, building relationships, setting up effective student review teams. That's one of my goals here for us to work on developing those relationships, accessing services through the department, like the HEI, like complex case review group, the SWISS team, they're amazing, and the incident management team, even though we report and we have incidents, I've always found when I ring them, they've always been a wealth of information, and if they haven't been able to answer a question, they'll always get back. So it's about reaching out because you can't do this job without establishing those relationships and accessing what our department actually has on offer.

Dale Atkinson: That's great, Shaun, Lucinda. Thank you very much for your time. This has been a great chat just to learn how you're going about it here at Norwood International and the challenges and the, and the programs that you've got in place to overcome them and really actually pretty inspirational.

Georga Tyson: Catch you next time on Teach.

Season 1

8 December 2021

Reflecting on 2021, Heathfield High School Principal Roy Page shares the highs and lows, and everything there is to look forward to in 2022.


Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome back to Teach the podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. My name is Dale Atkinson from the Department for Education. And today I'm joined by Roy Page, who is Principal at Heathfield High School for a bit of an informal chat about the year in review. Correct me if I'm wrong on any of these details, Roy, but it's what about 800, 900 students about 90 staff?

Roy Page: That's right. And we'll expand to about 1,050 next year with the year sevens coming into high school.

Dale Atkinson: It's a pretty exciting time. So we're just talking to one of the leaders just about what it's like to be a leader in a public school. And just to look back on some of the things that have been achieved and look ahead at what's being planned for 2022. Just the first question 2021 was supposed to get easier after 2020. Right. What happened to that?

Roy Page: Well, look, you know, it's that ever changing pandemic called COVID and of course, for us, a lot of anticipation about new building works. We of course started the year with the infamous falling crane. So I went from a high to a low, quite early in the year, but there's been lots of things to celebrate. And I look forward to getting into those through this conversation.

Dale Atkinson: You touched on the building works, but let's talk a little bit about the complexity of the school that you lead. So you've got 800, 900 students. You're going up to a thousand next year, 90 staff, you've got 9 VET subject areas. You've got a $13 million capital works project underway as the leader of all of those various different strands. How do you stay across it all?

Roy Page: You've gotta be able to have a strong team around you and trust, I guess, the delegation of your leadership structure, to be able to carry out really important functions and with their support and having really clear, I guess, vision and school improvement, planning processes in place. It's that support that enables you to keep across it. Cause if you didn't have that, it would be extremely difficult to keep across at all.

Dale Atkinson: So at the start of 2021, what were the goals that you set yourself as a school and as a leadership group.

Roy Page: Well, we're always about building the capacity of everyone in the site. And so from a curriculum perspective, that was about really trying to engage with the curriculum resources from the DFE this year, and trying to incorporate those into what were our existing unit plans, taking the best from the DFE and adding value to what we already did. And then I think also, we've had a really long term focus now for the last three years on high grade achievement.

So Heathfield's a category 7 school and our community rightly so has really high expectations on us. And we have therefore high expectations on ourselves and the students to meet their potential. And so meeting that potential really looks like using VET as a pathway. Students this year, 14 of them got apprenticeships before the end of the year, which was our highest ever. And then we're on track to probably get our best SACE results ever. And so we're really excited by that and we're excited that our curriculum, but also our pathway conversations with students led by leaders and home group teachers is really supporting students to make the right choices on pathways earlier.

And we're starting to see dividends from that in terms of first choice university entry or out to work then into a pathway that there's passion in. And then that success that we're seeing within apprenticeships from school.

Dale Atkinson: At the time of recording were a couple of weeks away from those SACE results coming through, which you've referenced there. What have been the challenges about, particularly in that senior secondary to keeping the kids on track in the kind of COVID setting that we've had in the last two years now?

Roy Page: I've been really impressed with the resilience of the students because we hear a lot of airplay around young people not having resilience. And what I, my observation in the last 18 months is that our students have had bucket loads of resilience and have been, I guess, in partnership with us around raising any concerns they might have around the external environment and how that might impact on their learning.

So, you know, for example, once the crane fell over, there were year 12 classes in corridors, in halls and in outdoor areas. And, you know, they put up with that for, for three to four weeks and were really on board with the school going through the right channels to say, hey look, you know this is working for us, but this isn't, what can you do to help us out? And so I was really impressed with that maturity and the fact that they still had the focus, even though they might have been unsure of what it meant for their future. There still was a focus on the future and doing well.

Dale Atkinson: So I guess there's a correlation there, between the key skills, I guess, of leadership and what you're trying to build in, in your students, which is adaptability and resilience, is that right?

Roy Page: Yeah, absolutely. And I think student leadership is really important and the school has a long history of that through it's big brother - big sister program, where we have 48 students from year 11 and 12, who sit next year in year seven and eight home groups for the full year.

And they're working through with the youngest students around the challenges of going through a secondary school and what they need to do to build that character in each year, those year 11 and 12 students put their hand up and apply to become a big brother - big sister, cascading that experience down and building the capacity of the student body over time.

Dale Atkinson: And how's that going to continue when you introduce your year 7s to high school next year?

Roy Page: So we've just expanded the program. So instead of having what would have been 25 big brother - big sisters next year, we've got 48. And we actually had more people applying for those roles, than we needed to place. So, and so I guess there's a legacy of giving back to the community. That's built into the culture of the school, which is fantastic.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. It's also about sort of more rounded development of your students as well. So you've got the academic pathways, but you're also trying to make them good corporate citizens.

Roy Page: Absolutely. And I think one of the real successes and highs of this year has been the development of student leadership through a range of different avenues. So we've been partnered with Melbourne University, SASPA and across sector project and Learning Creates Australia on how do you actually improve student agency across the school site. And the partnerships with other schools we've worked with Glenunga and looking at their excellent work on the learner profile register.

We've tapped into work that was done at Craigmore High School some years ago on building student agency around curriculum and assessment. And so we've taken the good work from other schools and really tried to use that, to inform what that means for us and how are we gonna use that and that's been really successful. And I think one of the things that we've been asking through these pilot projects, particularly around the development of student capabilities, is if we get that right, then the sense of belonging in school increases, the achievement is there, but we then end up now with a well-rounded situation. And I wouldn't say it's embedded yet, but we're getting close to it.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, it's really exciting stuff. You spoke a little bit earlier about the $30 million capital works project that's going on at your site. Has managing or helping to manage those big projects been an area of personal development for you as a leader?

Roy Page: Absolutely. You know, it was an opportunity to upskill other leaders in the school, particularly the business leader who took on a real project management role, and that's been challenging for all of us, because there are a lot of moving parts and knowing the responsibility and accountability for where certain decisions lie and who you can influence in that situation has been an ongoing challenge.

Dale Atkinson: So do you think you've deepened your understanding of how the departmental systems have worked for you as a leader?

Roy Page: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the support there from whether it's capital works or year seven transition to high school. There's always been people monitoring behind the scenes and getting on the phone or setting up meetings to try and assist when he could say things, you know, and particularly during the crane incident could be unpacked or, you know, support could have been provided to the school.

Dale Atkinson: So one of the things you've been doing this year alongside a very big leadership role in a very sizable school, is working a day a week at the central office helping to shape the policy and providing sort of frontline experience to the decision making process here at 31 Flinders. What have you learned from that experience and what value do you think you've added?

Roy Page: What I've learned is that our system is massive and that creating change systemically is very complex work. And if it was easy, we would have done it yesterday. And so understanding how every person within Flinders Street has the same aspiration and vision as we do in schools. And we all want that vision of a world-class education for all our kids that, you know, any student going to school in South Australia has got as good a education, or if not better than anywhere else.

So I think that that's something that I've learned is that the centre has the same and is driving that, aspiration and everyone working here has that vision as well. So the value then of being a part of the reform coordination team, I think has been to just provide a school-based lens to how we maybe receive information or process policy ideas that come into schools and how we might interpret something or how it could be packaged differently to support implementation in schools.

Dale Atkinson: I think one of the things that our Chief Executive Rick talks about a lot is increasing their kind of permeability , in central office with, I guess, a greater sharing and shifting of roles and relationships with schools and the centre and people moving in between the two, the experience that you've had. Is that something that you would recommend to other leaders and teachers to come in and get a sense and provide their experience internally?

Roy Page: Yeah, I think it's an absolute value add that we can all have, and there are lots of different places teachers and leaders could do that. You know, so you've got the full range of roles that we have within schools could be influenced certainly in the centre and taken back into schools.

And I know that there's certainly an appetite for that model of people coming into the centre, doing a bit of work, and then going back into schools to try and take that permeability or which is really information sharing backwards and forwards into school because obviously any change that is systemic by the time it's embedded in schools can take a while and any action or strategy that can kind of shorten that timeframe for the benefit of students is obviously a good idea.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. An incredible experience. Speaking to you, it's been very mutually beneficial. I think a bit of a change of gear - you got any advice for educators in terms of how they unwind or should unwind over the holidays coming up?

Roy Page: Yep. Turn your emails off, make sure you put the out of office reply. I know a lot of people do that. Personally, I find, unless I go away, it's really hard to switch off, which now that we've got open borders at time to actually leave the area, so to speak, so that you're out of contact in a different, complete physical context certainly helps me to unwind. I find that unless I go on a holiday somewhere, I find it hard to actually switch off. So that will be my plan over the holidays.

Dale Atkinson: I think it's probably double for you. You're also married to a principle, which I think begs the question. When do you to actually get to see each other?

Roy Page: Generally between 7:30 after the kids go to bed and 10:30 on the couch where we both have our laptops continuing to, generally, we don't, we're not working because you're not very productive at that time, but it's usually talking about things that have gone on in the school day and you know, how would you do this? How would you do that? But yeah, it's generally that time. They're just between the witching hour of 7:30 to 10:30 at night.

Dale Atkinson: I think you both probably deserve a bit of time away, somewhere, very different. And this is an ambitious question to ask a father of small children, but what, if anything, have you got on your holiday reading list?

Roy Page: That's a good question. I was looking at Steven Pinker's book, which I've got for awhile, which is, I think in called Enlightenment, which is basically, it's been on my list for a couple of years, but there's a lot of statistical analysis in there saying that actually today's time is the best time to have ever lived in history and given that we, I think at times at the moment have a quite pessimistic view of the future. This book provides quite a lot of counter-arguments to that, which I think is really important as a school leader to be, I guess, optimistic for the future, both for young people and for our colleagues.

Dale Atkinson: There's probably never been a better time to have some sort of reinforced optimistic messaging.

Roy Page: Yeah, absolutely. Because there was something that I ended the year 12 graduation talk on a couple of years ago when COVID was just coming out, was actually guys, you know, you've got to understand that the media that's going on around, and we tend to pick the most negative stories. Actually, there's lots of positive stuff going on and it's about paying attention to that as well.

Dale Atkinson: Is that going to be the same message to the kids this year?

Roy Page: It was, and it was also that being a young person in South Australia, there is lots of opportunity. The other message was refine the uniqueness within yourself that whatever your result says about you, it was just, I guess, a reflection of a point in time achievement. It's not you as an individual, but more around their experience over the last five years and how they improve their ability to think relate to others is actually going to have a much bigger impact on their future than their ATAR.

Dale Atkinson: I think there's something in that for all of us. Roy Page, thank you very much for your time.

Roy Page: No worries. Thanks very much for asking.

11 November 2021

The teachers behind our curriculum resources share their top tips to help you deliver the Australian Curriculum in 2022.

Show notes


Dale Atkinson: Hello and welcome back to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the Department for Education,

Monique Miller: and I'm Monique Miller, primary school teacher at Westport Primary.

Dale Atkinson: In September, we expanded our suite of curriculum resources to help you prepare classroom learning for students.

We added new units for Health and PE, Technologies and the arts, and we added extra year levels for English, maths, science, and HASS. Today, we're going to hear from the teachers and curriculum team who have made these ready to use classroom units of work, and we're going to learn how they can help you plan for your 2022 curriculum.

Whitney Schultz is the curriculum manager for primary mathematics and Henry Johnson. Is the curriculum manager for secondary science. Welcome to you both.

Whitney Schultz: Thank you.

Henry Johnson: Thank you.

Dale Atkinson: So, first of all, you've been building these units of work over the last year, year and a half. What are they, how do they work?

Whitney Schultz: So, within each learning area, the curriculum is broken up into eight units. So every year level has eight units, these are organised by concepts, true to the Australian curriculum. And then within the units, you'll see a sequence of learning, which is a sequence of the overall concepts within the unit, not individual lesson plans. And then you'll see a suite of resources, including PowerPoints, word documents and PDF documents.

Henry Johnson: And also one of the reasons why we've done the units of work is to help teachers translate the Australian Curriculum. Uh, sometimes it can be a little bit ambiguous and we're tracking the nice South Australian contexts and also practical ways to embed literacy and numeracy into your teaching.

Dale Atkinson: So let's talk about the Australian curriculum because it's a beast of a document, right? Like you go onto the website and it is just page upon page of information, which is broad. It's very high level. There's so many different ways of interpreting it and moving from that Into actually standing in front of a classroom of, of students and being able to understand what it is that is going to be able to translate from the Australian Curriculum, into the teaching for these kids. That's a daunting task, particularly if you're a new starter, that's the work you guys are doing, right?

Henry Johnson: Yeah. Correct. And like you said, with the new starter, a new grad teacher, these units of work provide the resources so they've got the confidence that they're embedding an authentic curriculum, and they're not missing anything.

I'm speaking on behalf of science here, but I think maths follows suit. It’s such a conceptual narrative that we need to ensure the students receive at each year level to build upon their knowledge and their, and their prior work. So yeah, having these units of work, it really puts an emphasis on that to ensure that continuity.

Whitney Schultz: And I think being an early career teacher as well is a seemingly endless list of challenges. You're dealing with parents, you're dealing with behaviour, you're working out how to set up your classroom and all the nuances that come with it and taking that load off teachers to give them a planning resource that has really been done for them is going to make their life a lot easier. I think back to my early years in teaching and how long I spent scrounging around on the internet for some resources to use, um, that weren't actually best practice resources, but you can be rest assured that what we've developed is based on research and evidence and is the best fit for our curriculum and our students.

Dale Atkinson: Is that the kind of experience that you've had Monique, you're obviously a year 4 teacher earlyish. How many years now?

Monique Miller: This is my third year.

Dale Atkinson: Third year in. Is that an experience that you also felt like early on that there's an overwhelming amount of information that you've got to try to deal with?

Monique Miller: Yeah. Those first years, um, these resources weren't available. So just trying to find any, anything and everything that I can get my hands on to make my life a little bit easier. You know, I'm already starting to think next year I'll be moving to a different year level. I've been pretty comfortable where I am. So I think these resources are going to be awesome to expose myself to a new curriculum that I'll be teaching. And it's, it's got everything that I need for that year level.

Henry Johnson: I think going back to what you were saying, like you're looking for resources on the internet. As we all know the internet's very, very vast and not all the resources on there, are hitting the required curriculum either. So it's yeah, so another, another reason as to why we should be looking at these units of work and seeing what we can embed into our teaching.

Dale Atkinson: So, how do teachers actually use these things, like what is it? That's in front of them and how's it apply to the class?

Whitney Schultz: Well, if I was starting to plan for my year, I might be working with my professional learning community in my school and working out, uh, what sequence or approach you want to take, to planning our year. The units are sequenced from one to eight in a logical order. So you could very much pick them up and go straight from unit one to unit eight, or you can rearrange them based on your school's needs. So if you're doing some kind of, um, whole-school event, let's say a market day or a fete, for example, you might strategically embed a HASS unit alongside a mathematics unit that focuses on money and data.

There are, of course, some certain prerequisite units that need to come first. So your place value in your number units. You'd want to be making sure that you're doing those early on in the year to set students up for success for the following concepts. If I was opening up a unit of work, um, it really depends on what kind of learner you are and how you tackle them.

If you're a visual learner, I’d jump straight to those PowerPoints. Um, particularly in year 3/4 maths, we've made the visuals really strong. So have a look at how those concepts unfold visually and then pair it up with the unit plan and all of those teacher tips, misconceptions, alerts, adjustments, et cetera, that can support you in delivering.

Henry Johnson: Yeah. And I think for science it’s slightly different in secondary science. Um, from what Whitney was talking about with primary maths. We still have eight units of work per year level, that doesn't change, but the way you can do those units of work is entirely up to you. Some schools might only have one or two science labs, so you can't be doing, you know, you can't have 10 classes during the same science experiment, logistically it won't work.

So we have written them that they can be done in any order. And it's important to note that you don't have to do them prescriptively. It's open for you to adopt and adapt, and how you see fit given your site. Um, for example, your site might have a beautiful ag area so you might want to teach body systems through using animals that you've got rather than what we have we have in the units. And that's perfectly fine.

Yeah. It's good to read them to get a few ideas. And also that conceptual narrative that I was talking about before that really comes through heavily in the unit. So it's important that you do read the units to it. You don't just take bits and bits and pieces because it works as a whole, not just individually.

Monique Miller: Where you guys have sort of catered for different sites, knowing that all schools have different resources and access to different things. So people can get in there and access what they can use for their site and potentially use something and not the rest of it. So, it's really awesome the way that you've made it accessible for all school sites and teachers.

Henry Johnson: That’s a big tick.

Monique Miller: We've talked as well, really a lot about early career teachers, but it's not just for early career teachers. Someone more experienced can definitely get their hands on these and use them?

Whitney Schultz: Yeah, definitely. And we know that teachers are doing amazing things out there in their classroom. And, um, we're not out there to reinvent the wheel of their already fantastic practice, but we are here to offer something that may compliment their current planning and their current units. Even with our experienced teachers, they just don't have the time to keep looking for more and more resources online and, and plan this kind of work. So we've done the heavy lifting for them and it might just offer some new ways of teaching that they weren’t previously aware of.

Henry Johnson: Whitney and I we’re experienced teachers and we found that managing and helping writing these units that we thought, ah, okay, I've never thought about teaching this concept like that before using this context. it's a nice way to self-reflect on your own pedagogy. And so I feel that's where experienced teachers can get a lot out of these units by just reading through them and saying, okay, they’ve done this a bit differently. Why have they done that? Then they can look at the evidence behind why we have put that in place in our units. And yeah um, like Whitney was saying it's just really complimenting they're teaching.  

Dale Atkinson: So is this something you’d sort of recommend maybe groups of teachers that are at a site or partnership level, getting together and maybe discussing the units and how they might apply for, for their work?

Henry Johnson: Yeah for sure. I really recommend, um, looking through these as a faculty and looking at your year and what you've got planned and seeing where you can fit these. And also again, you've already might have something great that you use on site already. It might be like a STEM week or something that you may be doing or a science week. So you might want some different units around those types of times, but yeah, really getting down and looking at these units and how they can be placed across your site.

Whitney Schultz: I might just build on that as well. If you're working with teachers across your professional learning community, you might choose the resources to use, to support some observation from cross class observations.

So you might choose a task throughout the units and use that as something that your team can really plan to and think about how would you adopt and adapt in your context? And then go and observe one another and reflect upon what are the key, high impact strategies throughout this task. And how can we continue to plan with this kind of model in place.

Very much we're about adopting and adapting to what the units offer. They're not prescriptive, although there's a certain sequence of learning that needs to take place. Teachers can certainly adapt to their own contexts. Um, we do get a lot of feedback saying, Hey, if I was teaching this lesson or this concept, I would do it this way and that's fantastic, but we've really had to pinpoint, well, how can we make this general and accessible for a statewide audience? And then teachers see themselves in the work and be able to adapt from there.

Dale Atkinson: What do you think the things are that you’ve personally learnt from the experience of building these resources?

Henry Johnson: Yeah, good question. Um, I personally learnt that I wasn't as good a teacher as I thought. Like I was saying before, um, these units give you opportunity to self-reflect in your own pedagogy and in the science units, it's very concept heavy as it should be, not content heavy because it's the concepts that we want students that after year 10 science, we want them to carry forward with them, not the, not the content itself. So I reckon that's what I really learnt is, you know, teach to the concept, not content, that's that's imperative in science.

Whitney Schultz: I've learnt a lot about the research that underpins a lot of these mathematical concepts and how to go deeper with it. So writing the units of work, um, in years, 5, 6 and 7 for maths, I felt almost a little bit like a fraud at first and what I was writing I had never taught anything that well, but that's just because I simply didn't have the time to plan to that extent and to research and to read or those, you know, those name dropped researchers and books and things that people mentioned throughout professional development.

I had the time to sit there and read the whole chapter and then make those decisions based on what the research said and how the concept should be structured and embedded to avoid misconceptions in the learning.

Monique Miller: That's really the great part about it. We've got people who are working hard with the time to find all these resources and really get deep with the curriculum, making sure that we're provided with everything that we need. So it's really awesome. What's something you've put in your own learning areas, work that you think teachers might find particularly interesting. So, um, Henry you’re in secondary science. How about you?

Henry Johnson: What I'm particularly interested in and I know other teachers are as well are the contextualisation of the Aboriginal science elaborations. So what we've done is we've put at the forefront, this Aboriginal science elaborations, where we look at the Aboriginal ways of knowing, understanding and where we can, we've put a South Australian context as well. So we have another curriculum manager, he works closely with the nations groups around the Adelaide area, where we look at the knowledge that they hold and how we can implement that into our units of work.

Whitney Schultz: I'm really proud about the way that the year 3/4 mathematics units in particular make the mathematics really visual. So we've adapted a model called the CPA model, which stands for concrete, pictorial abstract. So we've made sure that students have the opportunity to really go deep with a concept, use concrete materials, see in a pictorial representation before moving to the abstract concepts to really deepen their understanding.

So throughout the PowerPoints, you’ll see some really strong visuals of what those mathematics concepts actually look like, which I think will support not only student understanding of mathematics, but teachers as well.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, it's interesting. And, and have you both been in touch with teachers out in the field, have you got a bit of feedback on how they've received these units over?

Henry Johnson: Yes. We've had several teacher focus groups. The teachers range from having a couple of years’ experience to your HALTs and Cat 1 schools through to Cat 7 schools. So we do get a range of feedback. And we also work with seconded writers who we grab from schools, um, for a term. And again, they come from a range of different Cat schools and as well as experience themselves. So these are very much written by teachers for teachers.

Whitney Schultz: Yeah, throughout the writing process um, keeping in touch with teachers has been really important to make sure that it reflects what teachers need in their classrooms. So earlier this year, I had a small group of teachers who I worked with and touch base with, who were implementing some of the draft work in their classroom and giving feedback.

And they were able to see that their feedback was applied directly to the units. Um, we've obviously also had our teacher reference groups and, um, presenting at Educators SA to teachers, um, even across our Catholic sector as well, who are really excited to get on board with the units. Mostly from first look at the units people say, wow, the heavy lifting has been done for them. And there's things that they don't have to worry about now because they know that it's been done to a really high level and they can focus more on supporting their students.

Monique Miller: It's really great that testing, reflecting and improving is all sort of happening um, before they're published.

Whitney Schultz: I might just add on that as well after all of our units are written we'll be going through a review process. So it doesn't stop there. We'll keep continually refining and improving the units as we go.

Monique Miller: If teachers have any questions? Where do we go for those?

Henry Johnson: Uh, so if teachers, do you have any questions, I can give an email address, but it's pretty long winded. So if, when you go onto EDI and you go to the units of work, it's just at the bottom of the page, but for people that want to know it, education.curriculumdevelopmentdirectorate@sa.gov.au.

Dale Atkinson: Beautifully done. And we'll have that in the show notes too. So just check that out online. Thank you both for joining us, Whitney and Henry. Yeah, that was a, it was a great chat. And obviously we are coming towards the end of the year. So if you haven't already taken a look at the units, please do so in preparation for 2022, it's terrifying that that's the year that's coming up. So thank you both very much for your time. And, um, Monique, thank you for your time.

Everyone: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

28 October 2021

Hear all about the new Country Education Strategy and the plan to ensure our students in regional South Australia can achieve their best.



Dale Atkinson: Hello and welcome back to Teach the podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the Department for Education and today we're talking about education in the country with a man who's spent a fair bit of the last 12 months touring our regions to develop our first ever country education strategy, that man is  Luke Fraser, the director of Government Relations and Policy. Welcome to you Luke.

Luke Fraser: Thanks for having me.

Dale Atkinson: Can you explain why it is that we are now looking at doing a country education strategy?

Luke Fraser: I think for us, we've got a bold vision at the moment we're getting after world-class, but we know that depending on the settings and depending on where you are and what's going on, there needs a specific focus.

So, so we know that even in the country, when we say countrywe've got isolated schools, we've got regional hubs. There's a lot of different nuances to what happens in the country and so what we've decided is that we need a point of view on, on, [00:01:00] on how to support, um, the particular challenges, the particular opportunities that occur in the country when it comes to teaching and, and education and care. So we've kind of gotten after that and we want to make sure that we've got a particular focus to our strategic direction in the country.

Dale Atkinson: One of the major parts of developing this strategy was going out and meeting with the principals, meeting with teachers out in country areas, talking to governing councils and other representative from the regions. And what were they telling you about the pinch points for them specifically as a country or a regional school?

Luke Fraser:  I think the interesting thing is all of the perspectives are different. So we spent time in the far west, we spent time in the, in the sort of mid north places like Lower Eyre Peninsula, regional hubs, like Mount Gambier, but also the Riverland and Southeast and so forth. And so it's good to take those different perspectives because the regions are different. But when you start to break down the differences in perspectives, students told us a lot about three things, continue to resonate every time. And that was the wellbeing of their peers um, particularly they're really hot [00:02:00] on the career opportunities that they can or can't see.

And then the, the subjects that they love to learn, particularly as they're going through SACE and starting to decide about their future. When you talk to leaders, it was, you know, there was heavy emphasis on workforce challenges and so forth. And, and that seemed to resonate through our Aboriginal support staff as well.

And then parents talked to us about kind of different stuff, like, like ICT enablers and how do they connect with their schools digitally. So the perspective really matter when you're doing a piece of work like this, because they are all different. 

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. So the, the individual issues at a site level are unique, but there is some sort of key themes that kind of came out through the research work. And I'm just going to go through the three main goals that you've identified in the strategy, which are, um, number one, quality leadership and expert teaching in every country, school and preschool. Number two is better access to digital infrastructure, student support services and business admin systems for country schools and preschools.

And number three is access to quality learning and career study and training [00:03:00] opportunities for country, kids and young people. So we might go through those just, um, just one at a time and, and have a look at, um, how are we going to address those. Issues that have been identified out there. So the first one around quality leadership and expert teaching in every country, school and preschool, what's going to be the approach in terms of helping to support that out in that regions?

Luke Fraser: One of the first things that we saw as a big opportunity is really strengthening the, kind of what we call the sort of pipeline of, of teachers that come into school. So we know that a lot of teachers get their first start, you know, in country regions, but there's a lot of work that can be done to strengthen that.

So. So we're going to be as part of this strategy, we're going to be working with the universities in particular, to make sure that when teachers, uh, are in training with the universities that they're getting to do practicums that are for the right period of time so that they can immerse themselves in the country.

We'll also be reducing barriers. So we know that some of our best and brightest teachers that are studying. They might not, um, take up practicums in the [00:04:00] country because let's say they're working at IGA on the weekends. And actually it's, it's a cost burden for them to come and do that work for a decent chunk of time.

So we're going to be funding a lot of those barriers that exists to make sure that when they're making a decision about coming to the country, it can be one that's based on a good experience in a decent chunk of time out there. And they can make that decision either way. But when they do make a choice, when they're thinking, 'Yep, I think I can come out and work in the country.' We've got a secondary program that we're kind of building that's going to be about the transition between when they decide that they're going to teach in their penultimate year in the country and then kind of really making that a smoother transition. So we're going to be looking at things like part-time work, but they can do in a country school where they can start to bond to a particular school, making sure that there's onboarding supports for them.

And you know, where, where are they going to live all these kinds of things when they're making the big leap we want to make that smoother for them. So we'll we'll invest some time and funds and effort into, into that process so that, you know, they're not just kind of lobbying in and, and sort of, [00:05:00] um, landing and, and it's, and it's a tricky, tricky time.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. I mean the essential thing, I think that was relayed in this process is that to capture some of these younger people as they go out there at age 20 21, 22 for their first teaching experience that really they've got to be part of the community and help to form those connections and bonds quite early. That's right. Isn't it?

Luke Fraser:  Absolutely. And, and, you know, if we can make that easier and smoother for them, a lot of our great principals and, and great teachers out in the country have kind of found a life out there and they, and they just love it. They wouldn't come back to the metro for quids. So, so we want to kind of just make that easier so that they can settle their roots in the country and enjoy it.

Dale Atkinson: So onto the second aim of the three goals, one of the things we're looking at is better access to student support services. And I know that there's some issues around particularly things like psychological support, speech therapy, which may not be particularly well serviced in the regions that we're looking to address as well.

Luke Fraser: Yeah, absolutely. This was one of those things in our work out in the country is just loud and clear [00:06:00] how much pressure on our teachers, when some of those supports for students with needs aren't available or aren't coming quickly enough. And so, um, we're alive to that, and we heard that call and, and so one of the pieces of work we're going to do at the moment, we've just started to recruit at the moment.

Actually, some people who are going to be working, um, particularly in speech pathology and psychology, which the two of the pain point areas and doing more telehealth in that area for the country. So, we know that just like our teachers and our sort of allied health practitioners, it's a struggle for our allied health people to get good people and keep them out in the country as well.

But what we think is going to be really helpful is to increase our telehealth, which will help us with reach because we might not always be able to get out there every time to do psychology work with students or so forth. But tele health is one of those things that's, that's better than nothing. So we're going to be focusing on that to make sure that there is somebody there that can support a particular student and, and support the teacher to support them with whatever needs they have.

[00:07:00] The other thing that we're going to be doing in, in this sort of, um, what we call the triple S space or the student support services space is investing in a, and we're just going through it with procurement now um working with private providers. So we might not be able to get our, um, psychologists out to a particular region, but there might be private providers that can and do work out in those areas. So, so leveraging the private sector. To make sure we've got better rates and better quality in the service that we're providing.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. It's one of the most important, powerful things. I think particularly out in the regions, that's going to be a bit of a game changer for a lot of the schools. One of the things that COVID 19 has taught us is just how much digital access is such an essential service for everything. We've had seven. We've been lucky, actually. I think we've had seven statewide remote learning days since the pandemic began but if anything, that's highlighted the need for quality systems. And it has been over the years, a disparity of access to digital infrastructure in the regions. Now the SWIFT program to connect schools to [00:08:00] fast, reliable internet services is, is part of the piece of the puzzle. But you've identified something else as well for, for country schools?

Luke Fraser:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think we've made brilliant gains in sort of getting high speed internet to all of our schools now. And that's a big increase and a big boost for our schools, but then that's not really worth much unless you have good internal infrastructure, cabling, servers, these types of things.

And so one of the things that we've noticed and we've started to do work in our ICT team has been going out to some of our schools and they do what they call a health check. But what that actually means is specialists in ICT infrastructure will go out and look at what's going on in terms of the internal infrastructure and they'll make an assessment.

And then, and then we basically negotiate and, and fund that infrastructure to be built up to a world-class standard. And it's made huge gains already but what we're doing through the country strategy is accelerating that work. So we've got guys out there at the moment that are doing what we call these health checks.

So they'll be out to our schools. They've almost been to all of our country schools now um [00:09:00] just taking a look at what's going on. By the end of this financial year, we're going to have upgrades to all of our internal servers and so forth. And that's going to mean that the speed of our internet, the access that kids get to work digitally and our teachers get to work digitally as well is just going to be a huge boost for us. So really proud of that work is happening right now.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. It's going to be a lot of exciting applications that, uh, that come out of that. And I think that's partially linked the digital access to, to the final point, which is around how we broaden curriculum options for the country kids, how we make pathways more available to them. What are some of the steps we're going to be looking at there?

Luke Fraser:  That's a really important one. And it kind of cuts through the main thing here, which is how do we support the students to, to learn the things they love to learn. And so one of the things we sort of came across in in our, in our work and it's happening in other jurisdictions as well in country areas is, is the idea of local curriculum delivery across a given.

Yeah. We know that the workforce challenges remain and we're looking to solve those, but in the interim, there's really innovative work that's happening in patches, around [00:10:00] schools, working together to make sure that, you know, if a student wants to study, um, science in for their SACE they can access a, a teacher in a, a neighbouring country school. Um, and they can do that as part of their normal studies at their school. And so that's been work that's kind of already starting to happen and has happened in patches and where we're doubling down on that and making sure that we're going to work in sort of supporting that. So, so I think the department needs to play a role.

So there's kind of. You know, there's a lot of support that can be provided to make that happen in terms of coordination of the work. And then sort of some of the more nuanced work around sort of teaching and learning and practice. And so we're going to kind of get in and sort of support the local delivery that occurs in patches.

And then start to talk about the good practices happening because everyone's kind of doing it differently, some works some doesn't work. And so we're going to kind of put a spotlight on that to make sure that the offering across a given area or a particular student is there so that they can study the things that they want to, they want to learn, but also do it with teachers that are [00:11:00] highly skilled in that area, that teaching in their own discipline that they love what they do.

Dale Atkinson: It is exciting sort of right across the board really. And I guess one of the things that's really important is that, and I'm holding in my hand a lovely glossy brochure setting out what the country education strategy looks like, but this is not going to be sort of a static kind of piece of work that actually country perspectives are going to be something that is going to be built in more broadly to policy direction and policy development within the department. Can you explain how that's going to work?

Luke Fraser: One of the great things that we've been able to do through as we've developed this work is really bring the right voices to the table will be at some of our students.

We've been working with the rural youth ambassadors, for example, who've had had a lot to say and been really impactful in how we've thought about this, but also some of our country leaders and people that are passionate about country education. So I think what we're going to be doing through this is setting up a country education reference group that can support that department.

We've got a big reform agenda that we're getting after. So we we're doing work in VET we're doing work in, in improvements to work force, lot of different [00:12:00] areas where we're going after system level impact and country needs to be at the table in that pursuit of how we do that. And because of those nuances and differences in how country education operates.

So, so we'll be setting up a country education reference group. That's going to be talking to our people who are leading reform, be it policy or practice, and that'll be a continual voice. And I think that's going to be the real game changer as part of this strategy is making sure that we're thinking about when we're designing, how we operate, making sure that we're paying attention to the voices that matter in the country to.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, as part of this, we've created a dedicated country education section on the website. Um, and there'll be some information in the show notes about how to access that, which includes links through to the country education strategy. You can go there and find a bit more information about what Luke and his team have been doing over the last 12 to 18 months.

It's a very exciting space. There's going to be a lot of things rolling out over the next three years. It's a seven year strategy though. So there's going to be some pretty broad horizon stuff that's, uh, that's going to be coming through. So stay [00:13:00] tuned over the next few years to see, um, the announcements in some of these programs that are going to be rolling out.

So Luke, this is exciting work. Thanks for your time. Good luck.

Luke Fraser: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.


14 October 2021

Discover how we're making it easier for students to find a career they'll love using the new Student Pathways website. It links young people with industry and has a CV builder that's like LinkedIn for students. 


[00:00:00] Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome back to Teach a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education today, we're in the state's Innovation Hub at Lot Fourteen, where a few hundred students from around 20 schools are learning more about career options in the defence space and cyber industries.

We've just launched the department's new student pathways website, which is a key piece of the puzzle in terms of raising the visibility of vocational pathways for our students and helping them to plot their way toward a career that matches their passions. Joining me today to talk about that website and the department's refreshed approach to vocational education is executive director for student pathways and careers, Clare Feszczak, and alongside her is a man who wears a lot of hats.

But in this instance joins us in his capacity as a member of the South Australian Skills commission, Dino Rossi. Welcome to you both.

Dino Rossi: Thank you.

Dale Atkinson:  So, first of all, the last 18 months for the Department for Education, we've delivered a fairly [00:01:00] significant change in our approach to vocational education and training. Clare, give us the elevator pitch on what you and the team have put in place and the motivation behind it.

Clare Feszczak: Yeah, South Australia is taking a nation leading approach into pathways, career education, and motivating students to think about careers post school. So the last 18 months to two years, we've been working on the VET for school students, policy reforming VET within schools. So it's the highest quality it's actually aligned to industry need.

And it creates a pathway that students can start within school and then complete post-school and get into their career sooner. As part of that, it's been the development of the website, which you've mentioned Dale has been launched today, and we've been very excited about the website. The website really gives students an idea of all the possibilities and helps them to understand the world of work and understand what it means to actually have a [00:02:00] job in certain industries and what's required to actually prepare for work post school.

Dale Atkinson: One of the key things that stands out for me, and as a guy in his early forties, was that for us careers education and the understanding of where vocational education and training could take you was extremely limited.

My career's exposure was probably, um, you know, a couple of half-hour sessions with a bloke who was normally the geography teacher. And you talked a little bit about I don't know there was a, there was a tick box on some things that you might be interested in further on, and then they gave you some subject options and that was pretty much it. You were left to your own devices. So this is really about recalibrating, a lot of that and giving students a lot more agency in making their decisions. Isn't it?

Clare Feszczak: Certainly is. Yeah. So this is about, um, really inspiring students to think about their interests and what their passions are. It's certainly not about locking in students to a particular career. We know that students will have multiple jobs, multiple careers, multiple industries. So it's [00:03:00] really about them understanding what they enjoy, what industries they might be interested in and then exploring those opportunities as much as possible through career events or through tours of different industries or through work experience or even volunteering.

And the research shows that the sooner students do that and get involved in those kind of things, the more informed they are so better informed to understand what the options are. And I think one of the challenges today is that there's so many options available. You know, we, we live with that. You can be anything, you can do anything. And in many ways, that actually is quite overwhelming for young people. So by giving young people, the agency and the opportunities, making it easy for them to explore all these options, it helps them to hone in on what they're really interested in.

Dale Atkinson: An interesting thing, I think is that the website effectively is a product that's flown on from an awful lot of other work around essentially linking those [00:04:00] vocational pathways with the areas of study. Um, and the areas of training that we know will, will get them into jobs or get them into careers where there are job opportunities.

Clare Feszczak: Yeah. So vocational education and training is a great way to actually learn technical skills. That industry value. Vocational education and training in schools gives students the opportunity to start that workplace training as early as possible. We know that vocational education and training is designed by industry for industry. It creates a real feel of what it's like to actually work in the job and what we've done with the development of flexible industry pathways, as part of this reform, we've worked with industry to say, okay, what is the vocational education training?

What are the the skills, what are the industry certificates that young students in school need to actually enter into your industry? So the flexible industry pathways, as part of the VET reform really provide that pathway [00:05:00] to areas where we know there's jobs and we know that industry actually value students coming in through that route.

So it's actually quite a significant change in the way that VET's delivered in schools in the past. It's a pathway that industry endorsed that leads to jobs in South Australia. And the important thing with this reform as well is we actually want to keep South Australians in South Australia for young people to see that there are opportunities and how to get to these job opportunities is really important to us.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. That might be an opportunity to bring Dino Rossi in on this conversation a little bit, because I guess in your role with the SA Skills Commission and externally, as I mentioned earlier, you wear a lot of hats. Tell us a little bit about your background and what you do, and a little bit about how that's helped Clare and her team to, to shape the conversation around developing those tips.

Dino Rossi: Yeah, sure. So first a little bit of my background. So I did come through a trade. I finished year 12 and took the pathway to do a trade. I'm an instrumentation tradesman. And very, very proud of it. As I mentioned to someone today, I still pay for my, for my license, [00:06:00] even though I don't practice it and haven't done for many, many years, but subsequent to that, um, yeah, then I, uh, continued training, ended up doing a Diploma of Information Technology at TAFE, um, have worked in the IT industry pretty much my entire career, and then subsequently went on and did higher education in business management training as well as, um, some research as well.

So, um, you know, my career very much started as, as being an apprentice and then growing through that apprenticeship, looking at further opportunities and where that apprenticeship could take me and what the skills offered. And now I find myself enjoying a variety of different roles, mainly focused around industry partnership.

My role today on the commission I'm chair of the industry skills council on the commission, which covers technology, cybersecurity, creative industries, and business. And my role is to inform and bring together industry and to inform industry of what the various options are available for them to be able to secure new, emerging talent and to work with the department. and work with Clare and her team on how we can [00:07:00] create those opportunities for students and not just students, but also for their advisors. And when I talk about that, I'm thinking of parents I'm thinking of career advisors, I'm thinking of their peers. I'm thinking of teachers and helping inform them of what these options are because often they simply don't know.

You talked before about some of the challenges that vocational training has had. So let's just say over the last 20 years. And that hasn't just been from the perspective of students as Clare shared, it's also being from the perspective of industry. Industry has lost contact in some ways there's a lot of industries out there that don't clearly understand the opportunities for them in partnering with vocational training to secure the next emerging talent that can be used for their industries.

Dale Atkinson: And it's a, it's such an important role. So we're at Lot Fourteen today. And I think the listeners will be able to hear a fair bit of work going on in the background and construction work and the important thing about Lot Fourteen is it is an innovation hub. It is a space where, you know, new careers are being created new [00:08:00] industries are being created. How important is it in a workforce and employment environment where you know, there are so many emerging jobs that there are so many changes in workforce need that we are linking up the schools with the industry, with the education and research institutions. How important is that?

Dino Rossi: It's unbelievably critical. If I, if I lift this up to start with and talk about South Australia, firstly, it's an exciting time. It is really exciting. So you mentioned Lot Fourteen there's also the Tonsley district. There's also Mawson Lakes. We've got the defence sector really starting to emerge really strongly. We've got space emerging. We are attracting a lot of international organisations right now into Lot Fourteen and they are excited to be here. That means talent. We need to continue to grow our talent pool ensuring that all of our educational institutions from vocational training to university research institutions are tightly linked with industry, industry informs the education institutions or what it needs out of emerging talent.

[00:09:00] Um, so that linkage is unbelievably critical. The other piece to that, that I would add as well. It's also incumbent on industry to do that. Um, so if industry is looking at needs talent, it can't just simply point a finger over at an education institution and say, oh, you're not giving me the talent. I want. Now's the time to engage with them, which is what we're doing to ensure that, I use the term a lot, but this emerging talent that's coming out has opportunities. And doesn't, you know, doesn't meet the needs of industry.

Dale Atkinson: I guess that's one of the key functions of the website, Clare is really essentially acting as a shop window for students, but also there's a need for the industry to bid into that isn't there, that they have a role in terms of making themselves visible and available to kids.

Clare Feszczak: Yeah, that's right. The, the opportunity with the website is, as you say, Dale is for the students, but also for industry employers too. And we hear all the time that industry and employers do want to connect with schools, but actually don't know how to, and the website, gives a means of, uh, industry and employees actually posting opportunities and being been able [00:10:00] to contact over 500 different schools in the state and promote those either jobs or even industry-based projects that students could pick up as part of the curriculum and part of their timetable.

So the website certainly is aimed at students and families but also industry and employers, and there's an industry employers section on that website, which we are heavily promoting with, with employers to actually have a look, see what you can do and then post your opportunities.

Dale Atkinson: Let's talk a little bit about the additional functionality that sits in that website because it's really been built with students in mind to make them able to see the opportunities that are available, but also to record some of their experiences and to be able to create a portfolio of skills and activities that they can then use as they transition into work.

Can you tell us a bit about those?

Clare Feszczak: So the website is the first for, for South Australia, and I think it's probably a, um, a world leader in terms of bringing different components together. The website has a [00:11:00] couple of places where students can actually register. The first is the world of work challenge and this is a self initiated student part of the website, where they can actually go and discover different experiences and log the hours that they've been involved in those experiences.

When a student reaches a hundred hours, they actually gain a certificate. That certificate then is verified by their teacher in their school or the career advisor in the school. And that contributes to a profile for the student that then when they do apply for jobs, they've got a certificate of experience, which gives them some credibility with future employers. The world of work certificate also automatically goes into a, a CV builder which is on the website. Another area of the website that's specifically designed for students and the CV builder is a template for building a CV. The CV builder is, has been designed in line with [00:12:00] LinkedIn. So we all have an LinkedIn profile, we're familiar with that technology. The CV builder is LinkedIn for school students without the social media and the connectivity. It's a safe place for students to actually think about what a CV looks like and start to build their CV and use their experiences that they've gained through the world of work challenge to populate the CV, the CV then can be downloaded and it can be customized and it can be sent off to employ.

Dale Atkinson: It's a really active and living thing. And I know it's going to develop over the coming years as the industry gets more involved in terms of ah posting things up and as, as the kids start to engage with the world of work challenge and other things like that. So it's a, it's a really powerful tool, uh, in that regard. So I think it's great. So I guess, uh, the question I have for both of you and I'll ask you separately is. Where next for, for the VET team, where next for the way that industry and the sectors engage with, with education, Clare I might start with you.

Clare Feszczak: So this is just the start, so we're very [00:13:00] excited to have the website and to be launching Flexible Industry Pathways for 2022, but really it's the start of bigger, bigger things. What we are aiming for is every student has a career plan with multiple pathway options. Career plan is developed with the student based on all their experiences, based on the discovery and the use of the website and their world of work challenge and, um, students are then setting themselves up for something post-school, which is meaningful for them.

So at this stage, the focus has been very much on VET and the flexible industry pathways, we'd see those expanding to be much more than just what they are now. So 2022 is an exciting year, but it's the starting year for this work. I think South Australian students deserve this. They deserve the best opportunities possible. And South Australia as a state deserves it too.

Dale Atkinson: And Dino where do you think we should be in five years from now?

Dino Rossi:  Where we should be in five [00:14:00] years, um, where we should be, is having for me personally, right, and I think for my industry skills council, and my perspective is number one, have a really wonderful and exciting high-tech industry sector in this state. And we're sitting in the middle of it now and seeing that continue to grow and succeed. Number one. Number two, for our industries to provide really good and clear pathways and opportunities, right. For our emerging talent because that is the future of our state and expand on, I suppose it affects what industry pathways with actually flexible what I would simply call career pathways options.

When we talk about things like apprentices, when we talk about traineeships and these kinds of things, there's often a fixed perspective of what that looks like. Our work on the commission at the moment is challenging that. The new Act under the South Australian Skills Commission gives us a lot more flexibility. So when we start talking about things like dual traineeships, dual apprenticeships, hire apprenticeships, you [00:15:00] know, the notion of what an apprenticeship or a traineeship was or currently is and what it could be in the future. We're looking to challenge that because we think there isn't just one pathway for children, students to enter the, uh, the workforce. And there's not just one pathway for industry to engage in that. So we want to be able to provide flexible options for industry and flexible options for students that ultimately give us a really, really good base of talent in our state to support, for example, the emerging industries that are, that are growing so rapidly.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. And I think, um, you know, one of the great things about being here today at the defence space and cyber expo is you can see so many parts of the puzzle together. You've got education, you've got sort of industry sectors. You've got people from the skills council, you've got politicians, teachers, educators, right across the spectrum.

And there's absolutely no shortage of passionate enthusiasm and, and interest in [00:16:00] making this work. And I think, um, one of the really great things within the framework, and the FIPS and the website and the work that you guys are doing together is we're really moving forward in a really exciting and, um, and great way. So I think we're going to be in a great spot in five years and even better as we move forward. So Dino and Clare thank you very much for your time.

Dino Rossi: Thank you.

Clare Feszczak: Thank you.


15 September 2021

How can you and your school get the most out of your school improvement plan? Developing the explicit teaching of writing is a big focus in Linden Park Primary School’s school improvement plan. Find out how they’ve worked through their plan, using resources like the literacy guidebooks, and analysing data to get the best outcomes for their students.


Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome back to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education,

Monique Miller: and I'm Monique Miller, primary school teacher at Westport primary school.

Dale Atkinson: This week, we've launched new and improved school and preschool improvement resources to use in your planning for 2022, they include refined school improvement, planning, handbooks, and templates.

Minor updates to the preschool quality improvement planning template, new scope and sequence resources, and units of work, digital literacy and numeracy guidebooks and better access to data for every teacher. These resources can support your curriculum planning.

Monique Miller:  To find out how you can use the resources available to you. We're at Linden Park primary school in Adelaide's east, where they've put a big focus on improving writing.

Dale Atkinson: Deb O'Neill is the principal of Linden Park primary school. And Kane Watkins is a year seven teacher here. Welcome to you both. [00:01:00] Thank you. Thank you. So, uh, first of all, I mean, look, I'm going to start with a lazy assumption about Linden Park primary school located in the eastern suburbs, that it's got a big group of affluent kids. This is going to be an easy place to teach, but that's not the case is it? You have quite a diverse backgrounds of students. Could you tell us a bit about your school and your school community?

Deb O'Neill: So we are a very, very large primary school, the largest primary school in the state. We have over 960 students from reception to year seven.

We have over 70 different cultures represented and our English as an Additional Language and Dialect is, is up around the 70% mark. So we are very diverse. We do have a lot of students who have extremely high expectations and families that have extremely high expectations of their students, but also of the school. So it can be quite complex.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. So we're not talking about a simple process of, of teaching, writing to a group of kids who are receptive and ready to rumble. Why was writing an area that your school decided [00:02:00] to focus on for improvement?

Deb O'Neill: When we looked at our data and analysed our data, we found that our students were scoring in higher bands consistently in numeracy and reading yet the same students were not scoring as much in higher bands in writing.

And it was actually going up and down depending on the year. And so when we looked at our NAPLAN data, and then we examined our PAT data, we identified that there were some gaps in writing. And those gaps we put down to basically, um, teaching. And so what we decided to do then was to improve and to work on our quality of teaching that we provided in writing for our students.

Dale Atkinson: And you have brought along your school improvement plan which is obviously the key tool that you're using within this process. Can you talk a little bit about your approach with it and how you've set it and how you're using that moving forward.

Deb O'Neill: So our school improvement plan is quite detailed and we use it as a roadmap for us. So we have a lot of staff engagement and buy-in [00:03:00] with the plan. Um, staff are instrumental in identifying what areas we need to focus on and then they're recorded in the site improvement plan. Staff are then are involved in reviewing that and doing constant checking and monitoring as to how we are travelling and refining the plan. If, if things aren't going quite well or things need changing, we refine the plan.

Dale Atkinson: What does that process of refinement look like? Cause I think as we're talking here, Monique's kind of nodding her head, which is obviously an experience that you have had yourself. So what does that process of refining and working with the teaching staff look like?

Deb O'Neill: Once we identify our priority areas. So for example, writing, we look at what resources we need to deliver that. And so one of our major tools, which I know Kane can talk about in a minute is around using the Brightpath assessment process. And also something we engaged in with our whole staff was a program called Writing Plus, which was a partnership initiative around the teaching [00:04:00] of grammar, functional and traditional grammar to our teachers.

So that those teachers actually knew the aspects of writing that we needed to teach. When we do our Brightpath assessment, we also do an analysis of which aspects of writing are going well. Um, from looking at the student work and which aspects of writing, we need more input and more staff training. And then we engage in another training cycle.

Staff are involved in keeping track of the plan. So they, they look at the targets, they look at the success criteria in their learning teams, and then they give themselves a score, whether they're on track or it needs attention or whether it's not on track at all. And then we start developing some programs and plans to achieve that criteria.

Monique Miller: Kane I'd love to hear how you're involved in that process?

Kane Watkins: Sure. So specifically with writing, basically all staff are provided with adequate training to try and upskill them so that they're better able to actually teach explicitly the curriculum. So the writing plus training and development that Deb spoke about was [00:05:00] one of those training and development that we all undertook.

And there's a strong focus there on functional grammar, which better enables you to actually direct student learning to key areas that are needing development. We also, we've done smarter spelling training as well, which is about the teaching of synthetic phonics as part of your language curriculum and the Brightpath assessment and writing tool as well. That plays a huge part of, I think, of our success in terms of just delivering the curriculum.

Monique Miller:  And so important for the whole school to be on board, taking that same training and implementing it across from reception to year seven.

Kane Watkins: Yeah it just ensures continuity of learning across the site. But also I think it allows you or enables you to have those professional conversations and dialogues with colleagues that are really what, that, that that's sort of the foundation of what moves learning forward.

Deb O'Neill: So we engage in moderation in our year level teams. So all the year seven teachers would get together and look at different assessments, samples and do a, I guess, a cold score. [00:06:00] And then they discuss it and do some moderation, but we've also done moderation vertically, teachers from reception to year seven, each bring a sample of writing that they would consider a medium sample and then they share it amongst each other and they look at the aspects. And so there's a lot of that vertical as well as horizontal moderation. So we are all on the same page in relation to our Brightpath assessment.

Kane Watkins:Those conversations are really key. I think it keeps everybody on track and make sure that we're, we're all working towards the same goal. It also just makes sure that we're constantly checking in with the site improvement plan for making sure that what we're doing is true to purpose.

Dale Atkinson: And what sort of frequency are you looking at for those sorts of activities?

Kane Watkins:So the Brightpath moderation side of things, we do that in term one and term three, and that's hugely valuable. Term one more as a formative assessment tool. Um, term three, you can almost draw out some summative assessment as well in that, but those conversations are happening in the moderation process.

They're really what empowers us [00:07:00] to pass relevant and timely feedback onto the kids that we're working with. And it also enables us to have those conversations with the students when we get them looking at their own writing and using that same assessment tool.

Monique Miller: And you would use that to set goals and things they're writing, using those teaching points from the Brightpath

Kane Watkins:Absolutely so, um, the process typically is we'll actually as, as staff within our year level teams ,we will um, once the kids have sat the Brightpath reading assessment, we'll get together, then the school actually provides support for that as well. So we're released to do this, which is really valuable. We sit together and we'll actually cold score each of those writing assessments for all the students in our classes, we'll often have those conversations, collegial conversations around justifying why you gave the score that you did, um, which is hugely valuable as well, because it really gets you to think about what am I looking at here and, and on, on, um, on balanced view.

Exactly. Thank you. So once that process is done, we go back to the students. We get them to use the same assessment tool that [00:08:00] we use in Brightpath to assess their own work. And we do that without actually telling them what we've scored their paper at. And then we give them our score and them to have a look and compare.

And does the score match up, if it does match up that's fantastic. If it doesn't, why doesn't it match up? So just developing that metacognition around why have I got the score I've got, if I'm looking at what's the next step for my writing, I should be able to look at what's in my writing and the assessment criteria, and then identify this is what I'm doing now. This is what I need to do to move forward. So just trying to build student agency into the learning.

Monique Miller: Fantastic.

Dale Atkinson: As we record this, we're towards the latter half of the third term. So we've just had the NAPLAN data come back. We've just finished the phonics check for the year ones.

How's the data and information from those sources being used to kind of inform the broader practice across this area?

Deb O'Neill: Within our writing action in our site improvement plan. We've also had a strong emphasis on phonemic awareness and the teaching of phonics in [00:09:00] the junior primary, and also the teaching of spelling from reception to year seven.

So we've engaged with a whole school approach to spelling as well as, um, a junior primary phonics assessment. So our data so far has seen a huge increase in our achievement of phonics, where we have the majority of our students scoring well above benchmark in phonics. So scoring in 37, 38 39 achievement.

We also have seen a huge increase in our NAPLAN higher bands, achievement across years, three, five, and seven. I think a really important aspect of our plan and our planning processes that it is not a stagnant plan. It doesn't sit in my office. For example, the smart spelling we identified last year, that our spelling achievement wasn't great across the school.

So we really put a lot of effort and time. And as Kane mentioned, a lot of resourcing into skilling up our teachers in that area. We are seeing the results in [00:10:00] our NAPLAN achievement for 2021 with an increase from years, three, five, and seven, and also a higher band retention. In fact, a growth from years five to seven in higher band.

Dale Atkinson: I mean, that's so encouraging and motivating in many respects, isn't it. To be able to see the numbers. Reflecting the hard work.

Deb O'Neill: And it's also a really good point of celebration because our teachers engage with our plan. We're all on the same track. We all know what our goals are and what our achievement is. We now can go to staff and say, wow, look at what we've done. You know, this is amazing. And the students, as Kane said, the students are involved in assessing and evaluating their own achievement and setting their next steps in learning.

Monique Miller: You've already been looking at NAPLAN data, and I believe you're having regular check-ins and getting feedback as teachers about where to next. And what are your next goals?

Deb O'Neill: So we've [00:11:00] done an analysis of the aspects of writing from NAPLAN and identified that our spelling has increased, we still need a little bit of work on our cohesion. So that then is going to be the next step for us to analyse the different aspects of the writing data that we've got and develop some plans around, okay, is that, is that across the board? Is that a consistent area for development and is it reflected also in our Brightpath assessment? So we don't just look at one data source. We look at a few data sources and then say, well, what do we need to do as a school to move that on.

Kane Watkins:I would potentially just add to that as well, that where the NAPLAN is more sort of a, I think we use it more as a sort of a summative assessment tool. Um, and that's really what have we done really well. And now what are the areas that we need to sort of look to, um, improving the Brightpath tool is, um, probably more a formative assessment tool and that's ongoing. And that actually informs the pedagogy that's going on in the classroom as well, highly [00:12:00] individualised for each student which is fantastic.

Monique Miller: Have you been using any of the literacy guidebooks to support with your...

Kane Watkins:Yes. So I can talk to that a little bit as well. So our reading program in year seven, and I know it's used across the site as well, we've taken a lot of the pedagogy that's actually explored in the literacy guidebooks and applied that to the day-to-day interactions in the classroom.

So an example of that would be in reading. We have started using book club circles where there's again, high level of student agency, student led discussion. And the teacher really is sort of a facilitator in that group. Those conversations that the students are having between one another is another form of formative assessment where, um, you're able to sort of check in and see where are the understandings relative to this particular text and what can I do next to move this learning forward? What are some questions I could potentially ask to prompt student thinking a little bit further?

Deb O'Neill: Our teachers in the early years use the literacy [00:13:00] and numeracy continuum and to make that explicit with the children to change it into students speak, but to use it as I guess, setting goals.

So bump it up walls in a sense, but also for students to actually see the progression of their learning as they go. With the literacy and numeracy guidebooks we also use um, the high impact teaching strategies and so really important aspects of formative assessment. Uh, differentiation we've looked at at a whole site. So how do we challenge and stretch every learner at our school is I guess a little bit of our mantra.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, I guess the flexibility that sits within those resources to kind of take them off the shelf and plug aspects of them depending on the nature of issues that you're trying to deal with at a local level is reasonably useful too.

Kane Watkins:Absolutely. Yeah.

Dale Atkinson: So you've had a school improvement plan in place, Deb, since 2019. What would you say you've learnt and how's it evolving? What are, what are you planning to [00:14:00] do differently into the future?

Deb O'Neill: What I've learnt about improvement planning is that it needs to be really detailed. It needs to be student focused. So the success criteria needs to be what we would see students doing and that, that is developed and written by teachers. So in our next plan, we start with what our success criteria would look like. And then we work backwards from that. So, um, what we would see students doing, doing so therefore, what actions do we need to do based on analysing our current data to make that into a reality.

So we're just about to start our improvement planning process for the next three years. We've done a whole school reflection on our plan. We've identified some areas that we need further investigation in. One of them is numeracy, for example, in the early years. And so then we'll start working on how are we going to achieve that? What resources do we need to put in place? What training do we need for [00:15:00] teachers? And also how we share that with our community.

Monique Miller: Do you have any advice for teachers, schools and leaders when approaching their school improvement plan?

Kane Watkins:Yep. It needs to be a whole-school approach. So you need to work as, as a whole school community, but you need those professional conversations happening at sort of the grassroots level between teachers, but also with students.

I think that it sort of needs to be a cultural shift towards working together as a team and breaking down traditional barriers of working in isolation from one another. Not that that's here, but, um, If I were to give advice to any school, it would be that just embrace working as part of a team and, and, you know, sharing your ideas.

Deb O'Neill: I think any planning needs to be really refined and it needs to be simple. Like it doesn't need to include every single thing you do. You actually need to choose a couple of actions and do them well. And you'll see the spinoff. And then the continual looking at that, refining it, adding new things as it [00:16:00] progresses, um, is important.

So. Writing our plan when we wrote it in 2019, looks very different to our plan now. Our challenge of practice is still the same. However, our actions have actually become quite refined and quite targeted that way we can celebrate, because we actually know that we've achieved what we set out to do.

Dale Atkinson: It's been a great discussion and I think the thing that's really coming through for me is the focus around the planning that sits across sort of a cascade from, from a whole of site-based, um, kind of thing to a year level to individual classrooms and then laterally up and down. And it, it seems to be something that you've managed to get the whole kind of teaching community to buy into and the leadership to buy into.

And it's, um, it's really impressive.

Kane Watkins:It's a cultural thing.

Deb O'Neill: And what I'd like to see is us involving the students more in that. So bringing them to the table in the planning process and having them identify aspects of learning that we need [00:17:00] to improve on as a site and understanding what we're doing and why we're doing it. So that is our, I think our next step.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. So the journey continues.

Deb O'Neill: Yeah, absolutely, never stops.

Dale Atkinson: That's great. Um, thank you very much to Deb and Kane for your time today and for letting us see your wonderful school. So keep it up, I think is the message. It sounds really encouraging. Um, so thanks for your time.

Deb O'Neill: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Dale Atkinson: As we know from the last couple of years, September is school improvement month at the Department for Education. Our intranet EDi has a lot of helpful resources and they've been built because we've gone into classrooms across the state to show you how school improvement is being rolled out in schools from Barmera to Eudunda, there's planning, handbooks, and templates, literacy, and numeracy guidebooks, and tips on how to use the improvement dashboard and achievement profiles.

2 September 2021

A conversation about the most effective strategies for using the phonics screening check results to drive literacy improvement and help students learn to read.  Discover the training opportunities that are available to build your own skills. 


Dale Atkinson: Hello and welcome back to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education. It's been a little while as we've had a little kind of COVID related hiatus, which has prevented us from getting out to school. So we've slightly recalibrated the format.

We're talking to a few people from within the department, um, about some things that hopefully important to you and useful to you. Today, I'm in conversation with Claire Wood, who is the department's Manager of Literacy and Numeracy practice and we're talking about phonics. Now, the reason we're talking about phonics is that since 2018, we introduced a Phonics Screening Check in South Australia at Year 1 level. And we've done about 13 to 14,000 students per year for each of those last few years. The results have been pleasingly heading in the right direction, which Claire, you could probably take some credit and comfort in those [00:01:00] results as that's really good.

So phonics, let's talk a little bit about what it is. Now I am the father of a three-year-old daughter who has I think comfortably one of the most annoying educational toys imaginable, which was purchased for her by my mother, who is a teacher. And it is a soundboard, uh, with a number of noises, I think, designed to move her away from the Sesame Street style alphabet to perhaps a more sounds based program.

Now, presumably mum bought that for my daughter, for reasons beyond upsetting the tranquility of my domestic existence. What is the point of this thing? What is phonics? What are we trying to achieve with this?

Claire Wood:  I think there are probably more annoying toys out there, but, and I think your mother probably did a really good job at choosing this toy.

Phonics is one of the six components of learning to read and to be a skilled reader you need all six of them and [00:02:00] oral language is the first one. So I'm sure you talk lots to your three-year-old and improve her oral language, then it's phonological awareness. Can they hear those sounds of languages are distinct you know distinctly.

Phonological awareness, I often describe it as that idea that, you know, when you're hearing somebody speak a different language you can kind of pick up the rhythm of that language without knowing where one word starts and ends. And of course we get we've improved children's phonological awareness as they go through kindy and school and they can actually distinguish the words from the, the sound.

 And then phonics is the really important bit then. That we attach those sounds to letters because when you think about reading, what you're doing is you're just ciphering letters and letter strings from the book or the passage that you're reading and you're making it back into speech sounds. And so phonics is a really, really important part of learning to read, because if you don't know that those letters [00:03:00] represent a sound, you can't read. And so we called it a foundational skill. And of course, with phonic knowledge, you can lift the meaning off the page. So you can build your vocabulary. You can comprehend what you're reading and you can become more and more fluent because you can automatically read them.

Dale Atkinson: All right, with that in mind. What is the phonics screening check? What are we looking for?

Claire Wood: The phonics screening check we brought in three or four years ago. And, um, we brought it in because it's a really important screener, because if we're saying that phonics is a foundational skill and everything else really builds off and if you have phonics, you have freed up your brain space to learn lots of other things across the curriculum.

So when you think about how are children going with phonics. We usn't  to be able to know. And so in 2018, we decided to do a trial on how our children are going with phonics. And we implemented the check to see, could we improve the learning for the children at [00:04:00] the level that they're at? So it does exactly what the name says.

You know, the phonics screening check screens children, for their ability to decode. That means  read phonics in mind. So it's a very short check. It takes five to seven minutes it's done by the child's teacher. And the results are the most important thing, because what we want teachers to do is to act on the results that they get from the phonics screening check.

We have those, as you said, 20 real words. And you know, sometimes the children may have just memorised those words, they've heard them before and that doesn't really check their phonic knowledge. If it's just something that they memorise that word and they just say it, but the pseudo words or the nonsense words, you know, the non words that we have in the check, the 20 words, they really are purely checking their phonics.

And if you think about those pseudo words are really a great leveler because you don't have to have a huge vocabulary. You couldn't come from a literacy poor background, or you could have be a learner of English and everybody's on the same playing field because nobody's seen this word before and you're using your skills that you've learnt, the decoding skill, you've learnt [00:05:00] to read that word off the page.

Dale Atkinson:  And so from that, the teacher gets an understanding. Gets a small set of data about that specific student. And what are they looking for in those numbers and how are they responding to what they see?

Claire Wood: Well, with teaching the Australian Curriculum, the students should be able to easily and comfortably read 28 out of 40 of those words and they possibly know more. And those that are struggling will know less. The first thing that you get is information about the pattern of your class. If you think about it that way, you've got a group of students who are probably fluent decoders, and they're the ones that are going really well. You've got a group of students that are developing decoders and so they're going at the pace that you've set for them, but you may have one or two that are struggling and they're the ones we're screening for. We're going to give them extra support if they need it. We want all children to be fluent decoders obviously. So that's the direction we want to head. So the teachers can have an opportunity to see the pattern of their class. And from that pattern, they can decide where the teaching needs to go.

Dale Atkinson: And what are the interventions that you're [00:06:00] looking at for those students who aren't quite at that standard that you would hope they would be?

Claire Wood: So the very first thing we ask teachers to look at is, is their teaching program, hitting the mark.

And we'd like them to think about what happens in their daily routine. Should they be doing more of something or should they be doing less of something? Or should they change something all together? We know that phonics is, is most effective when you do it frequently and often interleaved with other things, not just once a week or once every couple of days, but every day and maybe even more than once a day.

And so we often advise teachers to do more and we have a kind of a, a mantra that is don't teach  until they get it right, teach until they can't get it wrong because we're looking for automaticity. We want to really free up brain space for children so that they can learn right across the curriculum.

Dale Atkinson: That's an incredibly powerful sentiment, I think, um, teach until they can't get it wrong. So what about for those students who, who are in that space where they can't get it wrong? Who are performing [00:07:00] really well. What's the, what are the interventions in terms of stretching them to go even better? What are we looking at?

Claire Wood: Yes. Some of the teachers have been very pleasantly surprised to see that their children can do more than the expectation of the Australian Curriculum, because once you get to a certain level of decoding, you're kind of self-teaching. So of those children can be stretched with a whole range of new reading. They can be given materials in their, what we call the zone of proximal development. So those kind of materials that will stretch them just a little bit more and keep them up with their learning,  and we know that the phonics knowledge that you gain helps with your spelling and your writing. So all of those things can help with those children who are already doing well at decoding.

Dale Atkinson:  Part of your work of you and your team has been to provide a lot of training to the Year 1 teachers and I think you've got about 1400 or so, who have gone through some level of training over the last few years, which is, uh, which is a really good achievement, but for those who are outside of that year 1 area. This is obviously still something that's incredibly important for students to learn. What's [00:08:00] available to teachers in other year levels?

Claire Wood: We have a whole series of best advice, papers for the big six and phonics being one there's a whole best advice paper on phonics, eh, it's also throughout all of our guidebooks. So it doesn't matter whether you're starting to build foundations or you're right up there at stretch. There's going to be something of that phonics in the guidebooks.

We have a whole series on plink. That's available for teachers of all levels and leaders as well to understand how phonics fits. So I would always say to people who are interested in this area, the first thing you should do is the plink course called literacy from the experts and Maryanne Wolf's particular uh, module is fantastic for, uh, giving you the idea of the neuroscience behind why we've chosen this direction. We know that the brain has to be rewired to learn, to read, and Maryanne is a very, very good presenter and she lead people through that understanding of why explicit teaching of phonics is [00:09:00] so important.

Dale Atkinson: That's awesome. And I would recommend that for everyone.

Claire Wood:  I didn't even mention that of course we have two other plink courses directly for the phonics screening check as well. And as you already said for the year 1 teachers, we have those three differentiated courses. Those courses, although they are funded for year 1s we invite anyone who's interested to come to those courses.

And most of the leaders across the state have attended. We've also had, uh, teachers, uh, for reception and year two and a lot of high school literacy leaders who have had children coming through who clearly missed out on the stages of the phonics.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. So it can really be picked up in and is useful at, uh, at any level.

The final question is obviously risks, uh, moving into slightly culture wars areas, because phonics sometimes is something that is used as a, as a bat to beat the teaching profession with a little bit on some of the pages of the Australian and, uh, and other newspapers. Um, so what are the misconceptions that exist around phonics and the teaching of it?

Well, I'd like to say we don't [00:10:00] have them anymore. I mean, you know, honestly, we've moved so far away from those misconceptions here in South Australia, and we've got, as you pointed out a thousand, I think it was 1,600 teachers every year, come to the phonics screening check, professional learning. And so that information has now disseminated across the state and we really have addressed all those misconceptions and teachers themselves can see the progress of the children.

And so they know that this is, um, it's just a furphy, it's just a distraction. Um, listening to anybody, learning to read or learning to do anything, first of all, can be, can sound laborious. You know, children sounding things out and then blending them together, can sound laborious. And during the training, we actually introduce our teachers to that feeling of learning a new code, you know, cause the alphabet is a code and you know the code so you can't unlearn reading once you know it. So we put them through a whole process of learning dingbats, you know, dingbats. So we [00:11:00] introduced them to a new code and we get them to learn it and it's quite funny to listen to them, very laboriously going, S ah,  D sad. Sad. And they feel that challenge that the children feel, but they also feel the satisfaction of getting it right.

And I actually did that myself and that's, you know, that's the beauty of phonics. The children get very independent very quickly. And so a lot of those old ideas that phonics is slow and laboured they go out the window once people understand what it's doing for your brain, it's rewiring it and helping you to read better.

Dale Atkinson: And that reward that comes through for those kids and for the teachers, it sounds amazing

Claire Wood: Yeah. That's good. That's good.

Dale Atkinson: Well, that's fantastic. And thank you so much for your, for your time today. Um, we'll put the link to the resources, including the phonics screening check explainer documents, uh, and those plink phonics  courses up in the show notes.

Thanks to everyone for listening and thank you Claire very much for your time. That was amazing.

Claire Wood: Thank you.


1 July 2021

The South Australian Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy (SAASTA) is supporting Aboriginal students to fulfil their potential in SACE and through a range of programs across sport, hospitality and STEM. We hear from some of the people coordinating SAASTA and building connections with schools and families. Plus, fresh off their Santos Aboriginal Power Cup win, we head to Para Hills High School to speak to one of their students about his SAASTA experience.


Tara Budarick You know, I'm an Aboriginal person. I'm Ngarrindjeri. So it's an opportunity for me to give back to community, but also learn more about myself and my identity as an Aboriginal person. And so when you get to go to work every day and you're working with community and you can see what students are getting out of the program, it's absolutely incredible.

Dale Atkinson: Teach. Hello and welcome back to Teach a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education,

Monique Miller: and I'm Monique Miller, primary school teacher at Westport Primary.

Dale Atkinson: Today, we're going to learn how Aboriginal students are fulfilling their potential in high school and beyond through a range of opportunities offered by the South Australian Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy or SAASTA. You may have heard of SAASTA before it provides Aboriginal high school students with a unique sporting and educational program.

Monique Miller: Fresh off their Santos Aboriginal Power Cup win, we've headed north to Para Hills High School, which [00:01:00] is on Kaurna land. We pay respects to Elders past and present. Just last month Para Hills High School made a clean sweep at the power cup, both their girls and boys football teams won. SAASTA students secured the curriculum excellence award, and one of their academy students Tamryn Walker won the award for best guernsey design.

Dale Atkinson: And it's a beauty. Uh, so there's lots to celebrate, with us today is Tara Budarick, the academy's specialist academy's coordinator and Nick Drury, SAASTA's school operations and VET coordinator.

Welcome guys. What is SAASTA?

Nick Drury: SAASTA is a senior secondary program. So it's a SACE based curriculum generally where students in 10 to 12 participate in what we call academies, uh, hosted in schools around South Australia. It's a culture based education program. So we use sport and health and all kinds of other things from around community to engage the students, but at the core of it, it's a SACE curriculum that gets students learning about their cultural identity.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, it's interesting. Isn't it? Cause I mean, I think like from outside of the system, the thing that's really [00:02:00] visible is like the football team, the netball team and the power cup, but there's so much depth to it as a program. Can you sort of go through how the two elements of those sort of the sporting and the academic interact.

Nick Drury: I guess we sort of touched on it before in the introduction that anything we do such as the Aboriginal Power Cup Santos, Aboriginal power cup that we recently did, it's really grounded in the education component first. So students do weekly curriculum in their line structures or come to an academy to do the program.

And that's an Aboriginal studies curriculum or an integrated learning curriculum. So again, SACE grounded, but the students need to complete certain tasks in the build up to a visit from Port Adelaide Football Club or in the build up to a carnival so, it's really that reward based program where we're going to ask you to put a little bit of effort in, in the classroom and the reward is the sporting component all those, those really fun things that we get to see. We try and make it fun in the classroom too. But generally that's the reward at the end of the day is that if we do all of the appropriate things, get our attendance up, get the work done in the classroom. Then we're going to reward you with really cool experiences like the football carnival.

[00:03:00] Monique Miller: I was wondering how many schools are involved in SAASTA

Tara Budarick So we have, uh, over 60 schools that are involved.  I guess we should talk about how SAASTA is actually made up and what our programs are. So the school-based academy here at Para Hills fits into one of the programs that we have, and that's our school-based academy, of which we have 22 across the state. So the APY lands have their own programs, but otherwise students across all the other areas of south Australia can access, uh, one of the 22 school-based academies that we have, and that's where our SAASTA head office staff provide curriculum support to schools to actually implement the program with their own staff and students.

Some of those academies, um, have students who come from schools in neighboring areas so that they can access the program and then we have our specialist academies. So we run 6 specialist academies at the moment where we deliver the programs and students apply and attend the out of school programs one day a week for the entire year.

Again, that's targeted towards students in years, 10, 11, and 12. Um, five of them [00:04:00] are sports-based so netball, basketball, soccer, men's and women's AFL. And then we have, um, STEM academy, which is obviously looking at science, technology, engineering, and maths, and it's a combination again of education and then the engagement with sports or, or the science component.

Dale Atkinson: So it's really, I mean, pointed toward helping kids complete their high school education and attain that SACE, isn't it?

Tara Budarick Absolutely. It is that very fine balance between curriculum and SACE or VET subjects and engagement to support people to our young people, to connect with culture, but also, you know, be really successful, in their education and, and SACE completion.

Dale Atkinson: Really interesting. And you sort of touched on this before we, we started the interview about some of the partnerships that have been formed with businesses outside of, uh, outside of school. So I guess like the VET pathways is really key for a lot of these kids in terms of being able to see what the opportunities are that exist beyond schooling.

Nick Drury: Yeah, definitely. So that's been a real growth process for us as well. So we started out in the VET space, really just doing the sport and recreation, which was a fantastic tool to engage, but also [00:05:00] teach some of those employability skills, transferable skills that can go across a lot of different sectors.

Then that sort of moved on to us then identifying that students wanted to look into those different pathways more and more. So diversifying our VET certificates to offer things like hospitality, construction, community services, maritime. So like really trying to diversify to make it more of an individual choice as to what you want to do. And then that's with the department's new policy that's sort of being implemented ready for next year. That's been another level of growth for our program to move towards to create what we've called the ACE program, Aboriginal Career Exploration. And that's really around starting at a year 10 level at getting students to understand what it is to be in the workplace.

So employability skills. Working really closely with the workabout team to try and embed some of that learning at an earlier age bracket, but also giving the kids a chance to work through some industry engagement activity. So they understand what it's like to be in different workplaces and start the conversations about where they [00:06:00] want to go.

Dale Atkinson: And what's the response been like from, from businesses out there?

Nick Drury: Oh, fantastic. People are jumping on board left, right and centre. So, I mean, it's, it's a building industry that people want diversity in the workplace and they're seeing not just that it's a ticket box anymore, that there's real value in having diversity in your workplace.

And I think we're sort of at the real ground roots of that, where, because we've got an access to such a variety of kids across the state, people are coming to us to say, well, how can we connect in so that we can really start that learning early, but then embed some young people into our businesses and our operations. They're going to stay with us for a long time.

Dale Atkinson: Really encouraging. Tara you sort of touched on this a little bit earlier about the diversity of opportunities across the entire state. Can you just talk a little bit more about the support for rural and remote students through the VET pathways?

Tara Budarick I feel like one of the key components of the program is connecting with the community that the students are living in.

So it's not just our amazing teachers within the schools that are pivotal to the program success. Um, it's about connecting with community organisations that are specific [00:07:00] to where the young people are living, but also, you know, the roles that Aboriginal people within the school, like our ACETOs play in, you know, connecting school life with home life and community life. And, um, really having that really holistic approach to making everything successful.

Monique Miller: And how does the Aboriginal studies module fit into that?

Nick Drury: In the school-based academies, if we look at that specifically, that's really the core subject that the students are doing. They will come in and there's four tasks that are part of a SACE subject at a stage one level.

So the students will essentially do three before the power cup. And then one of them will be based on some of the activities they do there and come back to participate back in their school. But all of those tasks are really wrapped around learning about Aboriginal history and learning, I guess, because we've got an all Aboriginal cohort, we get that real ability to learn a little bit more about culture and identity as well.

Bringing in Aboriginal people to deliver it is really central to that approach. So if the school don't have an Aboriginal teacher like a Tara that, you know, we can just place out the front straightaway, then they need to go out and they need to [00:08:00] engage with the community, engage with their ACETO and bring people in who have that relevant knowledge.

And get them to be delivering and co delivering in the classroom so that the students are learning about that sort of true history stuff, what their place in the community is and what positive role models have gone for them and use that moving forward. So that's really the core of the Aboriginal studies topic.

Dale Atkinson: But it's such a complete kind of package of, of educational options really, isn't it like, regardless of where the kids are, or like how engaged they are in various different paths of learning or what their interests lie, there's something that can really capture them.

Tara Budarick Yeah, I think when you see the students engaging in the program and they're in a room full of peers, um, who all have similar interests and experiences with education. It's really, really heartwarming to see students actually wanting to be engaged and you talk to primary school students and they, they know the SAASTA program and they aspire to be involved because they know that they can go into a program and experience success and just feel super connected to community and I guess the educational [00:09:00] process.

Dale Atkinson: Is that something you've experienced Monique with, with kids at your primary school?

Monique Miller: Oh, absolutely. Always looking for more opportunities and ways to connect with their culture. Yeah. So, so important. I was wanting to know a little bit more about the benefits of events, like power cup, which brings remote, rural and metro students together. And how does that benefit with peer to peer learning.

Nick Drury: It's really a community event at the end of the day, like the curriculum is obviously in the classroom and that's that real specific one-on-one sort of learning that they're going to do in the classroom with their peer group. And like Tara touched on before you've got cluster academy.

So you've got eight or nine schools coming together one day a week. So that's that sort of first touch point where they come together. And then from there, when an academy comes together with another 450 kids from completely across the state, that opportunity to come together and I guess, celebrate culture, celebrate their achievements.

And then football was just that, that real vessel, that across a lot of our communities in Australia that everybody's really heavily involved in. So it's just a really nice, [00:10:00] fun way to wrap it all together and get those experiences where they get to sort of talk about what they've been doing in their own schools and put it on show in front of everyone else.

So it's really important as that sort of hook to, you know, keep doing the work in the classroom. And then that's the really fun, engaging community experience that you gonna get to bring at the end of it.

Tara Budarick I think because their involvement in the SAASTA, um, power cup is not granted or given automatically is they have to earn their spot through, um, their attendance, engagement and work completion throughout the semester in the lead up.

So when they earn their spot and they know that they're actually going to be playing in the team, They're super excited. And it really is a whole community event where families come along and the community organizations find a way to link with students while they're there as well, 500 students and all family members coming out to celebrate and to support really is super amazing.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah, it sounds like an incredible event. And can I ask you about your highlights? And I think there are a couple of very obvious ones. For both of you, what are the highlights for you over the last 12 months? What are the things that you really [00:11:00] enjoyed about the program and being teachers?

Tara Budarick So for me, it's more specifically with the specialist academies or, or being involved in an Aboriginal organisation or an Aboriginal program.

Because when I grew up, I grew up in a, in a community that was quite isolated and we didn't have many opportunities to connect with culture. And so I grew up doing Aboriginal studies via open-access as a year 12 student. And so then when I went on to become a teacher, I have specifically worked in Aboriginal schools because, you know, I'm an Aboriginal person, I'm Ngarrindjeri. So it's an opportunity for me to give back to community, but also learn more about myself and my identity as an Aboriginal person. And so when you get to go to work every day and you're working with community and you can see what students are getting out of the program, it's absolutely incredible because I know myself as a student, I didn't have that opportunity.

Um, and I really, really believe, and we have the data to go along with it that the outcomes for our students are, you know, so much higher because of their involvement in these programs. They're going on to aspire to higher education and, and transition to [00:12:00] university and TAFE studies or employment. And we, you know, slowly working away at increasing the outcomes overall for our young people, which is incredibly exciting.

Nick Drury: How do you go after that. So I guess for me I've been in the program for a really long time. So I've seen a lot of the change points in the program. And one that I'm really proud to have been a part of in the last six months is the ACE program that we spoke about before, I think it's, it's really getting us to a point where we're making it student centred, it's really around what's your pathway? What do you want? So you might experience 15 workshops in all these different industry areas. They're the most boring things you've ever done, but when you walk into that one workshop for an hour or two, and you're just engaged from the minute you're in there, and this is just me and you see the eyes light up and the kids come away and have those anecdotal conversations.

That's just so powerful for me to, to have those chats and see the looks on their faces when they say. I never even thought this was a job. I didn't know you could do that. And now this is I'm desperate. I want to do this. Tell me more, give me more like that's my highlights is when you say the looks on the kids' [00:13:00] face for that, you know, you're getting it right and that we're helping them get what they want.

Monique Miller: That's so wonderful. It sounds like they're in good hands and they're getting the best experience and they have got the connections with their community and yeah, it's really, really wonderful. That's happening here.

Dale Atkinson: So awesome to hear. So Tara, Nick, thank you very much for your time.

Monique Miller: And here we have Timothy a senior student from Para Hills High. Tim, can you tell us a little bit about what you do with SAASTA?

Tim Tuikaba: Uh, yeah, sure. We're pretty much given a wide variety of like assignments and stuff, but personally, um, one of the assignments that we've done was a Indigenous health issue where you have to research it and respond to it. And so myself, I did like a podcast and a petition and also had the opportunity to speak to Steven Marshall himself.

It was at an award event, a multicultural award. I went out and spoke to him and got some information. That's kind of like an example of how we go in and engage with the community and connect with other people and, um, kind of step out of our comfort zone's a bit.

[00:14:00] Dale Atkinson: I saw the photograph of you with, the Premier and then a little bit of the background on that. So the health project that you were looking at there is essentially around, um, the lack of dialysis machines in APY lands. Is that right?

Tim Tuikaba:  Yep. Yeah, that was it. Yeah.

Dale Atkinson: And so what were the, what were the findings of your studies?

Tim Tuikaba:  So I found that there was a bit of work being done at Coober Pedy so it was about, I could be wrong on this last one, which that goes like, oh, $5,000 or something being raised. It probably could be more, but, um, there's still quite a bit of, um, lack in other areas such as, uh, like Leigh Creek and other rural areas.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. So it's a kind of a combination for you so you just sort of touched a bit earlier on the fact that you're an international Gridiron team. So obviously that's one element of the work you're doing alongside your studies. Can you talk a little bit about the sports element of what, what you're in involved in?

Tim Tuikaba: So I do you find SAASTA, I did play basketball for a little bit as well. So I did, um, I was a part of the specialist academy for basketball.

That was a very good experience as well. They provided these pathways where students could choose from so like sports, recreation. I'm really grateful that they provide all these opportunities [00:15:00] for us to choose from, and then you choose it and then they kind of tailored to what your interests are and how you want to learn.

Dale Atkinson: And so you're looking at potentially sort of health sciences yourself because you're in year 12 this year.

Tim Tuikaba: Yeah. Yeah. A bit of health sciences and sports. They've been really good at putting me in contact with people that helped me out with that. But a great example was Karnkanthi or Wirltu Yarlu at the University of Adelaide.

They've helped get me in contact with one of those guys.

Monique Miller: How long have you been part of SAASTA?

Tim Tuikaba: So I've been a part of SAASTA from year 10 until now. I do believe they're starting to implement a program called SAASTA connect. It's more of an entry into SAASTA.

Monique Miller: You can get those kids from younger years, kind of getting ready to get in.  How have you found your experience overall?

Tim Tuikaba: Overall I've found my experience really well. Definitely going to miss it for when I leave, like reflecting on it, I'm really grateful for having all these opportunities to connect with my culture as well as to be surrounded by other Indigenous kids and people that share the same culture with me, it's really [00:16:00] empowering and really motivates me kind of to, you know, like learn more.

Connect more with the students, as well as like power cup itself. It's like really great to see that many other students in the same position as you to come together and play the sport. And it's just really empowering, you know?

Dale Atkinson: So, so what would your message be to, um, you know, other kids 12, 13, 14?

Tim Tuikaba:  Looking to join SAASTA or.. Yeah, I'd definitely advocate for them to join SAASTA and give it a shot. It's really fun. You learn not only about yourself, but more about your community, other communities, how to really put yourself out there and apply for jobs. Just being more socialable as well. It's really good.

Monique Miller: What do you love about your school and SAASTA?

Tim Tuikaba: I really love that my school's like really  cooperative with SAASTA. They understand that I'm going to be gone one day a week. They kind of tailor my not only education at school, but they take into account that I have other work from SAASTA and they're really like easy to blend the two together, so like equal efforts on both sides.

Monique Miller: Yeah,it seems like, you know, SAASTA is there to support your learning. So [00:17:00] therefore for them to be accommodating is super important.

Dale Atkinson: Thanks very much for your time, Tim, and appreciate you coming in. Thank you all for listening. We hope you've enjoyed today's podcast. Don't forget you can subscribe to Teach on Apple Podcasts or follow us on Spotify. If you're enjoying the podcast leave us a review. Uh, you can also head to our website at education.sa.gov.au/teach where you'll find our show notes.

Monique Miller: Catch you next time on Teach.

Dale Atkinson: Cya.

10 June 2021

The move of year 7 to high school in 2022 is going to be a big change for our schools. Find out what one of our pilot schools, Wirreanda Secondary School, has learnt from the transition and what surprised them most about the change. 


[00:00:00] Natasha Paffett:: It helped that I felt valued with the skillset that I brought from primary school. And I had to continuously remind myself that I didn't have to let go of that and that I could hold onto those skills and still use them, embed them into my practice here in high school. And that they were still valued.

Sting: Teach.

Dale Atkinson:: Hello and welcome back to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson: from South Australia's Department for Education.

Monique Miller: And I'm Monique Miller primary school teacher at Westport primary.

Dale Atkinson:: We're four episodes in now and we would love to hear from you. What are you liking about the show?

What do you want us to discuss? If you've got any thoughts, send us an email at education.Teachpodcast@sa.gov.au.

Monique Miller: We're down south today at Wirreanda secondary school, it's one of the three pilot schools that welcomed to year 7s to high school in 2020, from 2022 year 7s will be part of high school for all public school students in [00:01:00] SA.

This move brings us in line with the rest of the country. Now it's a big change. So today we'll find out what's worked well for Wirreanda, what some of the hurdles have been and how they've overcome them.

Dale Atkinson:: Caroline Fishpool: is the principal of Wirreanda Secondary School. And Natasha Paffett: is a former primary school now year 7 high school teacher.

So welcome to you both. Thanks Dale. Thank you. So we came into this morning. I mean, there's still a little bit of a construction field vibe here at Wirreanda as you prepare for next year. Um, can you tell us a little bit about what's going on and a little bit about your school and what you're trying to achieve.

Caroline Fishpool:: So building wise, as you've walked in, we've been under construction obviously for the last 12 months.

And we've been really fortunate with funds coming into the school and also to increase capacity. So we kicked off this year with around 1100 students and we anticipate that will increase to a maximum size of 1300. So we've had a number of, um, building sites happening across the school, which has been absolutely fantastic.

And I think you know, ultimately teaching and learning wise the new facilities have really enhanced that work that [00:02:00] we've been doing as a school we see ourselves as a really, I think, unique secondary school. So we do say quite proudly that any student that arrives we can cater for really richly. So we are a complex site.

We've got 14% students with disabilities, 12% ATSI. We're a special entry specialist, sports school, one of two officially recognized in south Australia. And we obviously have an incredible disability unit and a special class program on site. It's a really rich culture as well that we have across the school and because of that and I think that's why we're also really passionate about bringing the year 7s into the school.

Dale Atkinson:: So you were one of the three high schools to put your hand up to be a pilot school for year 7 into high school. What's it like being the guinea pig?

Caroline Fishpool:: Being the guinea pigs been really interesting in saying that we wanted to be the guinea pigs. We were incredibly passionate, including myself as the principal that year 7s belong in secondary schools. Um, and you know, when certainly the rumblings had started a long time ago through the government that the year 7s were going to move, we were, as soon as it was announced, it was happening we made that jump and really put ourselves into the space that we want it to be considered to be a pilot.

So for us. You know, we'd launched into a [00:03:00] considerable change journey, which has been ongoing for the last six years here for us, with particular, with middle school transformation, and work we were doing in the senior school, the year 7s, were in essence, we felt the final piece of that puzzle that we want it.

Um, and hence, we went after it and we were announced as the pilot, which was really excited for the work we were doing.

Dale Atkinson:: And how's it feeling so far? We are just a little ways in, but you've got a bit of a flying start on everyone else.

Caroline Fishpool:: We have. Yeah. And we quite often talk about the fact that we've been in an incredible situation to be a pilot. We've been given fantastic support by, you know, different units of the department to actually make that leap and we've also done it with a few little baby steps. So think schools are raring to go and preparation mode at the moment to actually do that double cohort. And that's a really, really big step for schools coming into, you know, the move across south Australia next year.

Monique Miller:  I'm curious how the year 7 students have been fitting in? The

Caroline Fishpool:: The year 7 students been an absolutely fantastic addition to our school. We expected that. And I think one of the biggest surprises that we've had in a really nice way is how they've [00:04:00] contributed to the community in that they're kids. And it's been a really nice addition to the school and around the place, but they've fit in really well.

Natasha Paffett:: And all of the other year levels have really embraced new students as well. We allocated a specific place around the school that the year 7s could go if they needed to have their own space and not many students actually use this area, majority of them have integrated into the whole school and all the other year levels have been playing with them.

And, and. And hanging around them as well.

Dale Atkinson:: Yeah, because I think that's one of the anxieties that, um, teachers and parents have about the move. Is that how do you transition kids who are younger into an environment where there are adults essentially, you know, you've got 17, 18 year old kids at year 12, what's that dynamic like?

And how do you smooth that out?

Caroline Fishpool:: We were really bracing ourselves when we were preparing to bring in that first cohort of year 7s about that, there was huge anxieties. We were being told about the little, little year 7s coming into a big secondary school in saying that when we actually took the year 7s in, they were raring to go to come into a high [00:05:00] school, they absolutely were. The anxieties I think that we then very readjusted ourselves with the approaches we had were from parents and particularly parents that didn't have students in a high school setting yet. So what we did do, and I think we've aligned it really well with our year 7 move is, and we do have a vertically grouped house structure. So obviously we have, um, 7s, 8s and 9s within the home groups together. And then we have 10s, 11s and 12s. But what we have seen is a restructure of our student leadership and some structures across the school where, um, our senior school students do work with our middle school students, including the year 7s. And I think the year 7s have really embraced that as well.

Dale Atkinson:: And are there ways like transitioning the year 7s in has created opportunities as far as the whole of school environment, set up. Is, is it something that's kind of really stood out as a, as an improvement that's happened?

Caroline Fishpool:: Yeah, absolutely. I think I talk about the for us as a school daring to dream really early on was important with our middle school transformation piece.

And that was because, you know, we're making improvements with our, you know, senior school outcomes and we knew that we [00:06:00] couldn't get them. Um, long-term unless we actually had the middle-school transformation piece logged in. And I think as well, one of the big things that we've seen is. Student leadership and the opportunities, because we did do a complete restructure across the board of what that looked like.

And particularly our year 7s and 8s within that piece, whether it's about student voice every day or student leadership have been incredible. And I think sometimes we, perhaps when we were planning for the year 7s , didn't give the year 7s enough credit for what they could do when they come in to the big school.

Monique Miller: Yeah, it seems like they've, they're adapting really well.

And they've got the support and you're making the changes that they need and ready for them.

Natasha Paffett:: From a curriculum point of view, for some of our NIT teachers with subjects that band from year 7 to year 8, it's really easy to say the progression, if you've got the year 7s as well. You know what they've done in year 7 and you can progress them through year 8 and so that's really helpful as well.

Dale Atkinson:: Yeah. So you're feeling that. Uh, in your own practice in the classroom, that you're able to kind of provide some continuity and, uh, and really picture and step out what's going to happen over coming years.

Natasha Paffett:: Absolutely and what's been [00:07:00] helpful for me is coming from the primary school perspective.

I can also see the progression of where they've come from and see where students are at from that progression as well.

Monique Miller: What did you do with your leadership team to welcome our year 7s?

Caroline Fishpool:: Probably a few different approaches that are happening as compared to what we did. So there's some schools, obviously leadership wise that are restructuring to come in.

Once we got them, we did kind of front-load and fund resources ourselves to bring that team in really early, probably 12 months before. And we had the year 7s. So we as a leadership team restructured some additional positions within that vertical group in system that I talked about, and particularly the complexity, like I talk about with a focus here with individual student growth.

Um, I think probably the really clear thing though, when we were appointing those leadership positions was a really clear focus on, um, that, you know, people weren't being hired to maintain the status quo was really clear when we went looking for people and built capacity within the site as well, um, that we wanted things done very differently.

Um, it we've been, you know, really successful within that. But I think developing that shared vision within that, you know, daring to dream piece in [00:08:00] middle school transformation was really key for us.

Monique Miller: And you're also saying that, um, having primary school teachers come in has been super beneficial. How many primary school teachers have you brought in and what value do they bring to the school?

Caroline Fishpool:: That's a difficult question to answer. So within the pilot, we did specifically bring into early on and we had some different processes within that. However, in saying that we've always been a school that's gone looking for primary trained teachers and tried to work with HR and how can we, we can employ them because I think primary teachers have got incredible skills that some secondary teachers don't have.

So it was really interesting when we talk about schools being really clear about why they want to employ primary teachers. We do, we want primary teachers. All of our current positions advertised. We've got 15 permanent positions that are all tagged with primary teachers can apply for these. So very deliberately.

You know, we talk about that middle school transformation piece, individual students, and being able to progress individual students with some agility in classroom practice. We've seen that primary teachers have got those skills. When I talk as a principal, what's one of the biggest surprises that we were not [00:09:00] expecting.

We had completely braced ourselves and organized structures around how are we going to induct people like Natasha, et cetera, into this very different environment. It's a big secondary school. It's particularly curriculum areas. As soon as we got the primary school teachers, we had to do a full 360 and readjust ourselves because we suddenly realised that it wasn't about inducting them into our school.

It was about them maintaining their skills and sharing that with the staff. And that was a big shift for us. With the process we had put into place. We had to do a full 360 and readjust ourselves. Um, to that, and I think we've managed to do that well slightly.

Monique Miller: Yeah. So how did you find that induction and the transition?

Natasha Paffett:: It was smoother than I thought that it would be Caroline and the team here put a lot of things in place and a lot of induction days in place. And so it was, it was quite a smooth progression. I also think that it helped that I felt valued with the skillset that I brought from primary school. And I had to continuously remind myself that I didn't have to let go of that.

And that I could hold onto those skills and [00:10:00] still use them and embed them into my practice here in high school, and that they were still valued. And I think that was really important. And for leadership here to show me that they were valued, I think that really helped me.

Dale Atkinson:: What's the mindset and the ways of thinking that perhaps is different between primary and secondary, that you've been able to bring across.

What are you bringing to the table? I guess

Natasha Paffett:: There's a lot of individual differentiation strategies that I have brought from a primary perspective and the use of, uh, of knowledge of what each student, the level that they're actually at and how you would differentiate and cater for those students. I think that that's a key element seeing the progression of learning, because you can actually see where they've come from.

And we've got some students at our school as many other high schools where they're actually lower than the year 7 level. And so for myself, I can see where they've come from and have that knowledge there, which I think is really helpful. Uh, there's a lot of key pedagogical strengths as well about how you conduct lessons. And there are definitely some strength in breaking up, uh, tasks and the way that, that things are delivered as well.

Dale Atkinson:: Money's nodding so much. [00:11:00] Yeah.

Yeah. It's amazing. Isn't it? There's so many complimentary skills and have you found that some of the secondary teachers are seeking you out and looking to you for some support with the, with the year seven level students?

Caroline Fishpool:: We all do, don't  we? I

Natasha Paffett:: I was really surprised when I first came in, how many people pulled me aside and were asking me for really specific ideas and the way that they would do things and telling me their situation and what their class structure was like and how I could help.

That's been fantastic for me. I think that people actually value the skills that I bring. And now as a leader, when I'm doing observations and things that I can also give them ideas, which they wouldn't have thought of before, because I can, yeah coming from a slightly different lens,

Dale Atkinson:: Which as a principle Caroline is incredibly valuable.

Caroline Fishpool:: Yeah, absolutely. Hence why, you know, within the current employment process, we have certainly opened all 15 permanent positions for primary teachers to apply for them because we are, we are still on the hunt for some [00:12:00] fantastic primary teachers to bring into the fold as well.

Monique Miller: Before we continue the conversation and answer some of the questions our listeners have sent through Dale, what is making news this month?

Dale Atkinson:: Did you know, our website is full of new look year 7 to high school information for school staff, students, and families. Visit education.Sa.gov.au/7tohs for details on everything from enrolment to student benefits, country considerations and job opportunities for teachers as well.

Also on our website, schools can access a new suite of bullying prevention resources, including videos and printable guidance to address peer to peer bullying, the topics cover diversity, online safety and protective physical environments that reduce bullying incidents. Guidance is also available for parents and carers, which is useful to share with your wider community.

Uh, we'll put the link to those resources in our show notes.


Monique Miller: We're at Wirreanda Secondary School today, the school welcomed year 7s to high school last year with us, is [00:13:00] principal, Caroline Fishpool:, and year 7 teacher Natasha Paffett:. So in terms of curriculum, were there any areas of the curriculum that challenged the year 7s moving into high school?

Natasha Paffett::  I think in terms of the curriculum, I, I feel like they were you know, ready for what we've got to offer here. However, some schools and primary schools in the partnership might not necessarily have as much technological use or access to the technology. And so some of our students coming into a school where they're using technology more frequently, um, might be a little bit more challenged.

However they've quickly adapted. The students are now across all of our, we use Google documents and the drive and Google classroom. And they excelled in all of those areas. They pick it up very quickly.

Monique Miller: Have you noticed that there's been any difference between year 7s to year 8s starting high school?

Caroline Fishpool:: Yeah, I think like I talked about, I think, which has been a really nice addition, the year sevens are kids. One of the main observations I made really early on was year seven's being in the, you know, even when, out in the yard, when you go out there and they're playing chase and they want to interact with people on [00:14:00] yard duty, et cetera, meant that year 8s then started to go, okay, we can be kids as well. I think there's always been really big pressure in that year 8 age group, where they come through to us and there's pressure to be a high school student.

You're a young adult. And I think that shifted the year 7s where they are immature. There's a real rawness to them, which we really like. That's meant that the year 8s have gone yeah. We can be kids as well. In saying that they're much smaller. We said really early on compared to what we're used to and they need breaks within their learning and certainly we've been doing that as a school with some professional development around our long learning blocks.

Dale Atkinson:: So you actually need to think about how they're learning and their developing brains.

Monique Miller: Space for growth as well. Yeah. So it actually kind of leeways us into, um, Vanessa's question from Coromandel Valley primary school.

She has emailed us asking how play will be supported at high school. She says, she believes that play has often been reduced too early and that age appropriate playgrounds and equipment should promote challenge, activity, and [00:15:00] wellbeing for older age groups, she sees year 7, joining high school as a great opportunity to make it available for adolescents.

So to what extent can we promote play through high school?

Caroline Fishpool:: Well, that's a question that we could talk about for half a day isn't it? That's a great question. And that's certainly something that we can talk about because I don't disagree with components of that question. We, um, very early on had our year 8 interdisciplinary groups doing some research around that.

So one of the things we were talking about before we had the year 7s here is do they need play equipment? There's two sides to that part of that, we were hesitant to put in young base play equipment because they come into high school and they want that high school experience. But we also completely embraced the fact here that kids need movement and play time.

So our year 8 groups actually did some research a year and a half ago and pitched them to myself and some other panel members. So they actually went out into our primary schools and did research with 5s, 6s and 7s coming through about what would those students like to see? There are projects that are now going to be done.

And there was a whole mixture of kids [00:16:00] talking about, we don't actually want little kids play equipment, but we do want some equipment. So some of the things that the kids pitched were obviously the good old handball courts and they are going to be rolled out, um, there was certainly some um, equipment such as adult type swings, et cetera, including for wheelchair access, which is applicable here at our school.

And there were also some areas pitched in regards to nature areas where students can sit et cetera, and some kind of ninja type adult recreation equipment. So we are certainly going to continue to do some work on recreational spaces, but we've made a conscious decision not to put primary school type play equipment in because they're in high school.

And I think students are coming into year seven seeking out that high school experience.

Dale Atkinson:: You've had the year 7s for, for just over a year now. For both of you, what have you learned? Is there anything you'd do differently?

Caroline Fishpool:: I think one of the things that we also learned was not to forget about the year 8s, particularly in that double cohort move come in to next year. So as a school we've really embraced and tried to celebrate with them that [00:17:00] they were coming in as not the youngest cohort. Ever, you know, that's the first time that that had happened with a year 8 cohort. So we've really tried to celebrate that fact and with the year 8s coming in with the double cohort of next year.

Dale Atkinson:: Yes. There's a few rites of passage, things that you need to celebrate as well. Isn't it?

Caroline Fishpool:: Absolutely. I think I was worrying about budget allocations and strategically aligning visions, et cetera, and all the year 7s wanted to talk about was graduation and jumpers. Rightly so, because when we talk about rites of passage, that was what was important to them.

So, you know, that was, I think, a good adjustment for me at the start to make sure that I was not just focusing on those big pieces systems wise, but also the stuff that mattered to the students.

Natasha Paffett:: Coming from a primary background, I've seen year 7 students who've been eager to learn eager, to be stretched, very energised.

And I was worried that coming into a high school setting that would be dampened a little bit. However, that's not been the case. These, these students are still extremely eager to learn and be stretched. They've got a lot of energy movement's important within classes and lessons, and that's [00:18:00] been fantastic to see

Monique Miller: It's so great to hear that the transition has gone so well. And because I have been hearing from people who were a bit worried and a lot of the teachers from my school, you know, they're so little, they're not ready. And a lot of the kids are stressed as well. But is there any advice that you would give to teachers and leaders about the transition to year seven from seven to high school?

Caroline Fishpool:: Transitions are a really important area I think. Natasha and I were just chatting about this this morning. I think some schools do transition really well, it's one of those schools then, you know, transitions, not a new thing. So, you know, there's lots of discussion happening at the moment with the year 7s moving in about transition and so some schools will continue to do what they're doing in saying that there does need to be a really shared understanding across the primary site sthat feed into secondary sites. And obviously some schools have a lot of schools that feed into them, but that shared understanding of transition and what it actually looks like.

And I think one of the things we really embrace and model here is that transition is not just that term 4 transition days, it's ongoing. Um, and for us transition is year 5s and 6s as well before they get to us in [00:19:00] year 7.

Natasha Paffett:: Routine is  key. When they're coming into a high school setting where there's a lot of changes and they've got different teachers, different subjects. Within your own subject I think it's really important to have some familiar routines because they've coming from such a routine based environment into the high school.

Dale Atkinson:: Is there anything that surprised you over the last 12 months, that's really knocked you back on your heels?

Caroline Fishpool::  I think how confident the year 7s are early on when we were trying to kind of gather some different information about what we needed to be prepared for that so it wasn't gonna catch us out. I think we probably didn't give the year 7s as much credit as we should have before they got to us about how resilient they are and how confident they are. As much as I talk about the, you know, them being kids and that rawness that we really love at this school with them coming into the community, that resilience and confidence we didn't probably give them enough credit until we got them and realised that that was the case.

Monique Miller: I can say, they're going to, they're going to smash it for all schools. They're ready. We can't finish our podcast without my favourite question. Uh, what do you love about your school? Natasha, do you want to start? 

[00:20:00] Natasha Paffett:: Yeah. I love so many things about our school. Uh, one of the main things I love about our school is the passion of all of the teachers and the drive and the want for, to improve and success.

And that the focus is always around our students and how we can best support them. So I think that's fantastic. The other thing I really love about our school is the relationships that I have with so many of our students and we have some wonderful students. I think that really is what makes your day as a teacher to have those genuine connections.

Caroline Fishpool:: Yeah, I'll think I'm a bit biased, but I do love our school. Um, I think probably two of the things that I really love about the school is obviously community. Like we've talked about today and I think students and we're really proud to be a part of the Wirreanda Secondary School and Morphett Vale community in general.

Um, but also I think one of the things that that makes me really proud is that we're so future-focused and agile and we're constantly trying to with really clear purpose, get better at doing things. So, yeah, it's a fantastic school.

Natasha Paffett::  It is. It's an absolutely fantastic school.

Dale Atkinson:: It's so positive. And just what you said there [00:21:00] about being future-focused and agile, I think it really shines through, um, just your willingness to take on the challenge of, of having year 7 into high school. I think you guys have done an incredible job so far and, and listening to both of you, it makes me incredibly optimistic and positive about the transition next year. This is a huge thing for any education system to undertake and for any individual school to undertake. But, um, the way that you guys have gone about it and looking around here, the positive attitude and, and the great vibe in the, in the school is really just blows me away.

This is going to be a fantastic thing for you guys, a fantastic thing for the system. So that's great.

Natasha Paffett:: Primary school teachers give it a go. If you have any thought in your mind that you might want to come to high school, give it a go. It was a brilliant step for me.

Dale Atkinson:: Yeah, that's amazing. And that's, that's great to hear.

Thank you, Caroline. And also Natasha for joining us today. And we'll be back in just a few weeks time with another episode. See you soon. [00:22:00]


13 May 2021

Have you used our new curriculum resources? In this episode, we take you to the Education Development Centre where teachers and curriculum staff are simplifying the Australian Curriculum into localised content for your classroom to help you save time planning what you teach.


[00:00:00] Nick Kyriazis: He came up to me and goes 'man, this stuff is awesome, I can really concentrate on just teaching rather than trying to invent the wheel again'. And that's when I thought, yeah, well, that's exactly what it's for.

Dale Atkinson: Hello, and welcome to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education, and I'm Monique Miller, primary school teacher at Westport primary school.

Now in this series, we normally take you to a different school each month. But today we've got a special episode that's taken us to the Education Development Centre in Hindmarsh in Adelaide's Western suburbs on Kaurna land. You probably know this if you've done any professional development in the city, if you've come to Orbis, if you've done your RAN training in the city, this is essentially,  where we are.

Why are we here today Monique?

Monique Miller: Today we're talking about something that affects all teachers. Curriculum. Curriculum is what we use to plan, monitor and assess student learning. [00:01:00] Here at the Education Development Centre, new South Australian curriculum resources are being developed that simplify the Australian Curriculum to support teachers and leaders.

Dale Atkinson: And we're joined by Alex Semmons. He's the Assistant Director of Curriculum Development with the department. Welcome Alex.

Alex Semmens: Thanks guys. Thanks for having me.

Dale Atkinson: So tell us a little bit about your role, because you know, as with all these job titles, it can be a little bit opaque. So what is it that you do here at the EDC?

Alex Semmens: Uh, I guess simply my role is supporting our brilliant curriculum managers to develop, um, the advice that we're using to support all of our teachers and leaders across the state. And another big part of my role is connecting, um, with as many people as we can to kind of get their input and their support and their advice to make sure that these resources have the biggest impact, um, to supporting teachers and leaders and making sure our students get the curriculum that they need.

Dale Atkinson: So I was talking to one of my friends the other day, uh, who is a late career change, uh, going to teaching. So he started out as a lawyer did quite a bit of court work, and he's moved now into a, being a, an English studies and [00:02:00] a legal studies teacher.

He was talking about the experience of going into the classroom for the first time as being roughly akin to having a big trial case where you're standing in front of the judge, you've got an entire jury, you've got an opposition barrister. You've got media in the, uh, in the courtroom too. And he said the anxiety and the pressure that's on you to perform is really similar in the classroom.

So, how important is it to have a strong curriculum and planning tools in place as a teacher when you go into that court back slash classroom environment?

Alex Semmens: Yeah, it's incredibly important. I mean, there's the, all the research, you know, PISA, TIMSS, ACER they all talk about, um, making sure you've got a really visible, viable curriculum for the students.

And as important as that is, Um, the Australian Curriculum, um, can be quite complex, um, in many aspects. So, you know, having the support behind you to really know how all the elements fit together, um, how the three dimensions of the curriculum [00:03:00] can be implemented for each learning area. Um, having that level of support is, is, is critical.

Curriculum planning is a really difficult thing. So the resources are there to support schools and teachers and leaders to identify any gaps. Um, make sure there's no unnecessary repetition and providing that support so teachers really have the time to think deeply about the kids, um, the students that are in front of them.

So how do we take the Australian curriculum and how do we shape it? How do we really align it to the context and make sure that our kids can engage with it and learn and achieve in those high bands.

Dale Atkinson: It's interesting because ACARA has put out recently a fairly substantial review of the Australian Curriculum.

They've gone out to the public and said, look, what do you think of this? And, you know, looking through the media coverage, which kind of pulls out various different elements. The thing that kind of jumps out is the size of this product and the complexity of everything that goes into the Australian Curriculum.

Within that context. Obviously, teachers [00:04:00] need some support with the curriculum planning, um, and we've heard that within the department, which has led us to produce the curriculum resources that we have. Can you sort of talk us through, you know, what's being created and how that's being used?

Alex Semmens: Yeah. I think it's really important to know that and remember that all of our teachers are on a, kind of a different journey with their curriculum.

We have amazing experienced teachers that are super confident in doing just fantastic work. Um, we have teachers that are new to the profession, teachers that have come from a range of different backgrounds and a different experiences as well. So when we talk about the support that we're providing to teachers.

It's really important to acknowledge that, um, the wide range of teachers that are all kind of brilliant and doing the best work that they can. Providing these resources from the scope and sequence to the units of work. And then, um, the planning tools that really kind of a comprehensive package that will hopefully give all teachers and leaders an opportunity to really reflect on the curriculum work that they're doing.

And then also have some really kind of clear advice that's going to help move their work forward [00:05:00] as well and make life easier and make their time more efficient and more effective because it's just so difficult being a teacher and finding the time to, um, do everything you need to do to give the students the support they need.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, you talk about the scope and sequence documents. You know, if you're a teacher looking at this, what is it that specifically being provided how's that helping them in the classroom environment?

Alex Semmens: The feedback that we got from, from teachers across the state was there was a need there to make sure that the Australian Curriculum was accessible and easy to understand.

The Australian Curriculum is a great piece of work that's evidence informed and, um, you know, it's really robust and, um, helpful to our teachers, but the next layer to that was making it really obvious and easy to understand. So the South Australian scope and sequence documents, have taken the time to make sure the language is accessible, make it really clear what's thought at every year level, the key concepts and content and what to pay attention for, um, kind of stand out and taking every opportunity to kind of describe the elements of each learning area, the strands, the sub-strands and the threads, and make it visible, how those things work [00:06:00] together and connect.

We've also tried to bring as many kind of helpful elements into those resources as possible. So providing kind of a clear context statement about the learning areas and what's the essence of the learning area and breaking down the achievement standards. Um, as well and putting them all in one place. So any heavy lifting that we can do and put that into one piece.

So our teachers kind of have one document, can all be having the same conversations and, um, exploring the Australian Curriculum with real clarity when they're doing their planning.

Dale Atkinson: And I guess the piece that sits underneath that and the scope and sequence documents is the units of work, um, which are the doing, how do the units of work apply?

Alex Semmens: Yeah. So the units of work fit together to provide teachers with really high level advice for implementing each learning area at each year level. So a lot of curriculum planning has gone into that work. So all the units fit together and they provide that conceptual development and then really kind of targeted specific evidence-informed advice for teaching each learning area.

So what are the high impact strategies they're going to help our students learn the key [00:07:00] concepts and content for mathematics and science and HPE that are delivered in the most, um, supportive way, having that all in one place where teachers can feel really confident. That if they deliver those units, the way that they're intended, that the students who have, um, access to the curriculum, as well as the flexibility to kind of think about, well, what are my students really need?

Where are they up to? What is what's going on in my school and my site and how can I kind of tweak this and adapt it and shift it. Um, that really works for me and where I'm up to in my teaching and where my students are up to us as well.

Dale Atkinson: And I guess the final piece of the puzzle sits around, um, the support that's being provided around curriculum planning.

So if you look at the curriculum planning tools, what is it that teachers are getting from, from that product, which helps them to kind of deliver the work they're doing?

Alex Semmens: Well, I know the mantra of that work is, you know, how do you know and how do you grow? So, really helping, um, schools and teachers, uh, do a deep dive into where their curriculum planning is at, um, and there's four interrelated layers of whole-school learning area year level and [00:08:00] teacher.

And how do we know what we're working with? Really look at where we're up to and how are we going to implement the curriculum to avoid those gaps and repetition, and really provide the learners with the key concepts and content for where they're up to as well.

Dale Atkinson: The impressive bit about this work and the amount of work that's gone into it is that, I mean, this isn't something that's been generated from central office with us, just kind of thinking alright here's some great ideas, let's just plant these on top of the schools. I mean, this has been a very much a kind of grassroots built from the bottom up with schools and teachers involved, what are the benefits of having approached in that way?

Alex Semmens: It's just critical. There's no other way to do it. As I said, the advice is really targeted for every single learning area and it's written by teachers for teachers. So mathematics teachers, writing advice from mathematics to be used by their colleagues and I think the collegiality of this work is, is really obvious when you start reading through it, it's got this powerful authenticity [00:09:00] and it comes from a place of genuine help and support the team of curriculum managers are expert teachers and working with seconded teachers with current, you know, classroom experience, developing, you know, really high level advice that we know will resonate with teachers and really reflect what's going on in, in schools currently.

Um, and the other piece of that is working really closely with our principals, our education directors working with, um, Educators SA and our associations to get kind of constant feedback and input and advice on, um, how these uh, resources can have impact and really get to the knees of what's going on in the classroom.

Dale Atkinson: And we get to meet a couple of those teachers that have helped you um, very soon

Monique Miller:  But before we continue our conversation on curriculum resources, Dale, what is making news this month?

Dale Atkinson: Thanks Mon. Um, if you're liking what you're hearing about the curriculum resources and, uh, and other supports and would like to be a part of shaping curriculum resources and developing these products, uh, then you might want to take part in the curriculum development skills register. It provides South [00:10:00] Australian school-based teachers and curriculum leaders, the opportunity to work in the curriculum development, directorate, and contribute expertise and advice about curriculum, teaching and learning. You can have your say on the curriculum that can be taught in our classrooms. If you'd like to share your expertise and want to find out more, including how to apply head to the curriculum development skills register page on EDi.

Uh, we'll put a link up here in our show notes as well. Also happening this month. Are you looking for a contemporary way to engage students? And if you are, then why not learn about how to use Minecraft in the classroom? The kids bloody love it and, uh, they're all over it. So, uh, we've got some free training coming up for those listeners that don't know, Minecraft's an open-world game that promotes creativity, collaboration, problem-solving. Um, the course that we've got going is most suited to teachers of students from year three to nine. Uh, the trainings available face-to-face or online, but please get in quickly because registration is closed on Tuesday, may 18. We'll share the registration form show notes as well. And lastly, next week [00:11:00] is National Volunteers Week.

This year's theme is Recognise, Reconnect, Re-imagine. The theme highlights an opportunity to explore how volunteering might be re-imagined through more flexible and inclusive roles, including back on school and preschool grounds, now that COVID restrictions have been eased somewhat. To the more than 20,000 volunteers working in our schools, preschools and centres, of course we say are very big thank you.

Monique Miller:  Today, we're at the Education Development Centre in Hindmarsh learning about new South Australian curriculum resources that have been developed. Like many teachers, you may already be using them to help plan your classes. With us is Alex Semmons, Assistant Director for Curriculum Development. This is a huge piece of work and what I'm wondering is how did you go about creating these resources?

Alex Semmens: Yeah, it's, it is, it's a huge bit of work and the responsibility and the opportunity is so motivating for the team. It starts with research, you know, what does the [00:12:00] evidence tell us about curriculum and the importance of curriculum planning and what that looks like?

Um, what is the research and evidence say for each of our learning areas about helping our students achieve in those high bands and move their learning forward, and then lots and lots of collaborations.

Monique Miller: As all teachers know, time is precious and I guess this is fair to say that. This is going to be a real time-saver in the classroom.

Alex Semmens: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. From the feedback that we've got already from teachers about the great help, that it provides at that really high level about how does the curriculum kind of fit together? Um, how do all those elements combine and what does that look like for our students to just really kind of clear intentional advice around literacy and numeracy, and what does that look like in Hass and science and, um, taking the brilliant advice from those guidebooks and putting it into a kind of a learning area context has been a great help.

The hardest part of being a teacher is, um, the time that's needed to develop curriculum for your students to develop those resources and plans and this work really speaks to how much heavy lifting can we do? What does all the [00:13:00] resources and guidance and modelling that we can provide that gives teachers as much time as possible to think about the learners that they've got in front of them. And what are those each individual students specifically need? How can we take this resource? How can we use it? How can we adapt it to our students' needs to make sure that they get the entire curriculum? I think we're on a really exciting journey with this work.

There's going to be lots of collaboration over the next few years about um, the impact of these units and how we can always constantly make them better, how we can, um, provide better advice, better resources, better support, um, getting in as many teachers as we can through the, um, skills register to kind of contribute to this work.

So we're always responding to what's going on in every single classroom in South Australia and provide really high level, helpful advice that teachers can grab a hold of and shape to make sure it meets the needs of their kids as well.

Monique Miller: Yeah. Yeah. I absolutely agree and using these resources is not going to be a one size fits all.

We're going to be adapting [00:14:00] them to, to, as you said, to every child in our classrooms and for me, what's so important is building these relationships with our kids, knowing what they need and sometimes, um, you know, planning can be overwhelming as well as meeting all the other needs. Um, that you need to of a teacher.

I want to just go back to these units of work. How do classroom teachers adopt and adapt them in their classroom?

Alex Semmens: Yeah, there's lots of opportunity within the units to think about the advice and then what it means for the students in the classroom. The teacher tips, um, in particular, I think are incredibly helpful, uh, taking the high-level advice and then thinking about what does it mean for me and where am I up to in my teaching and where did my class look like?

So those tips are really targeted and draw on the experience of, um, the amazing curriculum managers and seconded teachers that we've got working for us. Or working with us, sorry to go you know, what have I learned? What have I picked up along the way? Or what's an opportunity here to do this a little bit [00:15:00] differently or what are some additional resources?

So, um, the teacher tips in particular, within the unit are designed to be really conversational piece between the resources and in the teachers using them as well. So I think, um, they're going to be, uh, an incredible support that takes the teaching and learning advice and assessment advice, and kind of opens the doors to how can we do this a little bit differently and how can we kind of cater for the different needs of our students as well?

Monique Miller: Now, I know you're releasing resources every September. You had some come out last year and I'm actually really looking forward to what's coming this September as a year four teacher. Can you give us a bit of insight into what's coming?

Alex Semmens: Yeah. So we'll have scope and sequence documents coming out for languages, um, across a range of those disciplines, building on the English, maths, HASS and science resources in years 3, 4 and 10, and our first suite of resources across years, 5 to 8 for the arts, technologies and health and PE. So, uh, really exciting that we're, um, working across all of the learning [00:16:00] areas and we can really get the curriculum implemented at a really high level right across all the disciplines.

Monique Miller: Amazing. I cannot wait to get my hands on those. So most importantly, where can we find them?

Alex Semmens: Uh, EDi. So on the EDi site, um, under the teaching and learning menu, there's navigation to all of the resources there.

Monique Miller: Thank you so much, Alex, as the assistant director of curriculum development, it's been so good to hear from you and now you've invited some seconded teachers in today, uh, to tell us a little bit about how they've produced these resources.

Alex Semmens: Yeah. We have Nick Kyriazis from LeFevre and Sam Moyle from Brighton. They've just been outstanding individually and then collectively all of our seconded writers, just a wealth of knowledge and expertise and current classroom experience just our work lives and dies with that. So it's just been absolutely fantastic having access to people like Sam and Nick.

Monique Miller: I'm actually a  little bit starstruck here. I've got one of my old high school teachers, uh, Nick Kyriazis [00:17:00] and, um, I was actually wondering what's it like being a seconded teacher and working away from the classroom on the curriculum?

Nick Kyriazis: Oh, it's been great. When I got the call to get invited, to write some material, I thought what a tremendous opportunity to check practice. And I've been fortunate enough to be influenced by some pretty reasonable, heavy hitters in, in, in around the maths industry. So it was really good to get that all down and then get it out to the maths community. It's a bit scary though, cause you're worried everyone's going to judge you by your work.

Um, but just to get it down on paper and get it out there and you have an opportunity to really place a microscope on yourself and it's quite humbling as well, I suppose, um, and realise where your own flaws are and to get that all right and, and share. It's been awesome. It's been really good.

Monique Miller: Yeah, we all sort of have a little bit of imposter syndrome stepping out of the classroom, but we, you know, you are the expert in your field and it's awesome to be able to share that with maybe new graduate teachers or really anyone.

These are [00:18:00] accessible by any teacher, maybe you're moving year levels or, um, specialties. And how about yourself, Sam? How have you found uh, working on the curriculum?

Sam Moyle:  I've really enjoyed it. I was surprised at how much I've enjoyed it, the challenges that it posed, uh, the opportunity to really connect with the, the research and the best practice.

Uh, I'm a little bit lucky. I have the opportunity to continue teaching point 2 at school. So I'm doing my year twelves and they're a particularly special group so I really wanted to stay with them, but I've really, really enjoyed this experience far more than I'd expected to. I usually like a challenge, but this has gone beyond.

And so I've been lucky enough to be seconded for a second term. I'm really enjoying it.

Dale Atkinson: Like looking back on some of the products that have been created, what, what are the things that you're most proud of, of having done?

Sam Moyle: Uh, I guess the, the opportunity for me to write a couple of new experiments and then to build in, uh, my, my ideology has been very much about innovative and dynamic approaches to the curriculum, [00:19:00] lots of hands-on and kinesthetic approaches. So being able to build that in and perhaps empowering teachers to be able to do experiments, particularly the challenge that, and to really engage students, as opposed to using a video, things like the iodine clock reaction, and I've even managed to sneak in the Briggs-Rauscher, or even if schools don't have the actual materials just to have that video, but to really show the forward and reverse reactions with chemistry.

And so, yeah, having, having those opportunities to, um, to create new things and share them.

Monique Miller: I do like the sound of, if you don't have the resources, we've still got, you know, a video that you can watch, that you can experience what it is that you're teaching.

Sam Moyle: Yeah, absolutely. There's a number of different options and I guess high tech and low tech as well.

So if you're, um, Uh, not advantaged by having the technology in the classroom. There are other ways of doing that. So there's lots of different ways to skin a cat, really. And so providing those in the teacher tips, uh, for schools to be able to implement.

Dale Atkinson: Well it's really about imparting  some of the benefits of your own wisdom [00:20:00] really isn't it.

In terms of you spent quite a bit of time in the classroom, build up a body of knowledge and understanding and wisdom and, in terms of what works and has it been sort of something that's enjoyable to be able to pass some of that information on to, um, to other colleagues.

Nick Kyriazis: Oh, it's been awesome. I've got two little stories.

I had a really fresh rookie and this person didn't know that I was one of the writers and I like Sam I'm teaching uh, just one class at school. Um, cause you've got to teach something, right? Like we're teachers. Um, and he came up to me and goes, man, this stuff is awesome. I can really concentrate on just teaching rather than trying to invent the wheel again.

And that's when I thought, yeah, well, that's exactly what it's for. And then I had a real seasoned, uh, lady, um, who I've known for a long time who was sort of stuck in the old way. And she's really now just changed their outlook. And most of the part is looking at this conceptual. Conceptualised way of delivering the maths.

Um, and it's really changed the way that she's done stuff and [00:21:00] she said she feels like a young out of uni teacher again, because she's getting to learn all the new ways, which is really good, which is really good. I was really pleased. And so they're the things I'm sort of proud of the effect it's having on the teachers that are already out there and getting them to come along with the ride with us.

Monique Miller: Fantastic. Um, what sort of support is available for you when working on these documents.

Nick Kyriazis: I've never felt alone. We're in a team and we're all bouncing off each other all the time. Um, our manager Catarina, she's always in contact and we meet regularly. If I ever think I need something here, I just can't think of anything.

I'll just send an email out to my network and somebody's got something. So, you know, we make these units, but they're definitely not a hundred percent ours. It's like, uh, it's almost the whole community coming together. Get these things out. We're just sort of a conduit sometimes. And yeah so the support is really good.

Sam Moyle: Yeah. It's definitely a collaborative thing. Um, we've been doing the same thing through teams, uh, sharing documents or websites that might be useful, but I also bounce ideas off of [00:22:00] the team back at school and ask for their opinions on, on how to deliver this. And do they think that that would be useful in the classroom and the support that I've had from my leadership as well to, to be involved with this has been really good.

Monique Miller: It really goes to show that it does take an army.

And for any, any teachers out there that are thinking of taking some time out of the classroom and sharing their knowledge, um, would you recommend teachers taking part?

Sam Moyle: Do it. Absolutely do it. It's been the most amazing professional development for me, the opportunity to really dig deep into the research and the best practice which we always talk about but don't always have the time to implement when we're teaching full time. So having that opportunity has been amazing and that's part of why I've been enjoying it so much. Don't be scared. It's been really good. And the flexibility of the work too has been amazing. It's lessened the burden on my wife as well, because I dropped the kids now off in the morning. Um, she can get to work, um, and then they get picked up [00:23:00] by their grandparents and then I'm going to work in the evening anyway. Cause if you're in the classroom, you're working. So I just catch a bit of time. It's nice, have the dog next to me most of the time.

Monique Miller: That always makes a difference. Now I almost did forget on this podcast we do like to ask, uh, what do you love about your school? What I did want to ask instead was what's one of the best things you've been able to do here that might help a school?

Sam Moyle: I guess, really challenge, uh, old sort of pedagogical approaches, uh, not to get rid of them, but to really extend them and then to incorporate the, the technologies, uh, and perhaps the more innovative pedagogies or newer pedagogies as well, but not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but to really combine and enhance the learning.

Nick Kyriazis: I spoke at one of our faculty meetings about, it's not about changing who you are and what you believe in, but it's about developing your practice into something so that it can evolve through time. It's not just sitting still. [00:24:00] And that's what I think these units are doing really well. I know their purpose is you take the whole unit and you use it, but, you know, we don't need to change experienced teachers.

We just need them to move forward with the education that's happening. Rookie teachers will need more but can you imagine if everybody goes on this journey, if everybody does this and I have no doubt in my mind that it would change the outcomes across every school, every student in the, in the state. Yeah. And parents seeing the experiences the kids are now getting, hopefully you can get more of that parental support at home.

I was just listening to the radio this morning and the data being pushed out was kids. They surveyed thousands of kids. I think it was in Indonesia, one of the Asian Pacific region countries. And it was the parents who supported that kid's schooling more at home, did better. And hopefully this gives kids a better experience they share with the parents and they get involved with it all.

Dale Atkinson: Yeah. It's just such a, such an important piece of the puzzle. Um, so I want to thank Alex, Sam and Nick for [00:25:00] joining us today. The curriculum resources are out there. I think, you know, the one thing that's really come through today from, from the discussion with all three of you, is these products have been designed and developed by the teachers who are out there in South Australian public schools.

And they're specifically targeted toward the things that we know are going to provide uplift and support, um, and a great outcome for our kids. Um, they're out there, they're free. They've been designed by your colleagues and they're really very accessible on EDi and also in the show notes. So it's just, you know, it's a, it's an amazing thing.

Please go out there, check them out if you haven't already. Um, if you're using them really think about whether you want to come in and, and help to, you know, design the next lot, because you know, this is something that we are going to be putting out and pumping out every year and updating as we update the curriculum.

So please think about coming in and, uh, and providing the support. So yeah, when it's a fantastic thing. Thank you very much, guys. Thank you. And thank you all for listening. We hope you've enjoyed today's podcast. Don't forget you [00:26:00] can subscribe to Teach on Apple podcasts or follow us on Spotify. If you're enjoying the podcast, leave us a review.

Tell your teacher friends, uh, or get in touch via our email education.Teachpodcast@sa.gov.au. You can also head to the website education.sa.gov.au/teach where you'll find all the show notes, including information on where to find the curriculum resources. Thanks for listening.

Monique Miller: Catch you next time on Teach.

7 April 2021

This episode is all about developing your career in education. We travel to Kapunda Primary School where along with career advice, you’ll find out how you can become a highly accomplished or lead teacher and make a positive impact on your school.


Dale Atkinson 0:00:07 to 0:00:16

Hello and welcome to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from South Australia's Department for Education.

Monique Miller

And I'm Monique Miller, primary school teacher at Westport Primary.

Dale Atkinson 0:00:19 to 0:00:29

In this series we will take you to a different school every month where you'll meet engaging educators who are working hard to inspire our students, and they may have had their own trials and triumphs along the way.

Monique Miller 0:00:30 to 0:01:05

Today we’ve travelled to Kapunda Primary School, which is an hour north of Adelaide on Ngadjuri land, we pay respects to elders, past and present. Are you an early career teacher like me? Perhaps you've been teaching for a while now and wondering what next step you can take. Today we’re talking about building your career in the teaching profession. There are four stages you can go through as a teacher, graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead. Shortly we're going to hear from two lead teachers, Belinda and Jemma about their experiences and advice for teachers, plus why you could have a lot to gain from teaching in the country. But before then, Dale, what is making news?

Dale Atkinson 0:01:05 to 0:02:36

Well we’re into April, so there's a lot going on first and foremost, consultation is now open on the next chapter of our workforce strategy. The workforce strategy is aiming to enable every person in the workforce to perform at their best. So together we can achieve growth for every child in every class, in every school and preschool. The focus this year is on designing a workforce plan for educational leaders and teachers. To help us shape this plan. We want to hear from you and your thoughts on the key issues, opportunities and also the barriers that are in the way of achieving our goals. You can have your say by completing an online survey, which we’ll share the link to in our show notes. Or you can submit a written submission via education dot workforce strategy at sa dot gov dot au. The consultation is open until April 30 and while we're talking jobs and developing your career, the department has hundreds of permanent secondary teaching positions available to start in the 2022 school year. This includes positions arising from the year 7 to high school move, So whether you're a public school teacher looking for a career change, maybe you're a graduate looking for your first job or a contractor to seeking a permanent role. And even if you knew to the public education system, you can apply for a secondary teaching position in a South. Australian public school. Applications open soon, so if you're a qualified teacher, keep an eye out for what could be your next great job at www dot education dot dot gov dot forward slash recruitment.

Monique Miller 0:02:37 to 0:02:45

Today we're at Kapunda Primary talking about how you could develop your career in education and why you might want to consider becoming a highly accomplished or lead teacher

Dale Atkinson 0:02:46 to 0:02:47

I reckon before we start that Monique.

Because you're quite an early career teacher at the moment. And I think you've got quite an interesting story in terms of how you got into the profession. So what? What made you want to become a teacher to begin with?

Monique Miller 0:02:58 to 0:03:24

Well, initially, I wasn't always planning on being a teacher but in that sort of important time in year 12, I had a really influential teacher, Anne, if you're listening, she truly made a difference in my life at that time. And then it became my dream to then have that impact on students in the future and yeah, that's when I guess I realised maybe I want to be in school for the rest of my life.

Dale Atkinson 0:03:24 to 0:03:33

That's understandable. But you, in terms of getting your break, your current position, I think essentially, you just made a bit of a pest of yourself.

Monique Miller 0:03:33 to 0:04:16

Absolutely. I was TRTing around the western suburbs at the time and working in some fantastic schools meeting students teachers all around And that's when I fell in love. I fell in love with my school and the culture, the leadership, the kid's effort, when I would go to work at that school, I just felt this magic. And I said, Well, this is where I want to be, went into the deputy's office and said, I want to be here. And if I have to TRT for four years, that's what I'm going to do because I want to be here. I feel a part of the furniture already so, and that's when they sort of said, Well, we’ve actually got a contract for you next year. So that was the best

Dale Atkinson 0:04:16 to 0:05:09

day. That's amazing. So it’s that combination, isn't it of like passion and persistence and really sort of being out there like it’s really about letting it known what you would like to do and demonstrating that to you, to your future employees. Really, which is a great story. You're doing really well out there. I know because I've spoken with your boss. We're also joined by Belinda Ramsey, who’s a lead teacher, national assessor and assistant principal at Roxby Downs Area School, and Jemma Worrell, who's the lead teacher and student wellbeing teacher at Kapunda primary school, which is where we are at the moment. Kapunda Primary in the Grain Belt, home to Map the Miner. I think also the town home to Is it the most haunted town in South Australia? Is that the thinking and we’re in a building that I would suggest is probably 150 years old? So any bumps in the night here?

Jemma Worroll 0:05:10 to 0:05:19

There has been some sightings in this building in particular, people have felt a bit of a presence. I've never seen anything but certainly heard

Dale Atkinson 0:05:19 to 0:05:36

Well, that's exciting. I think we can all feel a little bit more anxious. So away from the spooky bumps and over to Jemma. Jemma Can you tell us a bit about your role as a lead teacher and how it's different from other teaching roles because it's not something I think that's well understood.

Speaker 3 0:05:36 to 0:06:32

Sure. So my job now as a lead teacher and as a leadership member, at Kapunda Primary is to create that magic I guess that Monique was talking about. So making sure that that spark and fire that you want to help spread. So I think it's my job as the lead teacher at this school to help lead mentor, support early career teachers and to help them find that magic. Because we want more of you and Belinda And I were saying last night that opportunities that have risen from becoming certified and like today we've said yes to those opportunities. So I guess it's about constantly saying yes. The other role that I have gained from this lead teacher process is being a mentor for our early career teachers. And there's one particular teacher at the school who I've supported through, and I want to see her become credited as a highly accomplished or lead teacher because she is phenomenal. So that's really rewarding is creating the Moniques in our schools.

Dale Atkinson 0:06:33 to 0:06:39

So Belinda, you're also a lead teacher. What was it that it initially made you want to become a lead teacher.

Belinda Ramsey 0:06:39 to 0:07:36

For me it was about the culmination of my teaching career. I've been in teaching for 23 plus years, and it was kind of the natural progression for me. It was the next step. It was my own personal growth but also my impact on others working in a country site where we have a large number of early career and graduate teachers. I felt that it was a part of my my role and my personal responsibility to ensure that we maintain the high expectations that we have in all schools across all of our sites in South Australia, but also the exemplary practice that we see in classrooms it's so important for doesn't matter which career stage you're in your journey. It's about our impact on others it’s about our impact on our colleagues. It's about impact on every student that we teach. So for me, it was absolutely about supporting those and leading others around me.

Monique Miller 0:07:36 to 0:07:56

And good leadership is really what makes the difference in school as an early career doesn't matter where you’re at, if you've been teaching for 10 years, if you've got good support from leadership you want to go to school every day.

Jemma Worroll

And good leaders learn with, you know, they learn on the floor, on the ground with you. They needed to be modelling out, demonstrating and learning with you not telling you what to do.

Belinda Ramsey 0:07:56 to 0:08:25

Yeah and also the privatisation of the practise. It's about modelling, that exemplary practise and going in and doing classroom observations and the learning and the constant feedback because we're all learners and we're all growers in this profession. And that, to me, is one of the most rewarding parts of my role that I'm really passionate about. We need to ensure that our early career teachers have the opportunity that I guess Jemma and I had when we first came out in our first teaching roles.

Jemma Worroll 0:08:25 to 0:09:00

I think also the process for Belinda and I, we talked about as a lead teacher now, and Monique you already sound like you're doing this. It's just measuring your impact. So not, after teaching a lesson, what worked, what didn’t. How has my impact been measured and you reflect after every lesson. It's not just done and dusted. So you're asking the kids did that work? Did that not work? So you're just constantly reflecting on what you're doing as I guess a live learner. I think that's that's different from other teaching roles and that you're constantly reflecting,

Speaker 2 0:09:00 to 0:09:37

I think too, as a lead teacher, we’re kind of experts in the standards field. We know the standards inside out upside down because we lived and breathed it throughout our certification process. So the 37 descriptors at the league level Jemma and I could we could talk for another hour about those but we won’t. I guess just having that expert knowledge and sharing that with the people that we work with on a daily basis and bringing it to the fore of all of our coaching conversations and mentoring conversations our line management conversation. Because ultimately, our goal is to improve the outcomes of every student in every class.

Monique Miller 0:09:38 to 0:09:56

And constantly thinking about that throughout your practise, not just when it comes to putting together a portfolio or moving to the next level or anything like that. So I am really interested in the difference between a highly accomplished teacher and a lead. What's what's involved in that? And is it? Does it run as a timeline? Do you go to highly accomplished and then lead?

Belinda Ramsey 0:09:56 to 0:10:21

No, it's not fluid. Obviously, we start our teaching career at graduate, and then we moved to proficient. Some teachers might choose to stay at that level. Certification process is voluntary. So depending on what's actually happening in your site and your context, some choose to become highly accomplished or they choose to be lead. Depending on if they are running a lead project in a school again, it just depends.

Monique Miller 0:10:22 to 0:10:27

You might start the highly accomplished, then go to lead. Or, if you are leading in a certain area, you can go straight there.

Belinda Ramsey 0:10:27 to 0:10:36

So for Jemma and I. We both went from being proficient, proficient practitioners in our classroom context to lead.

Jemma Worroll 0:10:36 to 0:11:03

And the descriptors at the highly accomplished level talk about supporting colleagues. So it might be, I'm in my middle primary team and I might support the teacher next door. I'm helping support her, and I'm supporting her kids. At that lead level. It's leading a school, leading a group of teachers and having an impact on that more school wide level, so the difference is highly accomplished might be supporting one or two colleagues that lead is, I guess, leading by example,

Belinda Ramsey 0:11:03 to 0:11:07

which could filter into partnership level as well.

Dale Atkinson 0:11:07 to 0:11:24

Belinda, you're a national assessor, which I think is an incredibly intimidating sounding title. So I guess the first question is, Is it intimidating? And what are the key things that you're looking for when you're assessing teachers for certification?

Belinda Ramsey 0:11:25 to 0:12:24

Interesting question. I don't find it all intimidating. I guess I've been on both sides of the fence, so I've been through the certification process stage one and two and becoming a nationally trained assessor, I guess, it just harnesses more of my ability to know the standards and have that expert understanding off them and that deep understanding of what actually happens at classroom level and what we are saying with our impact widely amongst our teaching crew. Being an assessor has absolutely allowed allowed me the opportunity to network more widely within our department. Having conversations with like minded assessors about what we're actually looking for, and it's a very rigorous process that are aspirants at HALT go through and for us as assessors, we are looking for clear evidence of teachers alining their practise to the Australian professional standards for teachers.

Monique Miller

So what skills have you continued to develop by becoming certified teachers?

Jemma Worroll

One of the criteria to become certified as a lead teacher is we had to provide evidence within our portfolios of leading a whole school initiative that would have looked different for Belinda myself it was leading change, improving the pedagogy of teaching students with autism spectrum disorder. This school have made significant progress and growth with our pedagogies at that consistent level amongst all of our teachers. So in answer to your question, Monique, the skills that I've continued to develop since that time of submitting their portfolio is I've continued to roll out whole school initiatives and some of the things that I've done as a student wellbeing leader at this school is I’ve introduced wellbeing assemblies every fortnight to talk about wellbeing. And I guess, topical concerns within our school, topics such as casual racism, bullying, using great manners, the things that we're seeing in our yard. I bring to the forum every fortnight and speak, and it's a bit of a Jemma show, but the entire school gets the same message, and then we talk about it within the fortnight, which I've introduced. That sounds so it's so powerful. I want more. So those were just some of the initiatives that I think I've introduced, and I think having to provide proof of your lead initiative and that portfolio it hasn't stopped, like you just keep on saying Look, it's a bit scary. It's a bit out of my comfort zone, but I believe in it. I'm passionate and I'm going to roll it out in our school. So yeah, that's one of the things that that I've kept going since being certified.

Belinda Ramsey 0:14:05 to 0:15:27

I guess a skill at lead level and also at certified level is the skill of I guess diving into someone else's practise and knowing what we're looking for and aligning that practise with the standards. Also, I guess knowing our impact, the impact that we have on others, the skill of being able to communicate the language of the standards is really, really important when we're having pre-observation conversations with colleagues. So that's an area of focus for me is having the ability and I guess feeling very privileged, to be on that side and help support other people's practise and move them along and support them with their career. That's really exciting for me, the modelling of exemplary practise, using data supporting teachers to use data to inform their teaching practise is an area that we do dive into quite deeply at our site and consistently again using the language of the standards. Highlighting the importance of national certification as well. You know we want to be the best teachers that we can be and we have some amazing operators in sites across all of our schools in our state. It's really important to keep the conversation flowing about the importance of that. And we have a lot of teachers that are aspiring, aspiring to be highly accomplished and lead teachers. And Jemma and I feel that it's our role and our responsibility as leads to support with that.

And when you have the opportunity and I feel blessed in our site that we do have a large number of early career and graduate teachers, they're the ones that are coming through uni that have already put their portfolio of evidence together. They have a very clear understanding of the standards. They know about the career stages. And just because we're lead teachers, we don't know everything. So we learn from our early career teachers, and I have a really big respect for our early grad teachers that come out to our sites.

Jemma Worroll 0:16:04 to 0:16:05

Well, said Belinda.

Dale Atkinson 0:16:05 to 0:16:19

For those who are kind of on the cusp of this and thinking, God, this might be something that I'm really interested in doing, but well, it seems like quite a involved and detailed thing to get involved in. What's the What's the message for them?

Belinda Ramsey 0:16:19 to 0:17:36

Have a go. It's one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. It's actually the pinnacle and a highlight of my career to be certified at national level. A really big thank you to everyone in the national teacher certification team who supported Jemma and I on our journey. It's something you can't do alone we as teachers are naturally collaborators. We work together, we work as teams. We need to lean in and ask for support. Can you please come and observe me? Can you offer me some feedback on my lesson? How do you think I could do a warm up for this particular lesson?  It's vital that we have that. And for me, I really would like to get the message out there that it's really inspiring the networking that comes with being certified. Being able to attend HALT summits. So Jemma and I have attended two or three of those listening to Professor John Hattie talking about knowing thy impact. We know that that's what we do on a daily basis, and that's what we hope going through the certification process does for everyone that we work with is knowing our impact and that positive impact that we have on not only students and teachers, but also our parents and our wider community. And it filters out again to our partnership.

Jemma Worroll 0:17:38 to 0:18:05

That collaboration is so important. You do need someone to support you. You need to have someone hold your hand and you do it together. And you can do that with a colleague, a line manager, find somebody. But if you're thinking about it, get some support and go for it because there are plenty of pits of despair that you go through because there's a lot of work. But if you're doing it together, you're having opportunities to share with each other. You can get there, but you do need support for sure.

Belinda Ramsey 0:18:05 to 0:18:35

Our department provides that support to the national teacher certification team runs workshops, which Jemma and I both attended. And I think that's when I first met you, Jemma. You were presenting at one of them. So we have day one day two and day three, and that outlines the whole process from collecting your evidence to submitting your portfolio of evidence, annotating the artefacts and that stage one and then moving into Stage two, which requires a site visit from a nationally trained assessor.

Dale Atkinson 0:18:36 to 0:18:56

I don't have a teaching degree, but I'm going to email you about how I could become certified too. It sounds like an incredible thing, and you guys are so passionate about it and such incredible advocates for for all of it, I mean, it sounds like an incredible benefit for the school. It’s an incredible benefit for the teachers, most importantly, an incredible benefit for the kids.

Belinda Ramsey 0:18:57 to 0:18:57

Thank you.

Jemma Worroll 0:18:57 to 0:19:23

And look, teaching is a really busy job and, you know, finding the time to put your portfolio together is tough. You need to dedicate some school holidays to it, but highly worthwhile. And if you've got the support and some time, you've got to make that time happen if you want it enough. But as I said, we're both in leadership roles now. But this certification process and becoming certified as a lead teacher is still my proudest achievement in my teaching career this far.

Dale Atkinson 0:19:38 to 0:20:03

So we're also, I mean, obviously out in the country. We’re speaking to two country teacher's, country assistant principal Belinda on the way up in the car you were talking about working in Roxby Downs and going into work, dodging emus and kangaroos along the way. You’ve been to Kangaroo Island. You've worked all over the country and out in the regions What's the great thing about working in country towns?

Belinda Ramsey 0:20:03 to 0:21:29

There are so many, there really are. Jemma, you would agree, I guess being born and bred in the country for me it just means instantly you are supported and you know so many people that can help you, regardless of where you are in your journey. I remember walking into Roxby Downs Area School in 1999 and we had a staff of about 59 instantly, you know, 59 people, and then when you have your weekend barbecues or whatever you're doing, it's you meet partners and family. So you feel immersed in the community from day one, and that's exactly how I felt in all of the schools that I've taught in. And it's also getting to know the parents. I think they’re pivotal in the daily work that we do having our parents as a part of the process of educating children is, I guess, a number one for me. It's a priority to get to know my students inside the classroom, outside the classroom, what are their interests, who are there brothers and sisters, where they from before Roxby. What's their story? And how can we tap into that? And I think I have seen a lot of early career and graduate teachers come to Roxby that have fallen in love with it. I had a three year plan and 22 years later, I’m still there and still loving it and still a part of the community, so it gives you the option to become integral in the community in a range of different ways.

Monique Miller 0:21:30 to 0:22:26

So that leads me to why should teachers, maybe graduate teachers or experienced teachers consider working in rural and remote areas?

Jemma Worroll

I think that obviously Belinda's context and my context is very different. But we're both country. For Kapunda I guess we’re at a gateway to so many beautiful spaces, We’ve got the river 45 minutes away. We've got the Barossa just down the road. The drive to work is where I am able to reflect on my job. I am driving past the vines and I love the vines because without sounding like a poet, you really see the seasons. You've got the stark wood in the winter, you've got the budding green blooms in spring. You've got the fruit in the summer and the beautiful autumn colours of the leaves in the autumn. It's just it's a beautiful space, and we can link into those natural resources,

Dale Atkinson 0:22:26 to 0:22:38

Like the exposure to the range of different great things but different problems that schools face. So the breadth of experience is so much broader than it would be potentially in some of the metropolitan schools.

Belinda Ramsey 0:22:38 to 0:23:48

It is, and I guess we learned to be very resourceful. We don't have the opportunity to attend a training and development from 4 to 6 on a Wednesday night at the EDC, so we tend to tap into our local expertise. So it might be teacher stepping up and running, training and development sessions it might be tapping into Andamooka Primary School or Woomera Area School, depending on what we're doing. But we we really learn, to, I guess, grow our own talent and tap into that. I think that's very, very important living in the country where distance is a factor and distance absolutely comes into it. You know, it could even be if students are going on school camp before we get anywhere. It's a four or five hour trip. So I guess just having that in the back of your mind when you early career or graduate teachers come to I guess when you look at a place like Roxby it’s rural, it's remote, it's isolated and it is in the desert, so, you know, be aware of things like the heat in the summer and distances that need to be travelled. But so many positives, the beautiful sunsets.

Jemma Worroll 0:23:48 to 0:25:11

And, I guess for early career teachers that are thinking about heading to the country, I guess in Kapunda we've got when you move into a school that has so many parents and family members that are involved in the school, those people are so highly invested, their kids and for the community as a whole. So it's like a family around a family approach. And that's what happens here. We asked the why we know the families, as Belinda was saying, it's really invested that family feel.

Monique Miller

Now we don't have much time left, but I do need to ask you, What do you love about your school? Jemma, do you want to start us off? I’m looking around there’s so much, it’s so beautiful.

Jemma Worroll

Yeah, I guess it is about the community. So many people are willing to help for our students with high needs that don't have food. We've got community members that are making meals, freezing them. We've got local businesses that are donating money so that a child in care can get braces, they reach out. We've got local churches that are on hand. If I text her and say We've got a family that needs a meal, she will go to ALDI. She will get the food and she'll drop it off that day. So it's just We've got so many people that will put their hands up to say Who needs help? We're here. We're here to help.

Belinda Ramsey 0:25:11 to 0:26:10

For me, the camaraderie that we have on our our staff. We've got quite a large staff and we all work really well together. It's a hard working team with high expectations and every teacher, educator, parent at the heart of what we do every day, are our students. It's about working hard for them. It's about getting better at what we do every day and ultimately supporting the students and improved outcomes for all of the students from reception right through to year 12. But also we have the luxury of our students quite a few of them stay in Roxby and work because obviously we have the mine at Olympic Dam and for me I'm seeing that next generation come through. So it's really nice walking into Woolies in the afternoon and you get the Hi Mrs Ramsey how are you, and I guess you still have that connection and that contact with the students that you've taught. So I guess it's kind of like a big family in the desert.

Jemma Worroll 0:26:10 to 0:26:19

That’s right, and it's about the soul of the school. And if you've got the right team that are invested in the school like at Roxby, like at Kapunda, then it's going to work for the kids.

Dale Atkinson 0:26:19 to 0:27:15

That's great, thank you very much. Belinda and Jemma, you’re both incredible advocates for I think, working in the country and pushing yourself in terms of professional development and career progression. And I think I reckon we'll get quite a few enquiries and a lot of follow up off the back of this. So thanks to everyone for listening, we hope you've enjoyed today's podcast. Please don't forget you can subscribe to Teach on Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listened to your podcast, actually, or you can head to our website, which is education dot sa gov dot au forward slash teach, where you'll also find our show notes and there'll be a lot of them there, including some email addresses and things that you might want to use to contact and find out more information along with your own listening. We encourage you to listen to the podcast during staff meetings to generate some discussion. And we'd love to hear from you. So if you have a question we could all learn from get in touch and send us an email at education dot teach podcast at  sa dot gov dot au

Monique Miller 0:27:15 to 0:27:16

Catch you next time on Teach

Dale Atkinson 0:27:16 to 0:27:18

See you guys. Thanks for listening.

24 March 2021

We visit Pennington R-7 to learn about the Simple View of Reading and how it can help improve student reading outcomes. Plus, special guest Professor Pamela Snow explains the origins of the scientific theory.


Dale Atkinson – 0:00:00 to 0:00:16

Hello and welcome to Teach, a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson from the South Australian Department for Education,

Monique Miller – 0:00:16 to 0:00:19

and I'm Monique Miller, primary school teacher at Westport Primary.

Dale Atkinson – 0:00:20 to 0:00:30

In this series, we'll take you to a different school every month where you'll meet engaging educators who are working hard to inspire our students and make sure they are prepared for an ever changing world.

Monique Miller – 0:00:30 to 0:00:53

Today we're at Pennington R-7 in Adelaide's northwestern suburbs, which is on Kaurna land. We pay respects to elders past and present. Today we're talking about literacy. Shortly you'll hear from one of the guest speakers at this year's Literacy Summit about the science of reading. Plus, you'll hear from some awesome educators about how they've improved reading outcomes at their school. But before then, Dale, what's making news?

Dale Atkinson – 0:00:53 to 0:01:28

Thank you, Monique. As you just mentioned, the Literacy Summit kicked off last month for the first time ever. It was an online virtual event featuring literacy experts from right across the world. There are 13 presentations you can catch up on. You just have to head over to plink. And while you're on there, if you're a year one teacher you can register for our phonics screening check training sessions.That training is mandatory. There are three options to choose from based on your level of experience. This year's checks will take place in term three between the second and 27th of August.

Monique Miller – 0:01:30 to 0:01:48

Today we're at Pennington R-7 talking literacy. Literacy supports student learning across the whole curriculum and is fundamental to learning. Earlier, I caught up with Professor Pamela Snow from La Trobe University to talk about the Simple View of Reading and how it can help teachers and students.

Professor Pamela Snow – 0:01:49 to 0:04:04

Well, a Simple View of Reading is a theoretical framework. Can I say first of all, that I think the Simple View of Reading, the word simple is a bit of a misnomer. I like to refer to it as the elegant view of reading because it pares the reading process back for the novice to core skills and processes that have to be in play in order for children to achieve the final purpose of reading, which of course, is extracting meaning from text. So the simple view of reading is a formula, really, that's got two elements to it. One is the child's ability to decode or to identify the words on the page. So knowing that the black squiggles are in fact a code, that written text is a code for spoken text. So being able to crack the code that could be coding part of the formula and the other part of the formula is their language comprehension. And that's because we know both of those processes have to be in play in order for children to achieve that in point of understanding text. Importantly, the mathematical operator in between those two elements of the formula is a multiplier, not an addition sign. So it's not decoding ability plus language comprehension ability, it’s decoding ability multiplied by a language comprehension ability because anything multiplied by 0 is 0. So if you don't have skills on either side of that ledger, you're not going to be able to comprehend what you read. Or if you have weak skills on one or both of both sides. That's going to contribute to weakness in the reading process as well. So all children need to have capacities in both decoding and then in understanding what they're reading. It's possible to decode something that you can't understand. It's not possible to understand something that you can't decode.

The best example I can give you of that is the fact that I studied French for six years at secondary school a long time ago. I've forgotten an awful lot of my French vocabulary, but I do still know how French language works from a decoding perspective. I understand French autography, the writing system. So if you gave me a page of French text, I could read it out loud. But I couldn't really tell you very much about what it means, because my vocabulary store now is very thin. On the other hand, if you gave me a page of text in Arabic, I wouldn't be able to decode it. And therefore I wouldn't be able to understand it because I don't understand the autography of Arabic.

Monique Miller – 0:04:48 to 0:04:52

How does it provide guidance for student assessment?

Professor Pamela Snow – 0:04:52 to 0:06:52

Well, it helps us to break down some of the core component skills, and it's important to say to that more recent workers have broken down the simple view of reading into its component parts. A well-known example of that is the Scarborough reading rope that was produced by Paula Scarborough, back in. I think that was published around 2001/2002, and many listeners to this podcast would be familiar with the reading rope. But if they're not, a simple Google search will pull it up. And what Hollis Cabra did in that was to break down really the elements both in the decoding part of reading and in the language comprehension part so that teachers are very cognoscente of processes that they need to be addressing at an instructional level and also skills that they need to be assessing, um, in emergent readers. So if we look at the word recognition side of the rope, we're looking at phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, knowledge of the alphabetic system, the alphabetic principle, the recognition of some high frequency words that perhaps are leaning more towards what we might call less regular and maybe a discussion for another day. But it is generally thought that it's helpful for beginning readers to recognise a small number of high prescience words immediately on site like the word I and my and So that's the word recognition part of the decoding part, the alphabetic principle, technological and phonemic awareness. And then the language comprehension, part of the, um, Scarborough Reading Rope, which is also the language comprehension part of the simple view of reading, are factors such as the student’s background knowledge, their level of vocabulary, the extent to which they can understand their new syntactic structures to represent sentence structure and meaning, their verbal reasoning ability, their ability to grasp the fact that language is sometimes used literally and sometimes used metaphorically. So when we say something like, um, a piece of cake, we're not literally referring to a piece of cake on a plate we’re saying that it's really simple. And then, of course, there's also knowledge about print and print concept.

Monique Miller – 0:07:32 to 0:07:37

How can teachers like myself use the simple view of reading in the classroom?

Professor Pamela Snow – 0:07:37 to 0:08:21

It's been said that we have a language brain, but we don't have a reading brain, and I think if teachers keep that in mind, it helps to reinforce for them the level of difficulty that some children face in getting across that bridge. Some children will get across it quite seamlessly, it seems, and that's fantastic. But we have to have early years classrooms that cater to all children under the curve, and especially children who are packed closer to the tail of the curve and may need quite a specific boost in both of those components of the simple view of reading.

Monique Miller – 0:08:22 to 0:08:33

Absolutely. I can see in my classroom how some students can be fantastic at decoding, but their language comprehension just isn't there. So absolutely.

Professor Pamela Snow – 0:08:33 to 0:08:47

And they're equally reliant, equally important, and they're mutually reliant, so you don't become a successful reader if you've only got one of them, you have to have both of them.

Dale Atkinson – 0:08:47 to 0:08:58

Professor Pamela Snow from La Trobe University there. Let's go local now and hear from two educators who have embraced this theory. Principal Georgina Grinsted and teacher Stasha Andrews. Welcome to you both.

Georgina and Stasha – 0:08:58 to 0:09:00

Thank you for having us. Thank you for having us.

Dale Atkinson – 0:09:01 to 0:09:05

Georgina. Let's start with you. Why did you decide to adopt the simple view of reading at your school?

Georgina Grinsted – 0:09:06 to 0:09:34

Okay, so we had been working on the teaching of reading like everyone else for a really long time. But our results weren't really showing us that children were getting it. And so we knew that we needed to do something different. Two of my staff attended the literacy summit back in 2019, where Pamela Snow and others spoke. And in the process of that, people got really enthused about there's something new and different here that we could perhaps be looking at. We knew that it wasn't working, so why not have a go? So that's really where the whole thing started from.

Monique Miller – 0:09:34 to 0:09:39

And what was your experience with the simple view of reading? When did you first hear about it?

Georgina Grinsted – 0:09:39 to 0:10:19

Okay, so that was that was my first time. I guess some of my leaders, particularly my literacy mentor, had heard about it already and was already doing some preliminary work. We actually started this whole journey, though, on writing. So we started with how language works, and we wanted children and teachers to be able to understand how language actually functions. So we had done that whole as a whole staff, Um, and out of that, teachers started to say ‘I didn't know this stuff. I didn't know all of this information, so how could I teach it?’ And then they started saying, and I went to uni and I never actually got taught how to teach children to read, so we went okay, this is the journey that we need to go on.

Monique Miller – 0:10:20 to 0:10:25

My next question is for Stasha. How did the discovery of the simple view of reading change the way you teach?

Stasha Andrews – 0:10:25 to 0:11:26

Just building off of what Georgina said earlier. I'm an early careers teacher, and I had that same thought of I haven't been taught how to teach reading appropriately at uni. I hadn't been exposed to the Simple View of Reading. I had a pretty limited experience with it. So I've been on the same learning journey as everyone else, familiarising myself with a simple reading and learning about it. So I think for me, I now know the strands required to be a fluent, proficient reader. Through Scarborough's Rope. And I think one of the big learning areas for me has been understanding that vocab is crucial to making meaning, and it's connected to knowledge of the text. Um, so this is definitely changed the way that I teach changed what I teach, how I teach it. I've been focusing quite heavily on teaching vocabulary, one of the strands quite explicitly. So vocab’s been something that we've been working on as a whole school as part of our site improvement plan. It's also been part of our PLT teaching sprints and vocab being part of our teaching sprints has provided me with opportunities to engage in robust dialogue and discourse with my colleagues, with leadership and with our literacy coach here as well.

Monique Miller – 0:11:26 to 0:11:29

I really want to know more about these sprints you're talking about.

Stasha Andrews – 0:11:29 to 0:12:15

Yes. So we started with writing first on sentence structure. And then we’ve progressively made our way into reading. Um, so last year, we focused quite a bit on the vocab instructional routine and how we could work that into our daily program in our daily schedule. Um, so the instruction routine is all about introducing words and breaking it down, teaching it explicitly. Um, I modified the routine slightly just so I could focus on the more forms of the words a lot more. I added more activities to provide students with multiple learning opportunities to actually practice the knowledge that they were learning and actually apply it. Um, so we started with a vocab instruction routine, and now we've moved into a space this year where we're looking at comprehension. Um, and the complexities that come with teaching that.

Monique Miller – 0:12:15 to 0:12:38

I love. I love I've been teaching vocabulary as well, and to see that in their writing. It's just so fantastic and using it, and they're noticing it more and more of a upper primary lens, as opposed to what we think of, um, learning to read in the phonetics of it all. So, yeah, yourself as a upper primary teacher. Yeah, to sort of look at it through vocabulary and that more

Stasha Andrews – 0:12:38 to 0:13:28

sophisticated vocabulary. Yeah, definitely. I used that same term sophisticated vocabulary in my classroom as well. And it's been great because their writing has improved, their sentences have improved. Their vocab choices have improved where, you know, the kids say ‘Miss, I'm using more sophisticated terminology. I'm using more sophisticated words’, which is great. Um, so I've seen that change in their reading and they're writing, but I've also placed an emphasis on oral as well. I said, I don't want to just see it in your written stuff for your reading. I also want you using it in your oral language. Even the other day, I was on yard duty and a student walking around with me, and she was telling me a story about her grandmother, her maternal grandmother and I had explicitly taught maternal as part of my vocab lessons, which was great because she just naturally worked it into conversation so I could see her actually applying what I'm teaching. So that was really good. It makes it all worth it. Definitely.

Dale Atkinson – 0:13:28 to 0:13:41

So Georgina. Here we are. We're at a category two school with a really kind of diverse and interesting group of kids. Can you talk a little bit about the struggles that the students were having before you implemented the explicit teaching of reading?

Georgina Grinsted – 0:13:42 to 0:15:20

Certainly. Like I said, our data was really bad, and I guess we are a very data driven system. So for us as a school, we were putting in lots of effort and it wasn't actually going anywhere. So we really had to question What is it that we're doing? And is it having an impact? And that's really where the sprinting comes from because it's about teachers looking at one very small aspect of their practice and then trialling that for five weeks and then, if it doesn't work, getting rid of it and actually then replacing it with something that does. So for our children who don't have resources at home. They haven't got lots of rich language experiences. They're not being exposed to classic literature and good text materials. Despite the fact we were doing that old immersion concept wasn't working so as Stasha said what we needed to do was actually be more explicit. So the explicit teaching, I guess, was the fundamental aspect of what we changed and what we did differently. I also talked to my staff a lot about the fact that for children, a learning journey in a school should be like a trip around Australia, not a trip around the world, because there should be commonalities. There should be a common currency. There should be a common language. There should be sets of the culture should have things in it that are the same wherever you go, so that every year you're not spending the first term getting to know how this teacher does stuff. So I think for us, that's really been the next part of this is now we've got a consistency. Everyone speaks the same language. Teachers are doing the same activities. The sprinting brings year level groups together, and two and three classes are actually practicing the same technique with their children to see if it’s effective.

So for struggling readers, um, that whole notion now of being accessing the resources they need. So we got rid of all of the P M benchmark books, and we now use the decodable readers. So until a child can read, they don't see any other text other than decodable. And that's made a really, really big impact.

Dale Atkison – 0:15:39 to 0:15:49

What's the, you correctly identified that we’re a very data driven system. What's been the overall shift in those numbers that you've seen since adopting the technique?

Georgina Grinsted – 0:15:49 to 0:16:34

So we've seen improvement across the board, particularly by year three level alongside of all of this, we've also implemented a synthetic phonics program, which is called Red Write Inc. They have a program called Fresh Start, which which we've used as an intervention with our older children, because until children have the letter sound connection, until they have really clear phonological awareness phonemic awareness, until they understand all that, no matter what level they're working at, that was very I guess, that was an aha moment for many of our upper primary teachers. We can keep pushing away at what we've done. But if children have missed those basics, it doesn't matter how hard we push, it's not going to change anything. So that's I guess that's really been one of the biggest direction changes for us as a school

Monique Miller – 0:16:34 to 0:16:42

start of what benefits have you seen for students into using the simple view of reading? And have these had impacts on student outcomes?

Stasha Andrews – 0:16:42 to 0:18:15

Yes, definitely had positive impacts on the ship and incomes. I think the improvement has been as a result of our understanding of how this learning takes place to the science of reading and how to actually address the breakdown. Before I started learning about the simple view of reading, I didn't know much about it. I couldn't address or identify the breakdown, but now I can identify the breakdown. I can figure out the problem. I can figure out what needs to happen next for that child, and I feel that all of us teachers have been on that journey, and we now can identify the breakdown, and now we can give them that tailored program. And so now the kids are actually getting what it is they need rather than some other program that's not really serving the purpose, and I think as well in my class I had groups of students who they could accurately decode what it was they were reading. But they weren't actually understanding the words they were reading. There was there was no meaning there. But then, on the opposite side of the spectrum, I had other kids who were focusing so much on the word recognition side of things that they just cognitively just didn't have the capacity to take in the meaning. And so we've implemented the explicit teaching of reading. We've upskilled ourselves with simple view of reading. We implemented the program that Georgina mentioned earlier for the older students, and so it's worked. They've got the alphabetic code now. I had one student who worked his way through the program. He now has his alphabetic code. He's reading with more fluency. He can decode unknown words, and with that, he's actually more confident now. And he's more engaged in reading. Before, it was like a chore for him and now he’s like ‘Miss Miss Miss, when’s novel study?’

So I've seen an overall confidence changed demeanor.

Dale Atkinson – 0:18:20 to 0:18:29

Have you noticed if that’s had a positive impact on that student’s overall experience at school? Does the confidence kind of expand out into other areas?

Stasha Andrews – 0:18:29 to 0:19:19

Yes, it has. Um, it's definitely helped him being more confident with his writing as well, because he's able to read all of the background knowledge, and his fluency has improved as well with it. I'm just so proud of this child. Sorry. So he's because he can decode the unknown words, his fluency has improved. So when we are doing tasks, he's actually understanding the knowledge and information that he needs in order to write about the topic. So there's more confident with his vocal choices going into his writing. His writing is improving, so it's just it's just been a bit of a flow on effect for him, and it's not that he's forcing himself to participate. He's actually genuinely wanting to engage now, and he's actually excited about reading or his writing. So it's just been an overall kind of positive.

Dale Atkinson – 0:19:19 to 0:19:23

Sounds like the most incredible thing is that something you recognize in your own teaching experience?

Monique Miller – 0:19:23 to 0:19:58

Absolutely. It warms my heart. It really does just hearing other teachers as well, being outside of the classroom and getting to meet you and hear yourself talk about it. I can relate to it so much as well and really understanding what part of reading that they're missing, um, to have good reading comprehension. Is it the decoding? Is it the language comprehension and being able to realise that and fix it really changes, make some outcomes. Georgina. What impact has the explicit teaching of reading had in your school?

Georgina Grinsted – 0:19:58 to 0:21:36

Well, I think first and foremost, it's had a big impact on teacher confidence. So it's not just about children. If teachers know and understand what it is, they have to teach, then they're going to be much better at doing that. So I think fundamentally, it's been about that. It's been about confidence. It's interesting. They've been teachers who've come and have been resistant along the way because as teachers, we get used to doing what works for us sometimes, and not necessarily what works for our children. Other teachers have said, ‘Oh, you know I did university, Why am I doing this again?’ And other teachers have said you've actually made me a better teacher. So that that's rewarding knowing that if you take, this was a risk, you know this wasn't something that just happened. We had to. We had to take a big risk. We we had to get people, teachers convinced that this is going to be better. And in the beginning they had to abandon a lot of things that they had been used to doing. And that takes a leap of faith. So I'm really grateful that I had such an amazing group of teachers who wanted to take that leap of faith with us. Um, and even those who were reluctant in the beginning, like I said, have come to it and realise that they are now more effective in their teaching because ultimately we want, we spend a lot of time and energy. A lot of thought goes into the work that we do. But if we're not having an impact, then why would we keep doing it? You know, that's a bit like banging your head against a brick wall. Um, so that's been a really big change. Like I said, the consistency there we now have the language that we all speak. The fact that the conversations in the staff room have changed, the conversations that I have with teachers are changing, and that's really important.

And then the flow on effect of when you see children for the Read Write Inc program, for example, we've just done a new round of testing because obviously we've got new children into our school for the start of the year. And children who come racing up and go I've moved from the pink group to the, you know, to see little ones really, really excited and know that they're progressing. You know, I think for many of our children they used to come to school and they didn't actually know whether they were making any difference for themselves. Um, so I think there's been just a very positive change to the culture of the school. Um and also that's had a, you know, an outgoing impact on the achievements and the results.

Monique Miller – 0:22:14 to 0:22:30

You’re so right, that consistency is key. And when you find something good, you really want it to run from reception, right through to year 7. Yes, Absolutely, So ladies, what advice would you give to a teacher or a school considering assessing and using the simple view of reading?

Georgina Grinsted – 0:22:31 to 0:23:15

Let's start from the whole school perspective. I think you need to take a risk. You need to say what we're doing isn't working. We need to do something different. And so, as the leader, you need to have that vision. Then, in my case, I've got an amazing team around me. Um, we chose because there was no real training and development we could access externally around this. We chose to do it ourselves. So we chose to upskill ourselves so that we could upskill teachers so that they could up skill children. So it has to be on all of those levels. Um, and basically, you need people who are willing to be learners who are willing to be vulnerable, who are willing to take on the challenge. Um, and willing to say, ‘you know what? This isn't working, so I'm going to try something different.’ That to me, I think is fundamental, Stasha?

Stasha Andrews – 0:23:15 to 0:23:34

I think from my perspective and maybe even the perspective of early careers teacher as well, I think one of my biggest things is make sure that you know and understand how our language works, have a good grasp of the of the language and also have a good grasp of how best the teacher, how students learn at best.

You know, we didn't learn a lot of this stuff at uni. Um, and so go out. Do your homework, do your research. And it's a journey. You're not gonna get it just like that. You've got to keep keep at it and keep learning. Um, you know, we've been on that journey now as a school for the last couple of years, and I think the science and the research is really clear on what we need to know and do to make a difference. It's just a matter of looking at the research. Look at evidence based practice and just give things a go. Just give it a go, trial it out and see how you go.

Monique Miller – 0:24:03 to 0:24:13

I love that. And finally, I have one last question which we're going to ask at the end of all our podcasts. What is one thing that you love about your school?

Georgina Grinsted – 0:24:13 to 0:24:39

Wow. Um, there are lots of things. I don't know that I can name it in one. But I do think going back to what I just said before, I do think it's about the commitment of my staff to make a difference for children, you know. As a category two school these children need all the help they can get. And everybody here I know comes to school every single day to do their very best for kids. And as a leader, I couldn't ask for better than that.

Stasha Andrews – 0:24:39 to 0:25:08

Look, I mean, I can't pick just one thing. I really, really love working here. I really love this school, and I love a lot about it. Um, but I think I would be I think I would agree with Georgina. I love how dedicated how committed we all our staff members. It's just even like Georgina said, the conversations in the staff room are changing. Everything we do is for the betterment of our kids, and that's probably one of my favourite things. Just how hard we're working to make sure that we have better outcomes for our students.

Dale Atkinson – 0:25:09 to 0:26:21

What I think walking in here this morning, like the enthusiasm and the energy kind of really just shows through it. I think it's just such an incredible place you've got here and the way the kids are kind of interacting. It's just such a positive vibe, and I think there's so many great things that are going on. So, um yeah, so thank you very much for your time and taking time out of the classroom. So I'd like to thank Georgina and Stasha for sharing their experience of teaching in South Australia and trying something new in the classroom. It's been fantastic hearing about how you both used and adopted the simple view of reading to improve outcomes for your students. Just a reminder to everyone that the simple view of reading is addressed in the advanced phonic screening check training session, which you can register for on plink. Thanks to everyone out there who is listening. We hope you've enjoyed today's podcast. Don't forget, you can subscribe to Teach on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts or head to our website education.sa.gov.au/teach. And we'd love to hear from you. If you have a question we could all learn from get in touch with us via Twitter or  Facebook or email us at Education.TeachPodcast@sa.gov.au.

Catch you next time on Teach.

4 March 2021

Join us for an open discussion about life as an educator in South Australia and the best educational approaches to drive quality learning. Episodes will be released monthly. Remember to subscribe via your favourite podcast app.


Dale Atkinson – 0:00:05 to 0:00:59

Welcome to Teach – a podcast about teaching and learning in South Australia. I'm Dale Atkinson, from South Australia's Department for Education. In this series, you'll hear from expert educators who have tried, failed and triumphed, and have the scars and gold stars to show for it.

There are around 30,000 educators working across more than 900 schools and preschools in this state, and this podcast is an open discussion about the strategies that they're using to improve outcomes for every child in every classroom. We'll take you to a different school each month where you'll meet engaging teachers who are working hard to inspire our students and make sure that they're prepared for an ever-changing world.

You can subscribe to the teach podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you download your podcasts. You can also get in touch with us by emailing education.TeachPodcast [at] sa.gov.au or on Facebook. Can't wait to speak soon.

Teach Podcast Team

Phone: 8226 1011
Email: Education.TeachPodcast [at] sa.gov.au