Leading School Improvement Case Study

Sandra McOrist

Assistant Principal, Flemington Primary School

Learning how to not only understand data, but also how to use it to improve teaching and learning outcomes, gave Assistant Principal Sandra McOrist renewed confidence to implement differentiated and personalised teaching initiatives at her school. 

​​​​​A big-picture approach for learning success

“Every child has the right to learn and the right to succeed,” says Sandra McOrist, Assistant Principal at Flemington Primary School.

Sandra is passionate about education. When she talks about “doing justice to every child and their abilities”, she means not just in theory, but in practise – in real life, at her school, and hopefully beyond.

She also has a strong interest in the power of data to improve teaching and learning outcomes.

Armed with this passion and interest, Sandra enrolled in the Bastow Leading School Improvement course in 2012, together with Principal Lesley McCarthy.

Sandra and Lesley also came to Bastow with an idea - a seemingly simple idea, but one with possible far-reaching effects: to harness all the data they had collected on their students – from teacher judgements to assessment results - to accurately reflect the progression and growth of every child at the school.

“It’s about aiming high and using data to differentiate, target and personalise teaching,” she says. “We wanted the data to help us group the students, understand how they learn, and then to direct our teaching and their learning.”

But using data effectively is a complex task that requires a systematic and informed approach. Sandra knew what she wanted to achieve, she just needed to clearly define the parameters of the project so that she could develop the confidence to lead the project at her school. And this is where the Bastow course made all the difference.

“The course allowed us to realise that we were initially aiming too high,” she explains. “We were made to question whether this was something that we could actually follow through with.”

With guidance and support from the facilitator, highly productive collaborative workshops with peers, close analysis of the latest, most relevant research and valuable school-to-school visits, the course gave Sandra what she needed to refine and focus the project.

“We had many discussions with our group and found that having peers ask questions made us really think,” says Sandra. “And the visits to other schools were amazing – we actually saw other projects in action, spoke to children, met teachers - it was just wonderful.”

The project grew from an idea to a fully-fledged working document that is of genuine use to the school and “… not something that’s going to sit in the back of a cupboard”.

“We are continuing to collate data and have already started having moderation meetings to see how the children are progressing – it’s an opportunity to look at the school as a whole, rather than just single grades - and there’s lots of excitement.”

Sandra’s experience at Bastow was highly beneficial and the project is up and running, but to really measure the success, you need to go back to the classroom.

“When you see the children who were getting c-minus really start coming up and achieving, that’s when you realise it works - a little confidence can go a long way.”