Supporting Greenbushes Primary School with their School Improvement Program
Greenbushes Primary School is in the town of Greenbushes in the South-West of Western Australia, between Donnybrook and Bridgetown. The school is very small, catering for just 40 students from Kindergarten to Year 6, but despite the school’s size, they are part of a proud community who love to see their students succeed.
Greenbushes Primary School joined the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program in 2019 with the aim of advancing educational outcomes for their students. The leadership team saw the need to provide their staff with more professional development opportunities, best practice research and tools, peer support and access to experts and additional programs.
Greenbushes is home to Talison Lithium Pty Ltd (Talison) the world’s leading lithium minerals concentrate producer. The mine has been producing lithium from Greenbushes since 1983 and works closely with the Greenbushes community to deliver projects that create sustainable economic, social, and environmental outcomes. For this very reason, the school requested the support of Talison for its involvement in the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program.
Lifting the capacity of the school’s leadership team to work together to create a healthy school culture and plan strategically to lift students’ educational outcomes was considered to be a key aspect of seeing real and lasting benefits for the local community according to Talison General Manager Operations Craig Dawson.
“We are a residential site with approximately 88 percent of our workers living within a 50 km radius of the Mine, so we take a close interest in education in schools across the Warren Blackwood region,” said Mr Dawson.
“The sustainability of the school is also equally important to our business being able to attract and retain a high- quality skilled workforce,” he said.
“When people are considering career choices it is very often linked to outcomes for their families and having a quality educational resource for their children is top of the list,” he said.
The Fogarty EDvance team recently interviewed Kylie Loney, Principal at Greenbushes Primary School, about the school’s partnership with Talison and how the partnership is providing the Greenbushes community with great hope for the school’s future success.
Why did you apply for the Fogarty EDvance program?
Although staff at Greenbushes Primary School are highly experienced and skilled, opportunities for professional learning and collaboration with other schools are significantly limited in regional areas. We have been faced with poor academic results in recent years, but have had little capacity for change, when faced with barriers such as the cost of bringing quality training to the area, sending staff to Perth, and funding relief to cover classes in a regular teacher’s absence.
Our decision to apply for Fogarty EDvance was spearheaded by acting Principal, Chris Mott in 2018, prior to my tenure, which commenced at the start of 2019. Throughout 2019, staff worked toward developing a vision for the type of school we wanted into the future, and the types of evidence-based programs and resources we wanted to implement along this journey. My own positive experience implementing Explicit Instruction and overhauling lesson design at my previous school, gave me an insight into the approach encouraged by Fogarty EDvance, and led me to believe that this was exactly the type of School Improvement Program we wanted to participate in.
Despite Fogarty EDvance being heavily subsidised by the Fogarty Foundation, involvement in the program was still out of reach for our school. Although we could have budgeted to take part in the program, we would have been left with insufficient funds to purchase evidence-based resources, send staff to relevant training, and release staff from class as required, to work on school improvement plans. This would mean that we would see limited progress, despite our work with the Fogarty EDvance team.
What is your connection with Talison Lithium?
Having fostered strong partnerships with Talison Lithium, its contractors, other local industries and community groups, the school made the decision to capitalise on these partnerships and request support from Talison for its involvement in the Fogarty EDvance School Improvement Program. Talison quickly agreed to this proposal, demonstrating an understanding that having a good local primary school can work in their favour and attract a young, vibrant, and stable workforce. The success of Greenbushes Primary School will support the success of Talison Lithium, and vice versa.
How are they supporting Greenbushes Primary School with the program?
Without the significant contribution of Talison, which pays our program fees, as well as relief days to cover staff attending Fogarty Professional Learning, our improvement plans would be difficult to enact. The Fogarty EDvance team provides excellent support and planning frameworks, but the plans are reliant on funding for resources, professional learning and staff support. Within the school budget, we’ve been able to allocate funds for these things, safe in the knowledge that Talison has committed to funding our involvement in the program for the full three years.
What do you hope to achieve over the next 3 years as a Fogarty EDvance school?
Over the three years in which we are involved in Fogarty EDvance, we expect to develop whole-school plans for all aspects of literacy (our first priority) and numeracy. We are already in the process of implementing Explicit Direct Instruction across all learning areas, with a strong focus on early literacy, using cognitive science to drive the implementation of systematic synthetic phonics. Significant progress is already being made, which is giving staff, students, parents, community members and Talison Lithium, great hope for the future of our school’s academic success.