The Connection: Collaborative Leadership Network lifts education outcomes

The Connection is a Collaborative Leadership Development Network created and run by Social Ventures Australia that has achieved educational improvements in 50 Australian schools across NSW, SA and Victoria. The network has connected 2900 educators, and benefitted approximately 50,000 students over five years from 2014-2019.

This ABC News piece highlights the stories of those students and schools benefitting from The Connection. Click here to read the full article. 

Unleashing the power of the collective in education

A comprehensive evaluation by RMIT’s Policy, Strategy and Impact team found ‘The Connection sets a distinctive example of how system-wide school improvement can be achieved, to help close the inequality gap in Australian education.’

The evaluation by RMIT found that after 3-5 years of participating in The Connection:

  • Schools reported implementing innovative and effective teaching strategies and practices [Finding 6]
  • Teachers reported very high improvement in pedagogical content knowledge [Finding 3]
  • Many principals and teachers observed significant improvements in student engagement, student learning and development, and STEM-related learning and improvements in academic outcomes, student voice and/or agency, and metacognition [Finding 18 and 19]
  • There was increased motivation to share knowledge with other schools for system-wide improvement [Finding 5]

‘These achievements show that when schools are facilitated to connect their work and support each other, it’s an effective and efficient way to find, share and then develop new teaching and learning practices that are fit for purpose and drive better learning outcomes for children’ – Suzanne Cridge, Director, Education, Bright Spots Schools Connection

Impact in schools

New South Wales

Blairmount and Elderslie Public Schools in Campbelltown are introducing new forms of student-led learning, which are increasing student engagement and learning outcomes. Elderslie Principal Melissa Clarke says ‘Once children are given permission to make a difference, we actually are preparing them for the world they are going into.’
Blairmount Principal Greg Turnbull says ‘We want to create engaging learning experiences – make the learning exciting, engaging, relevant and authentic. If you get all that right, you won’t have a behaviour problem.’

Rooty Hill High School is a leader, winning awards in developing new ways to support students to take charge of their own learning such as the online ‘MyLearningHub’, a new way to teach creative and critical thinking which sees sharing effective practice as the key to system-wide school improvement. ‘The value of the network is in the fact that it has been done across state boundaries, which is rare. Connecting across those boundaries, that’s powerful systems leverage. We have much more in common with some interstate schools [in the Connection] than some of our local schools. There’s power in working with schools with similar value sets, and similar ways of working.’

South Australia

Stirling North Primary School is taking project-led approach to learning that empowers students examine local social issues and take action. Principal Adam Wilson says that since joining The Connection in 2016 and introducing methods that allows students to lead their own learning, the school has turned around declining enrolments and engagement.

‘We have had improved NAPLAN results for years 5 and 7 in Numeracy and Reading in recent years. An incredible achievement is that 93% of students can now articulate their learning goals. Over the last three years instances of negative behaviour have reduced by 45%, and suspensions reduced by 59%. Our goal at Stirling North Public School is to build 21st Century skills in our students – to ask critical questions, reflect, collaborate, problem solve. We want our students to leave Year 6 with all the skills they need to become employable,’ said Principal Wilson.

Prospect North Primary School is inspiring schools across the country to follow their lead and empower students through their Kids Teach STEM initiative. Their current project has brought 7 schools together to create the Kids Teach STEM YouTube channel, producing video interviews with experts across the country to inspire and inform students about careers in STEM.

Principal Marg Clark said ‘Our big focus is student agency – having students design, deliver and report on their own learning. STEM was a vehicle to help us change the way we work with and empower students. We want our students to become skillful communicators and collaborative learners, who will be digitally literate and resilient to face an every-changing world.’


Sunshine College has made great strides in developing new approaches to teaching STEM, such as forging a partnership with a tech company and a car manufacturer to create a unit on ‘The future of urban transport’,  that involved programming and flying drones. Students are now involved in more project-based learning. As these are capabilities-focused and delivered through team teaching, deeper learning occurs, supported by a greater focus on inquiry, and aligned to a growth mindset. Emerging technologies are increasingly embedded as tools to improve student engagement and learning outcomes.

Students at Dandenong North Primary School have achieved NAPLAN results far above those of students with similar levels of socio-educational disadvantage. The school’s student observation program has allowed students to exercise agency and metacognitive abilities in their learning. The school has created a new role of ‘student observers’ who feed back to teachers their assessment of their lessons. This school is a leader in literacy programs for their highly culturally diverse school community and is involved in producing international award-winning documentaries.

Principal Kevin Mackay OAM said ‘The values we get from being part of The Connection are multitudinous. We’ve got interstate connections that we never had before that are really marvelous … and we’ve got the best practice connections which allow us to tap into really cutting edge teaching and learning.’