In February 2017, we took on the challenge to improve our students’ writing. NAPLAN showed us that our students were already above state average with their writing skills, but we knew they could do better.
We understand the importance of literacy to both individuals and society—literacy skills underpin workforce participation, productivity and the broader economy, and they even have social and health outcomes. We want to equip our students in the best way possible for life beyond school, and writing is crucially important.
The foundations for literacy are primarily developed in the early years of schooling, but literacy skills need to be explicitly taught, emphasised and developed throughout all the years of schooling and in every subject.
With all this in mind, the staff at Illawarra Christian School took on some new goals at the beginning of 2017. In sharing their responsibility for developing students’ writing skills, our staff dedicated themselves to maximising opportunities to get their students writing, to showing the students that the standard of their writing always matters, to being explicit in their teaching of writing skills and to providing frequent formative feedback on their students’ writing.
Whole-staff professional development sessions in 2017 focused on improving student writing, and in 2018 teachers continue to work on embedding their learning in practice by discussing writing-related issues in regular professional development teams.
We’re seeing wonderful results from our whole-school writing focus. Data from the 2017 NAPLAN tests show that our already above-average writing scores in NAPLAN increased dramatically, compared to other schools with a similar starting point. Our gain was considerably greater than that made in other schools with similar students. This is a measure of the impact our school has had on student progress.
We’re excited about the growth in our students’ writing skills. We’re even more excited about the growth that is yet to come.