Grovedale West Primary School in the Barwon South region of Victoria on the outskirts of the City of Geelong is a small school which is engaged in a remarkable cultural change. The school has come back from a long period of leadership instability and enrolment flight to become a strong teaching and learning community which is doing great things. Stable and focused leadership over the past 4 years has seen the school embark on a change program which has been not only innovative but carefully considered in terms of the needs of the school community. This is a school that wants to ensure that change is well thought out and embedded for the long term benefit of present and future students.
In terms of space design the school has redeveloped part of the older building to create a Senior Inquiry Pod. This is flexible and attractive design allowing students to engage in formal and informal learning environments and access to withdrawal spaces while allowing light into what was once a series of dark traditional classrooms. Sightlines have been carefully considered so that teachers and students can easily see each other as they engage in shared learning. In 2010 the school received a BER template building which has served the dual function of housing the MIPod (Middle Inquiry Pod) for Level 3 students and also relocating the administration of the school in a more conducive orientation to the local community. Future development will include the remainder of the main building for the Junior Developmental Learning Spaces and another adjacent building will become a Science and Arts Learning Centre that houses specialist programs.
However, the school sees the development of these spaces as a natural extension of the hard work of restructuring their teaching and learning programs and the shift in culture across all levels. Hard working teachers have been encouraged to work together in teams at each level to engage in professional conversations about student learning. The shift in focus from teaching to learning has seen teachers take control of student data to make meaningful decisions about programs and activities. The change has been slow but steady with collective decision making and responsibility.
The overall aim of this culture of change has been to improve student data through a truly personalized approach to student learning. In a community that includes a number of learning challenges the teachers are endeavoring to meet each students individual needs and are challenging students and themselves to constantly raise the bar. They are seeking to do this by providing consistency for students both across their year level and as they move through the school. Consistency in teaching approaches, consistency in learning experiences and consistency in educational language.
The catch cry ‘hasten slowly’ is used to describe the approach that Grovedale West Primary School is taking. There is urgency around improving outcomes but not in making change for change’s sake. Teachers are working consistently with student data to ensure that decisions taken are the right ones for long term improvement. A strong coaching culture reinforced by the leadership team is ensuring that this consolidated improvement occurs in an environment that has been purposefully designed for this outcome.
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Grovedale West Primary School (pdf, 783kb).