Gonski unlocks potential

Rooty Hill High School is using its Gonski funding to give its disadvantaged students the literacy skills and support they need to achieve at school

Rooty_Hill_(1).jpgGonski funding is making Rooty Hill High School students get the literacy skills and support they need to achieve academically.

Principal Chris Cawsey says the school is using its Gonski funding to deliver high-quality personalised learning to a student body with higher than average levels of disadvantage.

“There is a social and moral contract with parents and students that requires us as a society to try and educate all students to their potential,” Ms Cawsey said.

“With Gonski funding we are starting to be able to give all our students that level of support”

Intensive support for students who start behind

Rooty Hill is a school of 1125 students in western Sydney with a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, including large numbers of families from Asia and the Pacific.

In any year, up to 80 per cent of the students arriving in Year 7 are behind grade level on basic skills – some by three years or more. This means the school has had to use its Gonski funding to focus intensively on lifting skills in literacy, numeracy, and critical and creative thinking to the level required for success in secondary and tertiary education.

It has used its funding to provide universal, targeted and intensive programs in improving reading, writing and problem-solving skills in the STEM subjects.

All students have a personalised learning plan that starts at enrolment and continues until they leave school. From 2016 each student will have a personalised digital portfolio based on their performance against all the ACARA capability benchmarks.

Gonski funding has also allowed the school to provide extra support staff to work with students identified as having a learning disability.

The result has been above state average growth in Year 9 NAPLAN results in writing and a school where Ms Cawsey says “we have come to expect we can achieve growth rates of two to three years for the majority of students in any 12 month period”.

Better teaching means better results

Ms Cawsey says the school wants to provide high quality teaching in the senior years as well, so students have the opportunity to progress to further education or their choice of employment. Gonski funding means the school has been able to employ three in-house consultants to help teachers develop their skills in teaching these subjects and has been able to provide additional tutoring to senior students.

“We are trying to create an environment where we have deep professional learning for all our teachers, and where it is everybody’s business to improve.”

The school’s HSC results in 2015 were the best in several years because the school had lifted the performance of students, especially those who were traditionally in the lower bands.

Ms Cawsey says that the full six years of Gonski funding will allow for even more focus on improving the quality of teaching and making sure all students can leave the school as confident, creative and capable learners.

“With the full Gonski we believe we can start to break the cycle of poverty for our poorest students, for all our students to ensure they all have the potential to succeed beyond school.”

“This funding is the key to ensuring that students become educated 19 year olds who have left school ready for work and higher education and ready to become productive and engaged citizens of the future.”

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