Making a Difference - Lambton High School

This case study looks at the steps (‘recipe’), Lambton High School (LHS), put in place based on research, evidence, collective feedback, collaborative practices and quality professional learning to achieve successful, sustainable change in teaching and learning to improve learning progress; and for the purposes of this case study, HSC results. It highlights from the ‘recipe’ the key takeaways identified as having the most impact /effectiveness on driving the shift for each step or stage of the ‘recipe’s’ makeup.

The ‘recipe’ was based loosely on Thomas R Guskey’s five critical levels of professional development evaluation (Does It Make a Difference? Evaluating Professional Development, Educational Leadership, March 2002). Guskey’s levels provided a framework and direction for the school ‘s leadership team to work in and was introduced to the team by the HT T&L who guided and coordinated the process 2014-2018 with the support, management and vision of the senior executive.

Following is a visual tool (graphic organiser), outlining the ‘recipe’ applied at LHS to shift learning progress. Column 1 identifies the 7 steps/stages in the process. Column 2 provides the key takeaways as catch cries (easy to remember), and column 3 outlines the actions put in place at LHS at each step or stage of the ‘recipe”. 

It is important to note:

  • The graphic organiser following was developed for the purpose of presenting the process of change undertaken by LHS in a 30-minute workshop to achieve improvement in HSC results.  The organiser captures a simplified overview of the complex amount of work undertaken by the dedicated staff at LHS over five years to achieve the improved HSC results of 2016 -2018.

For a successful shift in learning progress to occur using this ‘recipe” and to achieve stage 7 (improved student outcomes), every one of the 6 stages in the graphic organiser must be addressed and implemented.  Experience shows Step 4 - Organisational Support is paramount as without explicit operational processes  i.e. the strategic learning guides school policy in that area and resources are provided to embed i.e. ongoing, collaborative PL and extensive time for staff to share and transfer the learning successfully into teaching and learning practice, combined very importantly with the leading learners of the school openly supporting, facilitating and progressively monitoring the impact of learning, the skills and knowledge provided to staff via PL will falter at the beginning stages of Step 5 – Changes to Teaching Practice – at best, the strategic learning informs teaching.

Overview Lambton High School (LHS), 2014-2019

  • Students

Lambton HS is a comprehensive, co-educational Years 7-12 public high school located in Newcastle NSW. The school population on average is 1150 with students coming from diverse backgrounds. Up to 10% identify as Aboriginal, 15% come from a  language background other than English. There is a Special Education Unit with Year 7-12 ED, Autism & Multi Categorical classes; academic classes in Years 7 to 10; selective GAT CAPA classes in Years 7-8 and HSC accelerated classes are offered in Visual Arts, Drama, Music and Math. Students from the school are strongly represented across a range of showcase cultural, creative and performing arts events i.e. Art Express, Encore, On Stage, First Class, Schools Spectacular, Starstruck. The school also has a long, successful sporting history with a number of students and teams over the years representing the school at a state, national and international level. Students are provided a variety of opportunities to have leadership roles and student voice within and as a representative of the school. Students also are offered many extra-curricular activities including an after-school homework club run by volunteer teachers.  Year 11 and 12 students have access to 101 university units in a variety of subject areas, which in turn provides accreditation into the matching courses at the University of Newcastle.  As a result, the school has a reputation for developing students’ individual potential with high expectations for above average academic results.

  • Local community 

Lambton HS has a supportive parent body, local community and has strong relationships with its Primary school partners. Geographically close to the school are 2 selective public high schools, a second comprehensive public high school, a middle school college campus and a number of independent schools. Even so Lambton HS maintains a steady enrolment base and strong student retention rates. The school has close ties with the public high schools’ in its network sharing GAT opportunities for students and professional learning with staff. Lambton HS also has partnerships with key businesses and peak employer bodies in the local area. The University of Newcastle and the school have a close relationship which includes not only a significant commitment to quality support and training for future teachers and student access into 101 university units, but also a long history of collaboration with the University implementing the Quality Teaching Framework and Rounds.  As a result, the school is recognised in the local community for its innovative practices and outward looking approach, providing quality education in a dynamic environment.

  • Staffing, leadership and school vision

Historically, staffing at Lambton HS had been very stable made up mostly of experienced teachers from a similar age bracket who had been at the school for 12 or more years. In the early 20teens the composition of staff began to change with many experienced staff reaching retirement age. By 2015 new staff, many of whom were early career teachers made up 82% of staffing. After a number of changes in school leadership in the early 20teens the senior leadership team stabilised with an experienced executive. In 2013 the executive made a decision to forgo the HT Welfare role in favour of a HT Teaching and Learning and later a HT Teacher Secondary Studies was appointed. There was a very deliberate shift in emphasis onto teaching and learning with relevant quality professional learning for staff to further support the strong focus on academic achievement but also to foster a culture of teaching excellence and quality in a caring, supportive, secure, but challenging learning environment.

  • HSC outcomes (2014 - 2018)

While the school historically achieved good results in NAPLAN and the HSC by 2014 results were indicating the effectiveness of the teaching and learning occurring in the high school was inconsistent. Year 9 writing was trending down with only 50% of students achieving greater than or equal to expected growth.  Value-add overall from Year 7 to Year 9 was not meeting expectations and this was compounded with HSC uneven results. Although some senior students and cohorts did outstandingly well, overall improvement was not occurring consistently for most students across all years and the value-add gap was widening. Students who were high achievers in junior years were often not meeting their potential and many did less well the longer they were at school. These results were inconsistent with other ‘soft’ data from the school, the records of which indicated there were no serious issues in areas which traditionally often lead to uneven achievement and progression in learning i.e. poor attendance, low retention rates, large numbers of shifting enrolments, high truancy rates or a high number of well-being and anti-social behaviours disrupting learning. Staff were also reporting many students were entering Year 11 poorly prepared for senior learning and not engaged with their learning. This claim, however, was at odds with results and feedback from different faculties. There was a general feeling of disconnect with Year 10 and students were silently disengaging from learning as early as Year 9. Year 10 was often called by teachers the ‘lost year’. The reason given was hypothesised by many teachers as being due to the demise of the School Certificate, without which Year 10, it was claimed had no meaning or purpose for their learning.  Later reports from Tell then from Me and other student surveys indicated these same year groups did not see the relevance of what they were learning and a QT analysis of 3 years of coded classroom observations, assessment tasks and programs indicated low levels of significance.

By, however, 2018 Lambton HS was in the top 100 schools for HSC results with the ratio of high scores to total exams sat improving from 3% to more than 15%.

Gonski 2.0 Through Growth to Achievement: March 2018 Report

Recommendations & Findings

R3      Ensuralstudenthavthopportunitwithischooltbpartneritheiowlearning.

R13     Create a continuouslimprovinprofessiothrougthprovisioohigh-qualitprofessionalearninfor          teachersappropriate ttheircareestagedevelopmenneedanthe changes rapidloccurrinin       society.

R19    Create and provide opportunities to implement a structured career pathway for school leaders which       articulates clearly defined roles and development streams for middle leaders through to experienced    principals and provides the opportunity for remuneration, recognition and allocation of responsibilities      appropriate to the role. 

R21    Enhancschooansysteinternaself-revieanexternaqualitassurancprocesses, fothpurposes      omonitorinanreviewingstudenlearningaianachievement

F8      Research and experience internationally confirms that ongoing professional development for teachers—  some mandated by the school or system, and some through participation in professional learning        communities—is an essential part of a teacher’s workload in high-performing education systems 

F16     As Australian schools’ transition to diagnostic assessment and differentiated teaching within the framework        of learning progressions, there will be increasing opportunities for, and benefits to be gained from, external        quality review processes at school and system level. Continuous Improvement in Australian education will be          supported by the variety of quality assurance processes increasingly utilised by Australian school systems         and schools. 

Lambton High School Recipe for Making a Difference