These three case studies highlight the impact a number of the initiatives and programs have had for students across primary school, high school and college.
ACT Primary School Case Study
Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL)
A primary school in the ACT commenced its Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) journey in 2015. Working with the Directorate Student Wellbeing team and the PBL coaches, the staff at the school started by developing matrices that described the behaviour they wanted to see in the general parts of the school (playground, canteen, front office, hall etc.). This did not address classroom behaviours at this stage. The staff collaboratively came up with three focus areas:
- We are Safe;
- We are Respectful
- and We are Learners.
The challenge was then to work with all members of the school community: teachers, support staff, students and parents, to clearly and explicitly describe what those behaviours looked like and sounded like. The agreed language was written in explicit, easy to understand and positive terms. Large posters were created which were displayed in the general areas of the school.
As the Principal described “The children own this, they came up with the language and they understand what it means. It has given the whole school a language. 100% of our teachers are on board. It has meant all teachers, including relief teachers can set clear expectations around behaviour and all students understand what is meant by those expectations”.
PBL is one of two focus areas for the school’s strategic plan to make sure it is embedded in everything they do.
The school had a big launch with 200 guests including parents, students, staff, staff from other schools, representatives from the Directorate and former Minister for Education, Shane Rattenbury. As the Principal described “There was a carnival atmosphere to the night. Our community, our staff and our students have been consulted at every step and they feel proud of what we have all achieved together. Celebrating this significant success is a key to recognising what our community has achieved”.
The school still adopts an explicit Social Emotional Learning program that seamlessly fits within the PBL model. Restorative Practices, Circle Time, Friendly Schools Plus, and Bullying No Way programs also fit well within this model.
The School is the first pilot school to work with ‘Uplifting Australia’, receiving a $40,000 grant to implement a school wellbeing program to improve the emotional wellbeing and resilience of students. This program is facilitated by a member of staff and is a Social Emotional Learning Program involving parents as a central element. The Principal describes the program, stating “A key strategy are ‘hang outs’ where our children write invitations to parents to come into the school to hang out, where they participate with their children in welcoming games and getting to know you activities. The children write their parents letters and their parents write them letters telling each other what they are proud about and what they honour about them. Parents and their children then are together in a facilitated talking circle. It is absolutely inspiring to see the joy and positive outcomes of this.” Fifty families from the junior school and twenty families from the senior school attended.
The school has also created a Safe Sensory Space they call the Burrow. As the Principal clearly states “This is not a punitive space, it is a safe calming space that our children can go to when they need support from the executive team or time to cool down. Students can self refer by asking their teacher for a “safe pass” to leave the classroom. It has significantly reduced our absconding rates”. The school is working with an Occupational Therapist from the Network Student Engagement Team from the Education Directorate to design sensory spaces for classrooms and for an outside sensory space for which they have received a grant.
ACT P-10 School
At the heart of this ACT P-10 school is a shared philosophy and values of Inclusion, Respect, Teamwork, Endeavour, Resilience and Integrity. This is evident in the language used in interactions, in the social and emotional skills that are explicitly taught, and in the values that are prominently displayed in every classroom around the school. As the principal states; “Inclusion underpins everything we do. We teach children explicitly what it means to be a community member. This means how you try your very best with your learning, how you are impacted by others and how you impact other people”.
This P-10 School inducts their teachers very carefully into the inclusive philosophy of the school; that everyone belongs and the richness of the school comes from the diversity within it. The school works very hard to ensure that teachers new to the school understand that the school is a place of learning, sometimes that learning involves learning behaviours, sometimes it is learning academically and other times it is learning about values. The Principal is up front with teachers visiting the school to ensure that their philosophy of inclusion aligns with the philosophy of the school.
The school ensures teachers are supported to develop an inclusive vision and inclusive practice through universal practices. All staff train in Team Teach and in differentiation and personalised learning approaches. The school funds specialist teachers including a Student Engagement Coach and a Teaching and Learning Coach to work alongside teachers in the classroom. The school has developed a strong partnership with the University of Canberra for Occupational Therapy students to work with teachers in classrooms to support the needs of students. The school does not advocate for a withdrawal model and specialist teachers work within the mainstream classrooms.
Learning support units are co-located in the learning pods and inclusion into the mainstream classrooms is maximised depending on learning and social needs. Learning Support Assistants belong to a class, not a student and their role is to support the teacher to meet the needs of all students.
The principal is very open with prospective parents that the school is an inclusive school. They acculturate parents into their school values right from pre-school, discussing values and vision and outlining the supports that the school provides to make this successful.
Regular student support meetings are held, involving all staff working with a child to collaboratively discuss the most effective learning plan to meet the child’s needs. This involves teachers, learning support assistants, the school psychologist, executive teacher and deputy principal. The Directorate’s Network Student Engagement Team (NSET), a multidisciplinary support team is engaged by the school to assist them in this process. The students are also involved in developing their Individual Learning Plan (ILP) so they have ownership over their learning goals. The Principal emphasises “Strong communication and collaboration is key to an inclusive school”.
This ACT College uses a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to support student wellbeing, a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behaviour needs. The RTI process begins with high quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom and moves to targeted support as required. This approach is supported by the Student Services Team.
The Student Services Team consists of a School Leader who oversees the team and programs; four Year Coordinators who support student academic, social and emotional wellbeing; School Psychologist; Moving Forward Officer; Assessment Certification Officer and administration staff who manage attendance, files and case notes. The team is responsible for working with teachers and support staff to build capacity and implementing whole school programs such as the Mind Matters mental health framework.
A second team, the Foundations Team manages two Learning Support Units (LSUs), a Learning Support Centre (LSC) and the mainstream Inclusion Support Program (ISP). An executive teacher for the Foundations Program oversees the teachers, Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) and the programs.
Both the Student Services Team and Foundations Team work collaboratively together using a case management approach to ensure that students with additional needs are identified, and supported through the Student Centred Appraisal of Need (SCAN) and Individual Learning Plan (ILP) process. They also build the capacity of teachers and Learning Support Assistants to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of students. The team has developed a strong relationship with the Directorate’s Student Engagement Branch to access programs and specialist support through the Network Student Engagement Team (NSET).
The school has developed a Refugee Bridging Program to meet the specific needs of refugee students. They have developed a partnership with Companion House to support a number of students who have experienced significant trauma. The school has also employed a social worker to work with these students and their families.