Minister for Education learns much from his visit to St James' Muswellbrook

St James’ Primary, Muswellbrook celebrated the fruits of our work with the State Action Plan (SAP) by sharing our fantastic results with NSW Minister for Education, The Hon Adrian Piccoli, at our school during a special ministerial visit last month. St James’ NAPLAN results for 2014 and 2015 showed tremendous growth and the school was recognised by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for this growth in 2016. Over 70% of the student population gained results at or above expected growth.

Given that St James’ has a transient teaching and student population, these results are unusual. Mr Piccoli was very interested to find out what we are doing that defies the odds. It was our great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to the Minister and show him our results and the behind the scenes work that generally goes unnoticed. In particular, this includes the work of the Learning Support Team, the Leading Teacher and the classroom teachers in their collaboration and planning time. The minister drilled down into our practices and was genuinely interested to find out what we have changed to cause such sweeping improvements to our results. We were happy to have the Q&A.

St James’ recently presented a workshop at the Diocesan Teaching and Learning Conference and at the SAP showcase. The schools of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are doing wonderful work with their staff to change pedagogical practices to better serve the students in our classrooms. It was a privilege to have the Minister for Education recognise the tremendous work our teachers do to make learning our first priority at St James’ and to provide teaching and learning activities that support the needs of each student.

Teachers, parents and students have high praise of the State Action Plan. Although we no longer qualify for the funding next year, due to our success, we will endeavour to continue the methodology to see further improvements in our learning outcomes.

Students were recently asked what they love about St James’. Their replies included the following: strong education, good teachers, learning is fun, being challenged, teachers are good at explaining, teachers help one on one, teachers like to see students succeed, teachers have good teaching methods and teachers differentiate. Another comment that stood out was, “Parents get that we want a good career and want to do our best and they support us in that.”

Niamh Marzol is principal of St James’ Primary School, Muswellbrook.

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