Exploring alternative measures of success in Australian schools
Published: 20 Apr 2016
Janet Williamson is the Principal of The Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) in Northern Ireland. Janet has recently returned to the UK after six weeks visiting a number of schools in Melbourne, Australia, where she researched alternative ways of measuring pupils' progress.
Janet’s travels were funded by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship award, in partnership with the Mercers’ Company.
In Northern Ireland, no official measure of students’ attainment currently exists which incorporates a consideration of their starting point and value added; success is measured purely in terms of final stage exam results.
Janet met with school leaders to explore how adopting appropriate tools for measuring value added can inform assessment and learning strategies, help to raise standards and address socio-economic related underperformance. Among the leading educationists she met was John Hattie, Director of Melbourne Education Research Institute, University of Melbourne, and author of the acclaimed book "Visible Learning for Teachers- Maximising Impact on Learning".
The innovative practices she witnessed in Melbourne led Janet to conclude that through applying educational based research, and aligning study with vocational experience, a broad range of benefits could be derived that include raised standards of teaching and learning, the development of personal attributes such as mindfulness and moral character, and improved wellbeing among staff as well as students. Though applying research was important, it should not be a substitute for professional evaluations and judgements; teachers should be given the time and resources to review pupils' progress to ensure high quality outcomes.
"By developing the whole person, as we seek to do at RBAI, the longer term benefits will link to good mental and physical health, positive relationships and economic success. The progress is more than academic attainment; it is about pupils' wellbeing, engagement and self attributes. We can learn from the schools in Australia which have well-developed programmes and frameworks for promoting pupil and staff wellbeing in collaboration with local employers, the Universities, medical Institutes and philanthropists” -Janet Williamson
On her return, Janet led a school assembly on the experience of her Fellowship, and outlined how she intends to apply her learning. The next stage is staff training and seeking support from external professionals to embed new and improved structures and systems into her school, providing a model of good practice for other schools in the UK.
Notes to Editors:
The Mercers’ Company have jointly funded 10 Fellowships a year from 2013-2015, to develop linked projects to improve the educational achievement of young people aged 5-19, with particular emphasis on English, Maths, Science and Technology. The Mercers’ Company is closely involved with the running of 17 schools across the country and makes a number of grants to improve the availability and quality of education for children and young adults, focused on young people from the ages of 5-25.