About the Project
Every young Australian deserves a great education. In communities that are challenged, there are often “outliers” or individuals who are working proactively to address those challenges, They are the “Bright Spots” of practice. The Australian education community is no exception. The Social Venture Australia (SVA) Bright Spots Schools Connection (the Connection) is one of the flagship program in SVA education. It is designed to provide leadership support and development to the leadership teams in high-performing low-socio-economic-status (low-SES) schools and then conduct research to help understand what they are doing differently so that it can be translated into other school settings and inform improved practices. SVA Education provides directed funding, human capital support and brokering of relationships to participating schools to further develop their work, taking it to its next iteration of success. The goal is to keep these schools on the journey of success so that they can pave the way for others to learn both with and from.
The development of the program has been completed in consultation with outstanding principals, education department staff, researchers and education-sector experts. Twenty six schools from three states have been selected to create the Connection cohort. The work has received a positive response from the media and the Education Departments in the three Australian states where it has commenced representing over half of the k-12 students in Australia. Strong relationships with key bureaucrats at the regional and central level have been cultivated. The goal is that the evidence base created by the work can and will inform system change on multiple levels.
The Design has three core elements:
Following an exhaustive due diligence process in 2013, a shortlist of over 80 government schools in Victoria and New South Wales was reduced to eight. The Australian National School Improvement Tool, along with other publicly available data was used to select the schools. As a result, schools were selected based on academic results, attainment rates, transition rates, engagement of students, parents and teachers and leadership characteristics.
Participating schools design a project that they will complete during the five-year partnership with SVA. The project is developed based on the needs of each individual school. The SVA team assists with project planning and then brokering relationships with a range of education, business and community partners to support the school in delivering the project that will build success and become sustainable. These projects are the tools which school teams utilize to build success for their students. They provide exceptional educational opportunities that can address disadvantage and create opportunity.
2. Thought Leadership Gatherings
Thought Leadership Gatherings are held quarterly and are an opportunity to connect the leaders of Powerhouse Schools to each other. The agenda is not a regular professional learning experience but includes provocation sessions from education, business and community leaders to challenge the school leaders to think differently about their leadership and school strategies. They are also powerful networking opportunities where these talented school leaders share and learn from each other connecting across traditional boundaries such as sectors and states.
3. Star Hubs
The introduction of hub schools in 2015, has added an important diffusion and scaling mechanism to the design. 18 schools from disadvantaged communities in three hubs representing three states are now learning from and with the Powerhosue Schools. They share expertise, visit each others schools, solve problems together and network at the Thought Leadership Gatherings. What has emerged is a powerful national network of professional practice who share, develop together and advocate for high quality education practice and opportunities to serve our most vulnerable communities.
In 2016, the work expanded to include the addition of a STEM Learning Hub of schools with the support of a major corporate partner. The focus with the selected school will be to develop the insights and evidence about STEM pedagogues that best serve disadvantaged students in marginal communities. We want all young Australians to be exposed to high quality STEM education to prepare them for the future of work.
The Connection is independently evaluated by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER), which will contribute to an evidence base about successful school leadership in low-SES schools.
SVA Consulting also support the evaluation specifically of the design of Star Hubs. The intention and goal is to support and develop learning that can be translated into other school contexts and build from the notion of just Bright Spots to creating a whole Bright System.