Spreading success: Why Australia needs multi-school organisations

Grattan Institute Research 

Since its inception, the Fogerty Foundation has recognised the challenges confronting Australia’s – and Western Australia’s – education system. With over 800 schools dispersed across the state, a significant portion, if not all, are struggling to keep pace with the evolving demands of modern education. New research from the Grattan Institute sheds light on these challenges and shows how a different way of organising schools could help each meet the demands of modern education. 

This stark reality underscores a fundamental truth: the conventional approach of treating each school as an isolated ‘island’ is no longer viable. Operating individually, these schools lack the collective strength and resources necessary to navigate the complexities of contemporary education. They exist as separate entities, in a sea of challenges, many which are distant from effective collaborative networks or support systems which are enablers for improvement. 

In response, a paradigm shift is imperative. Grattan recommends we must move beyond ‘island’ schools and presents the concept of Multi-School Organisations (MSOs) as the answer. An MSO is a concept that aims to improve education outcomes by creating strong networks of schools. Introducing MSOs would help respond to the challenges facing WA’s schools. By uniting clusters of schools under unified leadership structures, MSOs provide the organisational coherence needed to drive meaningful change. They strike a balance between individual autonomy and centralised oversight, fostering collaboration, resource sharing, and collective problem-solving. The Grattan Institute’s research underscores the potential of MSOs as a catalyst for school improvement. By harnessing the collective strength of multiple schools, MSOs can leverage resources more effectively, share best practice, and provide targeted support where it is most needed. This collaborative approach is essential for breaking down barriers to progress and ensuring equitable access to quality education for all students in our state. 

Why is this new model worth contemplating? In research done in 2015, a long-standing member of our Board of Trustees, Emeritus Professor Bill Louden AM found that ‘stable, long-term leadership and explicit school improvement plans were aspects which high performing primary schools had in common’. It is hard to find an exceptional leader to stay long-term in every school in the state. MSOs could help. They give new principals a softer landing, and provide a secure leadership base, so positive transformations that begin under one principal are seen through under successive principals. 

In 2012 the Fogarty Foundation introduced Fogarty EDvance, a program dedicated to evidence-based professional development for school leadership teams and fostering connections among educators within cohorts. The primary goal was to cultivate a culture of learning and support, where school leaders could glean insights from one another and provide mutual assistance, whilst developing and implementing a comprehensive plan for whole school improvement. By participating in the Program, these groups offer each other a supportive framework wherein they can exchange knowledge, teaching methods, and confront challenges together. Fogarty EDvance, now comprising almost 150 schools from low socio-economic communities, indirectly incorporates many components of the MSO framework, enabling positive transformations – and improved educational outcomes – to be achieved in challenging school contexts.   

The Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program operates on the principle of being driven by the needs and contexts of individual schools and their leaders, ensuring adaptability and relevance. It empowers school leaders to review the evidence of their school’s effectiveness, to pinpoint effective practices and integrate them into their educational settings to address the issues identified, in order of priority. EDvance believes in the transformative power of strong leadership, recognising it as the linchpin for successful whole-school improvement strategies, particularly in fostering high-impact teaching practices. Through professional development and collaborative networks, the Program acts as a catalyst for innovation, collaboration, and greater effectiveness in education.  

However, while MSOs offer great promise, they are not an instant remedy. To realise their full potential, MSOs must be supported by robust regulatory frameworks and rigorous evaluation mechanisms. Governments, education authorities, and stakeholders must collaborate to establish mechanisms that hold MSOs fully accountable for their performance and ensure they deliver on their promise of improved outcomes for all students. These efforts should be supported by embedding the common provision of relevant services, allowing teachers and leaders to focus on their core responsibilities at the school site. 

The recommendations from the Grattan Institute underscore the importance of trialing Multi-School Organisations (MSOs) across different players in the education system; state, catholic and independent. We support the Grattan recommendation that trials should be led by state and territory governments, with funding and regulatory support from the federal government, as, with all significant reforms, a partnership approach will be needed. By embracing MSOs, Western Australia can nurture greater collaboration, innovation, and excellence, leveraging its high performing schools and leaders, to enhance educational outcomes for all students. 

One hundred and fifteen West Australian teachers and 100 students have cut their holidays short, returning to school for the fifth annual Fogarty EDvance Teaching Intensives.

Initiated by the Fogarty Foundation in 2018, the intensives are run in partnership with Dr Lorraine Hammond, Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University, and hosted at Dawson Park Primary School. Each year the intensives have grown, supporting more than 365 teachers to implement high-impact instruction practices. 

The intensive week of professional learning provides early childhood, primary and secondary teachers with the opportunity to observe expert teachers, practise key skills, and obtain feedback and coaching as they finesse their high-impact instructional strategies. Steered by Dr Hammond, the program was created following evidence-based research into how to effectively support teachers to adopt new practices.  

“Research confirms that ‘one shot’ professional learning does not work. Instead, educators can transfer new skills to their teaching practice when they have access to theory, quality teaching demonstrations and have the opportunity to practice instructional strategies with ongoing support, guidance, feedback and coaching,” Dr Hammond explained. 

“We are creating a community of teachers who have developed high-impact instructional strategies they can share with their peers and implement in their schools. By sharing best practice and collaborating with their peers, our teachers will create a ripple effect that will improve the quality of teaching in Western Australia,” she said. 

High-impact instructional strategies integrate lesson delivery and design where content is explicitly taught with frequent checks for understanding. Lesson delivery relates to how content is presented (i.e., read with me) and includes continual checks for understanding by indiscriminately selecting students to take part in discussions. Lesson design refers to how new content is organised, presented and modelled (i.e., Guided Practice followed by Independent Practice). This includes daily reviews of previously learned knowledge and skills to reduce cognitive load and build automaticity. 

High-impact instructional strategies have been used by teachers at Dawson Park Primary School since 2014. The school has seen significant improvements in NAPLAN scores since the inception of these teaching strategies. 

“Our dedicated and professional team use high-impact instructional strategies in all areas of the curriculum. There is low variability in instruction, expectations are clearly communicated and as a result, our students come to school feeling comfortable and confident in their abilities – they know what to expect,” Pauline Johnson, Principal at Dawson Park Primary School explained. 

“We’ve seen significant improvements in student results. Our students perform well above the average when compared to similar schools and they have a positive attitude towards their learning,” she said. 

Georgie Wynne, Program Director at Fogarty EDvance reiterated the importance of innovative professional learning for educators and schools. 

“It is vital for teachers to be knowledgeable about evidence-based pedagogical research so they can develop an innovative ‘toolkit’ for successful and impactful teaching,” Ms Wynne explained. 

“Fogarty EDvance aims to inspire excellence and high-quality instruction in schools by investing in teachers, school leaders and school principals to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education, regardless of their background.” 

Fogarty EDvance are taking expressions of interest for the 2021 Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program. Schools from metropolitan and regional, primary and secondary schools in Western Australia, with an ICSEA of between 990 and 1050 are encouraged to apply.

The EDvance program is a key initiative of the Fogarty Foundation, established to support schools by enhancing the capacity of school leaders to address the complex challenges in their schools. Our vision is to improve the educational outcomes of children attending schools in challenging communities.

We see a future where every child can have a great education in Western Australia, regardless of their postcode.

Through the unique three-year School Improvement Program, the EDvance team provides high quality support to build leadership capability and increase the overall effectiveness of schools. Every school that has completed the three-year program has seen improvement across the areas of academic results, student engagement, community engagement and school culture.

Call or email the EDvance team at info@fogartyedvance.au, or visit the website www.fogartyedvance.au.

To find out more about the program and how it works, the EDvance team will facilitate a free Transformation Framework Workshop on 26 August 2020. This pre-program workshop introduces school leadership teams to the EDvance School Transformation Framework, a foundational tool in the EDvance program. You can register for the workshop at https://fogartyedvance.au/join-the-program/.

The Fogarty Foundation and McKinsey & Company have a strong partnership that supports the execution and impact of the Fogarty EDvance program. McKinsey & Co have recently published an in-depth case study analysing the program.

The case study shares the lessons we have learned on school transformation by working with schools throughout Western Australia since 2012. In particular, the case study clearly outlines the relationship between organisational health and school performance – with evidence to suggest a direct link. 

The article can be downloaded here and can also be accessed through the McKinsey & Co website.

Congratulations and welcome to all Cohort 7 schools who will commence the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program in February this year. School leadership teams from both primary and secondary, regional and metro and public and Catholic schools will come together in Perth for their first few workshops of the 3 year school improvement journey.

School Principal Location
Bluff Point Primary School Celine Bellve Bluff Point, Geraldton region
Busselton Senior High School Dainon Coiuzic Busselton
Cassia Primary School Narelle Ward South Hedland
Como Secondary College Digby Mercer Como
Darkan Primary School Eloisa Goss Darkan, Wheatbelt region
Endeavour Schools Chris Burgess & Jayne Gorbould Mandurah
Greenbushes Primary School Kylie Loney Greenbushes
Lakelands Primary School Bradden Mitchell Lakelands
Mullewa District High School Nicki Patterson Mullewa, Geraldton region
Newman Senior High School Carolyn Cook Newman
Nollamara Primary School Bradley Trpchev Nollamara
Sacred Heart Primary School Steve Gibbs Thornlie
Swan View Senior High School George Sekulla Swan View
Xavier Catholic School Travis Bienkowski Hilbert

Thank you to all of those in the FED Network for your assistance and support during the recruitment drive for Cohort 7. We are really excited to see where these school leaders take their schools in the next 3 years!

Please contact Georgie Wynne at georgie.wynne@fogartyedvance.au if you have any questions about Cohort 7.

The Fogarty Foundation was proud to recently launch the Report Card for Cohort 3 of Fogarty EDvance, a 3-year whole school improvement program for schools in disadvantaged communities in Western Australia. The EDvance program works to support schools in closing the educational gap for students in lower socio-economic communities.

Distinguished members of Parliament, school leaders, teachers, program partners, sponsors, mentors, program stakeholders and members of parliament joined the EDvance team to celebrate the exceptional achievements of the Cohort 3 schools.

Cohort 3 finished the program at the end of 2018 and their results are very promising. On very visible lag metrics, such as NAPLAN, this cohort of schools has seen material improvements in essential foundational skills for their students across all areas.

There were 13 schools in Cohort 3 of the program, serving 4,600+ students, including:

– Balga Primary – Dianella Primary College
– Roseworth Primary – Warriapendi Primary
– Yule Brook College– Bentley Primary
– Forrestfield Primary – St John Paul II Catholic Primary
– Dianella Secondary College– Southern River College
– Bungaree Primary – Middle Swan Primary
– Thornlie Primary  

On average, the 12 government schools in the cohort are now at, or above expected performance in over 70% of NAPLAN areas (up from 50% at the start of the program) and on average, the cohort is above expected performance when compared to peer schools.

The primary schools are now, on average, above expected performance in all areas of Year 3 and 5 NAPLAN. At the start of the program, just 2 years ago, this cohort was on average, below or at, expected performance in all areas of NAPLAN except one.

Two of the three secondary schools have seen major growth in their NAPLAN results too – with expected Year 9 performance improving by 0.2 – 1 full standard deviation.

Mr Lee Woodcock, Principal of Thornlie Primary School, spoke about his schools’ experience with the EDvance program and credited a strong improvement plan, regular mentor support, feedback and advice as key factors of their success. Mr Woodcock also made sure to credit his teaching staff on their hard work and commitment and spoke of his renewed enjoyment in writing the school’s annual report since completing the program.

A long time supporter of the program, The Hon. Sue Ellery MLC, Minister for Education and Training, congratulated the schools on their achievements in improving student outcomes and of the importance of strengthening leadership skills in schools.  

Fogarty EDvance are currently working with their sixth cohort of schools in 2019 and plan to launch Cohort 7 in 2020, which will extend their supportive reach to over 100 schools in disadvantaged communities in WA.

Read the full Report Card for Cohort 3 here, or you can learn more about Fogarty EDvance here.

For more information, please contact Katie O’Driscoll at katie.odriscoll@fogartyedvance.org,au