Much is being shared in the media at this sensitive political time about education and in particular about our schools. There is no doubt many challenges to address and overcome in the Australian education landscape. Let’s not become too discouraged however with the doom and gloom we are so often exposed to and take a moment to open our eyes to consider where the opportunities might lie; at SVA we call them our ‘Bright Spots.’
On August 9, the SVA Education Team hosted the first and inaugural Bright Spots Schools Connection Thought Leaders Gathering. Bright Spots Schools are the ‘positive deviants’ of our education system. They are schools that are bucking the trends and achieving extraordinary impact in challenging contexts. The leaders of these schools are extraordinary people. They are the assets of our education system from whom we have a lot to learn.
Eleven such leaders from three states were brought together for the first gathering to meet with Dr Ben Jensen of the internationally renowned Grattan Institute and an Australian leader in this field. These leaders are the principals of schools that are considered ‘low socio economic status’ or some might say ‘disadvantaged.’ They would themselves dispute that they are leading disadvantaged schools. In contrast they would suggest that they lead great schools located in what are considered ‘disadvantaged’ communities as determined by national census data.
The event was a meeting of the minds. Dr Jensen shared insights, posed questions and provoked discussion. The goal was to prompt, probe, share and understand more about each other’s work to recognise what it takes to achieve education success when the odds might be ‘stacked against you.’ The collective passion in the room, expressed over many hours, was immeasurable. It was a stark reminder of where real opportunity lies for Australia’s education future; it’s with our leaders.
Education improvements to transform our system, creating the impact for young Australians and their families and their communities are being led everyday by local leaders. They are passionate educational professionals who really care. These are leaders who understand their communities, who invest astutely in building community engagement in their schools and ensure that high quality effective teaching happens every single day. They refuse to entertain the thought that ‘disadvantage’ is a barrier to education success and are committed to high expectations for all learners. There are no excuses, just ask them.
The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection is about supporting and developing these leaders, one by one, school by school, because we know that they are making a difference where it matters most and where the needs are greatest. Find enough of them and learn from them, then provide opportunity to expose their secrets and we have a real opportunity to change the face of education in Australia.
Every young Australian deserves the opportunity of a great education. As we identify, connect and grow our Bright Spots Schools, the networks will create the bright system we need. Australia’s education system can outshine the world, be part of that change.