Principal's Blog - 2 August 2018

30 Jul 2018

Dear members of the Marcellin College family,

Recently I sent a message to you detailing the findings of the Review of Marcellin College conducted by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). The specific focus of this review was to develop an understanding of the effectiveness of the broader educational environment of Marcellin in meeting the needs of our students and supporting them to reach their full potential. The ACER reviewers compared our College across nine domains against International best practice. The result of this is a list of affirmations, commendations and recommendations which I have provided to you in my recent Principal’s message.

As with any review there were areas which the College compared favourably with best practice and others where there is still work to be done to continue to meet the high standards we set for ourselves. Now is when the real important work begins. As a College community we are currently reflecting on the feedback provided by ACER which will strongly influence our Colleges strategic plan. Once this plan has been developed I will communicate to you the Colleges’ vision and strategic intent for the next 3 years, with a strong emphasis on the development of best practice in learning and teaching.

I thought it might be useful to provide to with an insight into some of the more detailed finding of the review. I have chosen two domains where we received contrasting results. The first is in the domain of School-community Partnerships where the College proved to be an exemplar when compared with international standards. The second is in the Analysis and Discussion of Data where the findings showed that while the College was engaged in the use of data to better know our students and support better educational outcomes, there is still work to be done to bring us into line with best practice in this important area. Below you will find a summary of the findings from these two domains along with the recommendations for continued improvement presented by the ACER team.

School-community partnerships - Findings

  • It is evident within the network of community partnerships the college has created that there is a strategic intent to provide opportunities for students to access learning relevant to the full expression of the Marcellin vision for learning.
  • The Marcellin Foundation provides opportunities for the Catholicity of the school to be lived by supporting those in need. The Foundation initiates fundraising to support the bursary fund that supports families who require assistance. The Foundation office works to build cohesion and the continuity of commitment to the Marcellin characteristics. There is a concerted effort to provide opportunities for parents and students to be connected to the community beyond the formal curriculum. This is in keeping with the vision: ‘In partnership with families, we nurture our students as they grow from boys to fine young men.’
  • As part of a commitment to providing pathways for students, Marcellin has partnerships with universities such as LaTrobe, Swinburne, and ACU to assist students in gaining entry to university.
  • The range and scale of community focussed programs is significant and evident within the calendar of events and the number of outreach opportunities available to the boys. These are resourced by an extensive commitment by both the teaching and non-teaching staff.
  • The junior school has structured an inclusive and comprehensive transition program for students arriving from Year 6. The program is proactive in reaching out to its partner primary schools and to families arriving from elsewhere.

School-community partnerships - Recommendations

Review the sustainability and relevance of co-curricular events and partnerships for their strategic connection to the explicit intentions of the college and the resources available.

Analysis and Discussion of Data - Findings

  • The leadership team has documented its expectations that data are critical to the improvement of student learning. To this end, the team has contracted an external consultant to work (currently) with teachers to analyse data.
  • Marcellin College is committed to the analysis and discussion of data on student achievement at school-wide, learning area, and classroom level. Heads of Learning, Heads of House and the Assistant Principal-Learning (AP-Learning) have a shared set of responsibilities in this area. Some middle leaders report that they are currently engaging with data to complete in- depth analysis of VCE trends within and across key learning areas as a means of informing future directions. Some teachers are also applying data analysis to their planning and teaching of units.
  • Some use is being made of Accelerus and Synergetic tools for the storage of data. House leaders confirm that data on student wellbeing are shared actively within Houses and with the class teachers as required.
  • Diagnostic data sets such as Pat-M, Maths Pathways, Pat-R, English Perfect, and ACER placement tests complement summative data collection and are used to diagnose starting points. The Learning support team uses data sets to develop Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) for students with identified learning needs, to both accelerate progress and remediate gaps.
  • The Schoolbox software programme is being phased in across the school and it is expected to complement and integrate with the current Synergetic software. Staff are taking part in training to enhance their understanding of Schoolbox capabilities in terms of data analysis, aggregation, and reporting to parents.
  • Data showing the overall levels of participation in co-curricular programs are collected and celebrated as evidence of student learning and participation in support of the non-academic areas of growth identified in the school’s vision for learning.
  • Learning support officers and leaders provide comprehensive data regarding target students to mainstream teachers and seek to engage in conversations with teachers to unpack and understand how data might be used by teachers to personalise learning.

Analysis and Discussion of Data - Recommendations

Agree on a sharp, narrow, enduring focus for school-wide learning improvement at the college from an analysis with staff of the current data on student achievement. Develop measures for its tracking over time at regular intervals and set targets that authentically focus teachers on these targets in their daily work.

Build staff capacity in the use of data, especially in relation to the agreed explicit improvement agenda. Skill middle leaders in the process of faculty-based data review. Assign responsibility for the ongoing support and monitoring of these processes from a senior leadership level

Mark Murphy