In 2015, the pilot network for this project is the Dandenong Network. The schools and teachers in the Dandenong Network are playing a vital role in contributing to the development of this project. Through involvement in this project, schools work together to unpack the specialist English and literacy demands of the Victorian Curriculum F – 10 and review effective strategies used to effectively meet the needs of their students.
Teachers in the Dandenong Network are encouraged to share, trial and consolidate effective literacy strategies and are supported to attend professional learning sessions, visit and observe classrooms in other schools and contribute to sharing their learning with the wider educational community by contributing to ALEA and VATE publications and State-wide Conferences.
A snapshot of the Dandenong Network
Established in 1919, Dandenong High School is one of the oldest, largest and most culturally diverse Secondary Schools in Victoria. Located in the South East of Melbourne, it is a co-educational school from Years 7 to 12 with an enrolment of approximately 2000 students. The school is highly multicultural with 77 nationalities and 83 different language groups represented and has a team of 200 teaching and 55 non teaching staff.In order to ensure students develop a deep sense of belonging and connectedness to the school, teachers and fellow students, Dandenong High School has created a highly unique vertically structured House model. Within each House, which is a state-of-the art designed Learning Centre, there are 300 students, 50 from each Year level from Year 7 through to Year 12. Students have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with the teams of teachers within the House and engage in meaningful learning.1
Many of the schools within the Dandenong network have a similar cohort. For example, almost 87% of students at Dandenong South Primary School have origins outside Australia and represent in excess of forty different nationalities speaking approximately thirty languages other than English. There is a large proportion of Albanian Families in the school community with a growing number of Sudanese and Afghani students now enrolling. Although 87% of students have backgrounds other than English, many are born in the local community with family members who, for several generations, have attended Australian schools.2Opened in 1971, Wooranna Park is a Government primary school servicing the community of North Dandenong. The 346 pupils attending the school come from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds. This diversity adds richness to the learning environment. Staff and parents are proud of the friendly working atmosphere which pervades the school.3
A snapshot of the Best of Both Worlds Project
All three schools in the Dandenong network promote excellence in learning and strive to cater for each student’s individual needs within the classroom. The aim of developing the network was to work together to improve our students’ literacy learning during the transition from primary school to secondary school. The main focus of this was to share and develop effective literacy strategies to develop a collaborative program that created more cohesion between primary and secondary school learning, and thus optimised students’ literacy skills in the middle years. This was achieved through a number of meetings and through multiple observations at both primary and secondary schools. Both primary and secondary teachers found the observations to be an eye opening – yet incredibly beneficial - experience; primary school teachers were impressed with the level of independent, student-focused learning occurring at Dandenong High School, whilst the secondary school teachers were impressed with the scaffolded and differentiated learning activities occurring at the primary schools. One strategy that we focused on was using the ‘Think Aloud’ literacy strategy for reading comprehension. We found that although we were all using similar strategies, the language that we used for these strategies was either entirely different, or non-existent. The project thus helped us understand the importance of using a shared common language to help students feel more familiar in the initially overwhelming ‘alien’ world of high school, and thus more confident in their learning. We are looking forward to continuing the project next year to further develop and fine tune these strategies and monitor the progress of students’ literacy as they make the transition from primary school to secondary college.
Dandenong High School
For Dandenong contacts, click here.
Reflections of The Best of Both Worlds