Hunter students make 'above average gains' in NAPLAN

Engaged: Hillsborough principal Lucinda Farrell said students including Beau Arthur, Eden Pasovski, Max Valentine and Abril Cernadas enjoyed new maths initiatives that "lift the veil about why we are doing this". Picture: Simone De Peak
Engaged: Hillsborough principal Lucinda Farrell said students including Beau Arthur, Eden Pasovski, Max Valentine and Abril Cernadas enjoyed new maths initiatives that "lift the veil about why we are doing this". Picture: Simone De Peak

HUNTER schools have been praised as achieving “above average gains” in their NAPLAN results, which they’ve attributed to initiatives including new teaching programs and professional development for staff.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) will update the My School website on Wednesday to reflect each school’s performance in the tests last May. 

ACARA identified 10 Hunter schools – Hillsborough, Vacy, Rathmines and Dora Creek public schools; St Francis Xavier’s Primary; St Catherine’s Catholic College; Maitland Christian College; Kotara High; St Mary’s Catholic College and Charlton Christian College – as having made “substantially above average gains”  compared to the national average, other schools with similar socio-educational backgrounds and students with the same starting score.

Charlton principal Mark Ash said he was “delighted but not surprised” his year nine cohort of 50 students had improved in both numeracy and reading since they were tested in year seven.

“They’re an outstanding group,” he said.

“They’re intrinsically motivated, want to learn, respond to instruction, take that on board and run with it.

“We’re also pleased that explicit instruction in literacy and numeracy has been reflected in these results without teaching to the test.”

Mr Ash said the school analysed its NAPLAN data each year and tweaked programs accordingly.

He said the school had introduced a program in 2016 to assist students with vocabulary, connectives, punctuation and openers.

This was followed last year with initiatives that encouraged students to be able to write “cold” or unprepared, as well as be able to plan what and how to write.

Hillsborough principal Lucinda Farrell said she was “very very proud” her 47 year five students had improved in numeracy since they were last tested in year three “but also very relieved that our hard work has paid off”.

“We identified we needed to help them with the ability to manipulate numbers in their head,” she said.

The school trained teachers in line with evidence based programs Teaching Early Numeracy and Taking Off With Numeracy, which focus on developing skills through every day practice in small groups.

“We’ve got expectations of what the kids will achieve and collect data every five weeks.

“Every child is working towards their next personal goal.”

The school also uses “on-the-spot intervention”.

St Mary’s principal Larry Keating said his 155 year nine students’ improvement in numeracy was “reward for a lot of hard work from teaching staff”. 

He said the school built collaborative expertise through professional learning and used high impact teaching strategies including formative assessment.

“We also have learning intentions or goals for each lesson, success criteria the students have to meet and quality feedback about how they’re progressing,” he said.

Mr Keating said under the school improvement plan, each faculty came up with priorities that were reinforced across the school. He said the maths faculty’s priority was fractions, decimals and algebra. 

“We have high expectations and high standards,” he said.

“We don’t settle for second best in the classroom. When we set learning intentions we set the bar high.

“We want them to excel – it’s not about being the best, but giving their best, so every student is challenged.”

Mr Keating said St Mary’s also followed the mantra “relationships before curriculum”.

“If you get students’ respect you get their commitment to their work,” he said.

“If they see you as a collaborator, as a learner learning alongside them, you can empower them to be their own teachers.”