SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection

The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection supports exceptional school leaders in disadvantaged schools to improve the outcomes of their students.

In challenged communities, schools provide more than just a place of learning; they’re a source of stability. School leaders assume an important role in the lives of their students and communities. Great school leaders create the conditions that enable better education outcomes to be achieved and are shifting the dial of social disadvantage in Australia.


The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection (The Connection) empowers school leaders to advance their work and builds a network and community of exceptional educators. By supporting a coalition of Australia’s most talented school leaders, we will ensure that their work is developed and that the Australian education system is informed by their example. Based on these Bright Spots Schools, we are working towards ensuring every child in Australia has the same opportunities in life. Let’s learn from these Bright Spots and create a Bright System.

The Connection provides support to develop projects and actions that respond to the issues of education disadvantage in Australia’s most challenged communities.

  • SVA’s vision is that all people living in Australia are able to find a pathway towards a fulfilling life of their choice.
  • SVA wants socially disadvantaged children in Australia to have a better chance to thrive at school so they have increased opportunities in life.
  • SVA’s work in Education is dedicated to building strategic capability within key players within the sector in order to spread Bright Spots of practice and achieve overall system change.
  • Connecting, collaboration, community partnership, resource efficiencies, creating evidence and capacity building are at the core.

SVA founded The Connection in November 2013.


Powerhouse Schools
The Connection identifies and invests in schools that have demonstrated excellent outcomes despite challenging circumstances.

Star Hub Schools
The Connection partners with schools that are ready and primed for change, and supports them to access and understand the evidence on successful school improvement. These schools are assisted to move to action with strategic intent.

STEM Learning Hub
STEM Learning Hub
The Connection, supported by major corporate partner and technology partner Samsung, brings Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) expertise and support to schools in communities where those resources are most needed.

Thought Leadership Gatherings
These Connection events are conducted quarterly and include opportunities for school leaders to collectively share insights, challenge thinking, and be informed of successful approaches and practice.


The Connection is committed to sharing and spreading effective practices across Australian schools that will drive high quality learning in some of the most challenged school communities in Australia. The Connection seeks to support education systems across Australia to understand the conditions that deliver great education outcomes in disadvantaged contexts. These areas include:

  • How strategic investments in disadvantaged schools can be leveraged to drive school improvement and student outcomes
  • How school leaders benefit from autonomy and flexibility in allocating resources
  • How community and corporate organisations can support and accelerate school improvement, and how partnerships with organisations such as SVA can have significant and sustainable impact on the school and its students
  • How to establish the structures that encourage and enable schools to collaborate efficiently

The outcomes and lessons of The Connection are shared continually, both formally and informally, with systems and school leaders.

We want all students from disadvantaged communities to thrive at school and beyond. Quality school leaders play a central role in achieving this goal. The Connection is designed to both support school leaders and disseminate the knowledge of what works to build systemic education success.

Get involved

Information for Funders

The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection (The Connection) is a school based program in education and provides directed funding, human capital support and brokering of relationships to participating schools to further develop their work for greater impact.

The development of the program has been prepared in deep consultation with outstanding principals, education department staff, researchers and education sector experts. The program commenced in 2014 with three schools from NSW and five schools from Victoria. In 2015, another 18 Star Hub Schools was added to the group.

The Connection now represents the work of 50 schools, 2,800 educators serving approximately 30,000 students in three states including Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and comprises schools from both the Government and Catholic sectors

The accomplishments of The Connection schools has received acknowledgement from state education departments, funders, stakeholders and the media.

How schools join the Program

The Bright Spots Schools Connection is designed to strengthen and catalyse outstanding practices in Australian schools that are operating in challenging contexts.

School commitment

The Powerhouse school program is a five year commitment to the SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection project with financial and strategic planning and support to develop opportunities that enable continued success. Schools commit to:

  • A targeted piece of work
  • Sharing the evidence and learnings of the piece of work
  • Hosting school visits for peers, and;
  • Attending the quarterly Though Leadership events

Becoming a Star Hubs school is a one year commitment to the SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection project. Schools commit to engage with other schools within their cluster, share their evidence and learnings as well as attending networked Thought Leadership Gatherings. SVA provides some mentoring and resources to develop opportunities that support continued success.

School selection

All nominated schools are screened using a five phase due diligence process. A school must meet all criteria to be considered for selection as a Powerhouse school or Star Hub school through a competitive process, with limited numbers invited into the group each school year.

Schools can be nominated or self-nominate to be considered for entry into the Powerhouse schools or Star Hubs schools groups.

School eligibility

If your school has been classified with an ICSEA of 1000 or less and is demonstrating evidence based positive impact on student outcomes, it could be eligible.

Please contact the Bright Spots Schools Connection team for more details, express interest or nominate a school.

Schools visits & educator exchanges

School Visits

Each Powerhouse school has the opportunity to host visitors from both Powerhouse and Star Hubs schools with support from SVA. The school visit is an opportunity for the Powerhouse school host and school visitors to engage in a mutually beneficial exchange of expertise and experience. School visitors have two opportunities to visit a school per term.

“For any school in similar positions of demographics and direction – this is perfect. Great example of how expectations can exceed any outcome.”

The school visits are:

  • An opportunity for visiting school leaders to see the school in action, including specific practices and approaches
  • An opportunity for the Powerhouse school to share an existing challenge or opportunity and engage the visiting school leaders in a discussion, investigation or professional practice

The school visits are framed around the following key questions:

  • What are the opportunities you see moving forward with your project and priorities?
  • What are the challenges you anticipate moving forward with your project and priorities?
  • What thoughts and suggestions do the attending leaders have on these?
  • What elements of these are applicable to their own school contexts? How will they need to be adapted?

“I came back to school extremely inspired and have already used one of the amazing strategies we saw from the day on class. John and his team were extremely welcoming and provided us with lots of knowledge around current modern teaching. Thank you once again for the opportunity SVA!!”


“I found this session to be very informative and interesting – what a journey! Irene and Kate were very generous in the sharing of their story.”


Educator exchanges

This initiative is a unique effort to connect schools across states and sectors, and is one of the first in Australia of its kind. The Connection convenes these schools together, and believes that creating the conditions for collaboration and support with an expanding cohort of schools will lead sustainable transformation of education across states, sectors and jurisdictions. This will improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Australians in low socioeconomic communities.

The educator exchange is open to all participating schools, and is an opportunity for school leaders to immerse themselves in Powerhouse or Star Hub schools in another state or sector, with the following potential benefits:

  • Exposure to excellent and effective approaches and an opportunity to analyse and adapt these approaches in unique contexts
  • Experience in another education system or sector, gaining new perspectives, knowledge and skills in a new environment
  • Interacting with educators and educational practices in a different community and culture, growing professional expertise by exchanging ideas and approaches and renewing professional enthusiasm
  • Contributing to the development of colleagues by sharing the experience and knowledge gained while on exchange
  • Contributing to the enrichment of the host school

The educator exchange also aims to:

  • Foster communication, goodwill and the exchange of ideas between states and sectors
  • Promote networking between students, teachers and schools
  • Acknowledge the commitment and contribution of successful schools that are achieving outstanding outcomes for students

The exchange involves the visiting educator spending a week in the host school, exploring the context and proposing a new initiative aligned to the schools priorities. The visiting educator then returns to spend a week in the host school a term later, to review and further progress the outcomes of the initiative.

At the conclusion of the educator exchange, the visiting educator and host school concurrently complete a brief report documenting the outcomes of the exchange opportunity and any next steps as agreed. This provides a record of the work undertaken for both the educator and the school, and supports ongoing interactions.

More Information


“Successful turnaround schools almost always have good, if not exceptional, principals. As a common strand across successful school turnarounds, leadership is crucial. The principal typically sets the turnaround agenda, while leading teachers, involving the community, and building general capacity.”

– Murphy,J, & Myers, C.V. (2008) Turning Around Failing Schools: Lessons from the Organizational Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

At the core of the SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection model is great school leadership coupled with strategic partnership. The student should always be the central focus of our education system. Helping a student to achieve strong, positive outcomes particularly in disadvantaged communities requires collaborative partnerships from outside the school. When a school has the capacity to join networks or form partnerships with the broader community, parents, business and non-profits, the student’s education benefits form a broader set of knowledge, experiences, resources and opportunities.

Professor Brian Caldwell proposes that forming effective community partnerships is not easy. Principals must generate the intellectual, social, moral and financial capital required to successfully develop and execute partnerships. Harnessing and acting upon these diverse types of community and new physical resources requires principals to possess a core set of capabilities. So, what do these competencies look like in a principal? What do these competencies look like in practice?

Download the full research document, Strategic School Partnerships: Core competencies and capabilities of school leaders. Mapping national and international best practice (PDF, 458 KB)

SVA through the Bright Spots Schools Connection is delighted and privileged to working with selected principals to build or further strengthen their leadership capacity, taking good schools to great and then beyond. The evidence generated becomes an important informant of intentional strategy designed to empower more schools to engage both creatively and effectively with the power of partnership with community.


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. The intention of this independent research is to translate these lessons into other school contexts and move from Bright Spots to a Bright System. This is a multi-year evaluation partnership.

In addition to the independent ACER research, the Bright Spots Schools Connection is also being evaluated by SVA Consulting.

The Star Hubs initiative is assessed each quarter on progress and will be evaluated at the conclusion of the 12-month pilot period. The design and focus of the evaluation is presently being developed by the SVA Consulting team. Ongoing data has been collected via stakeholder surveys, consultations and program administrative data tracking school participation.

SVA Consulting is also currently working with the Powerhouse schools to define the target outcomes and outline how each school is using data to track the impact of its project. This will help SVA to understand schools’ progress against the identified priority areas.


1. Is selection a competitive process?

Yes it is and this is why it is a thorough and transparent process. There are limited numbers invited into the groups each school year. SVA fundraises the resources to support the Powerhouse Schools.

2. Is the school or the school leader nominated?

The school is the recipient of the opportunity. The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection team works directly in support of the school leadership team.

3. How can I register my schools interest?

Please contact the Sue Cridge to express interest and ask further questions.

4. How can I nominate a school?

Please contact Sue Cridge to nominate a school for the Powerhouse schools group or Star Hubs schools group.

5. Will I find out the details of our schools assessment in the due diligence process?

If you request a debriefing after the due diligence process is completed, the SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection team will be happy to share and discuss the results with the school.

6. How can I learn more about the Powerhouse schools and Star Hub schools?

The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection team will be pleased to answer your questions and share details of the schools projects. Please contact Sue Cridge.