Mountain View Adventist College (NSW) recently received recognition from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for significant improvement in educational outcomes.
The recognition comes in response to national NAPLAN test results, made public last week on the My School website—a site that provides up-to-date, readily accessible information about all of Australia’s schools—which show that students from Mountain View have made impressive gains in literacy and numeracy since they were last tested.
The coeducational Adventist school in Sydney’s outer west, which houses 630 students from Kindergarten to Year 12, puts these results down to the fact that they have implemented new, research-based teaching strategies over recent years. At the same time, they introduced a range of classroom and remedial literacy programs that make use of explicit instruction and consistent, regular testing to measure student progress.
The change in direction was made possible after the school received a federal Action Plan grant in 2013, designed to lift educational standards after a report into OECD countries showed that Australian schools have been slipping in the rankings. The grant was administered through the Association of Independent Schools (AIS), the peak body for independent schools in NSW.
“I was absolutely blown away when I received the letter of congratulations from ACARA,” said school principal Jenny Gibbons. “I just about cried. I thought: how amazing is this? I put it down to our staff having done some pretty amazing things over the past three years.”
A notable example of the changes implemented by the school comes from a Year 6 classroom at MVAC. Learning has not been an easy path for 11-year-old Leon Heta. He has a condition called Mannerisms, which is much like Tourettes Syndrome but not as severe. The constant interruption to concentration caused by his uncontrollable ticks made laying down the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy extremely difficult. As a result, he fell behind the other children and lost a lot of confidence.
By Year 2, he had fallen very much behind in his learning and his parents pulled him out of his first school. But soon after arriving at MVAC, he entered a remedial reading program. Support and encouragement from his teachers enabled him to persist with his learning and maintain focus. These things helped him catch back up to the learning level of his peers.
Leon is now a little above the class average, and has demonstrated impressive growth in numeracy and literacy between his Year 3 and 5 NAPLAN results—an incredible feat, as his mother Mona recalls that on his first NAPLAN test in Year 3, he was unable to even complete the comprehension portion of the test.
“His previous school just wasn’t doing anything for him,” she said. “But particularly in the last year or so, he’s become enthusiastic about learning and I think he’s become more positive the more confident he becomes. I’m very proud of him and I think it reinforces our decision to move him to [MVAC]. These results reinforce what we can see happening in his learning in the classroom.”
Leon is artistic and creative and plans to be an architect or designer. He takes great interest in the real estate sales in the area. He and his mother make inspections of the properties and he was recently offered a job by a local real estate agent in Doonside, who said that he could come an “get to know the ropes when he’s old enough.”
“The teachers are strict, but when they’re strict that means they care,” said Leon. “It makes me proud that I’ve done so well. I can’t wait to tell all my aunties.”
Mrs Gibbons said the school will continue the hard work they have started.
“We teach our students explicitly, using phonics and grammar rules,” she said. “Everybody in this school, from Kindergarten to Year 12, is engrossed in literacy and this is giving us gains across the board.”
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