Making My School better

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1 March 2015

2 ISBN [PRINT] [PDF] [DOCX] With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the Department s logo, any material protected by a trade mark and where otherwise noted all material presented in this document is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia ( licence. The details of the relevant licence conditions are available on the Creative Commons website (accessible using the links provided) as is the full legal code for the CC BY 3.0 AU licence (

3 Contents Introduction... 4 Context and purpose... 4 Making My School better... 6 Making the site easier to use and understand... 6 More options to compare schools... 7 More data on schools... 7 Increased focus on student progress... 8 Better access to information... 8 Real time updates of information... 8 Mobile friendly... 8 Next steps... 9

4 Introduction The My School website provides an important source of nationally consistent, comparable and reliable information about individual Australian schools to parents and the broader community. It is an important element for improving accountability and supporting parental engagement in children s education. The website was first launched in January 2010, following agreement of First Ministers at the 29 November 2008 Council of Australian Governments meeting. The website is managed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and includes profiles for around Australian schools, which cater for over 3.6 million students. Since its first publication by ACARA in 2010, the site has been used by many Australian parents, educators and the broader community and has been the subject of some debate. While access to information about individual schools has been generally welcomed, concerns have been raised about the possibility of negative unintended consequences on schools and students. As part of its Students First policy, the Government committed to a review of the My School website to explore some of the issues that have been raised. An independent consultant was engaged to consider the success of My School in meeting its original purpose, review how the information is currently used and displayed, and identify opportunities to improve the site. Informed by the review, the Australian Government has developed Making My School better. Its main themes are: Making the site easier to use and understand More options to compare schools More data on schools Increased focus on student progress Better access to information Real time updates of information Mobile friendly As the website is a joint undertaking of all Australian governments, the proposal will be taken to the Education Council for discussion. Context and purpose The Government believes that the main purpose of My School should focus on supporting improved educational outcomes by providing information that assists parents, school leaders, teachers and governments in understanding the performance of schools and which helps parents engage fully with their children s education. Making My School better 4

5 Parents play a critical role in supporting their children s schooling. Evidence shows that engaging parents in education has a positive effect on student achievement 12, and that parental engagement is associated with improvements across a range of indicators, including school attendance, behaviour, social skills, and engagement with school work. Analysis conducted in 2012 by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth confirms that high levels of parent and community engagement have a major impact on a child s success at school 3. Results include higher grades and tests scores, higher successful completion of classes, lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates and a greater likelihood of going onto tertiary education. In recognition of the importance of parental engagement, the Government has made it one of the four pillars of its Students First reform agenda for schools. Indeed, the Australian Parents Council recently argued that parental engagement should be a priority for all Australian governments 4. To enable informed engagement, parents and the broader community need access to independent and reliable information on how schools are performing. This helps parents, for example, feel confident talking to schools and teachers about their children s learning progress and about the performance of their school. Parent engagement typically refers to the attitudes, values and behaviours of parents that promote children s ability to learn, their wellbeing and education outcomes. Parents can help their children by participating with them in learning activities at home, having regular and meaningful conversations with them, and setting high aspirations. International evidence published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that clear accountability for school results helps create a learning environment that encourages innovation and excellence from school leaders, teachers and students 5. The OECD also found that publishing school information means that parents and teachers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about student learning and to influence the quality of schooling. Research from the United States of America also shows that the introduction of accountability measures has had a positive impact on student performance 6. The greater focus on accountability and transparency in schools in recent years has been supported through the introduction of My School. The site provides an unprecedented amount of public data on individual schools. Before My School, school data was variable and inconsistent and not often published. The introduction of My School has provided reliable and nationally consistent 1 Desforges, C. and Abouchaar, A., The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment: A Literature Review, Hattie, J., Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Routledge, Emerson, L., Fear, J., Fox, S., & Sanders, E., Parent Engagement in Learning and Schooling: Lessons from Research, ARACY for the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau, Canberra Australia, 2012a 4 Australian Parents Council Press Release, Want to really improve NAPLAN scores? Bring in the Parents!, 10 December Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Delivering School Transparency in Australia: National Reporting Through My School, OECD, 2012, p.10 6 Hanushek, E. and Raymond, M. E., Does School Accountability Lead to Improved Student Performance?, September 2004 Making My School better 5

6 data about each school to supplement data available from other national, state and territory and school reports. The Government remains committed to providing parents and the broader community with information about the performance of individual schools through My School. The Government believes that transparency and accountability are essential to support parents and community participation in schools and to drive improved school and student outcomes. The review of My School recognised the site as a valuable repository of nationally consistent data on all Australian schools across jurisdictions and sectors. The review recognised that the website is just one element of a national assessment and reporting framework designed to achieve improvement in student learning and that it should be considered in the context of this broader framework. The Government welcomes the Review s primary recommendation that the site continue to be supported by all Australian jurisdictions as a nationally consistent school reporting system. To progress improvements to My School, the Government is proposing Making My School Better to improve the user friendliness and functionality of the site, improving the relevance and scope of information available and how this information is presented. Making My School better Making the site easier to use and understand There is a need to enhance the website s functionality, to ensure it is user friendly and that the information available is easy to access and understand. This will ensure that My School and its national data store are more widely used to inform efforts to improve educational outcomes. The Government believes further research should be undertaken into what information parents and the school community need and how they would like to access it. The site should also provide more assistance in how to interpret the information and how individuals might be able to use the information to inform their own circumstances. The review of the website found that My School is potentially a powerful tool for parent and community engagement in children s education and school improvement measures across all sectors. However, the site is currently complex and difficult for parents and other people to navigate. The My School design has been partly driven by the policy objective of making the collation and publication of league tables difficult, often at the expense of user friendliness. As a result, the full scope of My School s coverage is generally not well understood, either by parents or teachers and has potential to be improved to meet these needs. The Government considers that adding information to help parents understand the data on My School would be a powerful addition to the website. This could be complemented with links to resources on how parents can help their children by having productive conversations with the school about the school and/or their child s performance and to also support their child s learning at home. Making My School better 6

7 More options to compare schools The My School website should give parents the ability to compare schools based on the criteria they choose so they can determine which information is the best for their family. The website review found that parents and principals were keen to have more control over which school could be compared using the site. They considered the current identification of similar schools using the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage to be too narrow. The review suggests that the ability to either self-select schools to compare or to choose other characteristics for the comparison (e.g. single sex, selective, comprehensive, size, financials) would be welcomed by both parents and principals. The Australian education system caters for a wide range of students from many different backgrounds, each student with their own specific capabilities and needs. While diversity is inherent in any education system, the My School website enables parents, communities and schools to compare their students performance against students in other schools, most importantly those in schools that serve similar students. The Government would like to see My School provide the capacity for users to compare schools with others they have selected or schools with similar user-nominated characteristics that are not based solely on socio-educational factors. This could be similar to online functionality commonly used on websites that allow consumers to compare the characteristics of a number of selected items. More data on schools More comprehensive information on My School is needed to provide a more rounded picture of a school. This will include details about a school s extracurricular activities, the student support services available and its connections with the local community. The Government believes that parents want to understand the range of factors that influence perceptions about their child s school. Further information needs to be identified that may assist parents and the community better understand the educational outcomes and context of their schools. Some of this information could be simply added by schools themselves and does not need to be nationally comparable. Schools could be provided with an optional page which they can use to present more descriptive information about themselves, including extracurricular activities. Further information should also be published on the website to provide a more comprehensive picture of a school. My School has recently included additional data on attendance with the agreement of all governments and sectors, but more can be done. As a first step, the full set of indicators previously agreed by education ministers, but not yet available on My School, should be added to the site. These indicators include reporting on the numbers of students who achieve minimum standards in year 12, tertiary entrance score information, information about the proportions of teachers at each level of expertise and information on parent, student and staff satisfaction. Making My School better 7

8 Increased focus on student progress We believe the focus should be on the improvements in student outcomes rather than a single set of results. By providing clearer information that shows student learning growth, parents will be able to easily identify schools that have made significant improvements in student outcomes. In reporting of NAPLAN results, the Government believes the focus should be on the improvements or gain in student outcomes that measure the progress between tests, rather than the single set of scores at a point in time. It would also be useful for the school community to have better information about how particular cohorts of students are progressing in a school (for example those in the top and bottom bands). My School 2015 was the sixth annual release of the website with seven years of school data. This represents the first complete data set of NAPLAN information for the 2008 year 3 cohort potentially allowing for more analysis and representation of improvements on student outcomes. Better access to information All data and information on My School should be readily available to all users, including researchers so everyone can look at ways that we can continue to improve our education system. My School has the capability to be a great tool for education researchers who are looking at ways that we can improve our education system. Enabling researchers to access data and information on school outcomes from My School will facilitate research based on the best available information to test the effectiveness of current policy interventions and to inform future policies to improve educational outcomes. Data should be made available in readily accessible form for all schools and in ways that support analysis without having to go through many layers of red tape for access. Real time updates of information Rolling updates of data as it becomes available rather than the current system of annual updates is more useful for parents and schools meaning information is as up to date as possible. This may also reduce negative impacts associated with the current media focus on the once a year update. This has been already trialled with the publication of attendance data in December The Government is working towards making NAPLAN a more useful diagnostic tool for schools, teachers and parents. The Government is working with states and territories to deliver national assessments online, including NAPLAN from Online testing will provide greater diagnostic capability and faster turnaround of results to teachers and parents. These improvements will also support better and more useful and regular information about NAPLAN performance on the My School site. Mobile friendly The My School website should be mobile-friendly for smartphones and tablets, making it even easier for busy families to view school information on any device. Making My School better 8

9 User access to information is critical for improved parental and community engagement. The Government therefore supports governance arrangements to provide ACARA with appropriate flexibility to implement enhancements that are designed to make information readily available. Given the increasing use of smartphones and tablets and the expansion of Wi-Fi networks, the Government would support the development of a mobile application as part of this. Mobile applications offer the benefit and convenience of fast, easy and more flexible access to information and the potential for use of location services. Next steps The My School website is a joint undertaking of all Australian governments and future improvements will require the endorsement of all education ministers through the Education Council. The Government is seeking agreement from all education ministers to recommit to My School and to agree to a range of enhancements that will better suit the needs of parents, schools and the community. The Government supports greater assistance for parents in helping them to understand the information provided on My School, how to interpret it and how they might be able to use it in the context of their own circumstances, for example, to inform decisions on choice of school or to assist in engaging with their current school on strategies to improve performance. Making My School better 9

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