I had a chance to catch up recently with Tony Bryant, principal of Silverton Primary School in Victoria. If you’ve been reading bluyonder for a while you’ll know that I’ve visited Silverton PS over several years. I believe Tony is one of this country’s most innovative school leaders and as he would tell you, their overnight success story has only taken twenty years of relentless focus.
The first thing you notice when you walk through the doors is that change is happening constantly. This isn’t change for change sake but change as a result of continuous improvement, feedback and reflection. There is an obvious passion for learning both at student and teacher level. The teachers I spoke to tell you that it is an absolute pleasure to come to work each day; to be a part of a collaborative and committed team of professional educators. This cannot be sustained without strong leadership. Silverton is a partnership between Tony, his staff and their students.
John Hattie talks about visible learning and teaching and that is exactly what is happening at Silverton. Students take ownership of their learning, they set their own goals and articulate their learning so by the end of the term they can plot where they need to go next. This does not happen without a high level of trust and respect.
Stephen Heppell always makes the point that when students are engaged in their learning we see how ambitious they can be. What we sometimes forget is the central role, indeed the responsibility of teachers and of course leaders, to make sure that students are engaged because engagement is an imperative for academic achievement.
Despite the entrenched educational practices and mindsets of a century and more, Tony and his team have turned learning and teaching on its head. It hasn’t been achieved with bucket loads of money but with a belief in students’ ability, a passion for learning and regular evaluation. Silverton PS isn’t the only school where this is happening and happening well but to see the theory in practice and to see students becoming their own teachers is after all this time still pretty awesome.