Social Ventures Australia
The Bright Spots Schools Connection
Victoria and NSW
2016 and 2017
The Bright Spot Schools Connection program is designed to capture the work, insights and knowledge of schools located in communities that are experiencing disadvantage and are providing exceptional education opportunities for their students.
The program aims to grow and replicate these ‘bright spots’ by helping these schools document and refine their practices and then collaboratively share their learnings with others.
An individual's lifetime earning capacity is largely determined by the age of 18 and education is one of the most important contributors. Children who do not receive a good education are at greater risk of unemployment later, earning less and are less likely to participate in the labour force or be prepared for a life where they can thrive.
The Connection recognises that supporting exceptional education practice in communities experiencing disadvantage is a powerful driver for the reduction of disadvantage in Australia. By partnering with school leaders across Australia and connecting them, The Connection accelerates and spreads evidence-based, transformative collaborative practice across its network of schools located in low socio-economic areas.
The Connection also identifies and invests in Bright Spot schools that have demonstrated both excellent and developing outcomes despite challenging circumstances. However, those schools often remain isolated and struggle to share successful approaches. Spreading the capabilities and approaches of these schools is crucial to enabling system transformation that can impact equity in Australian education practice.
It is important that the characteristics evidence and strategies that have enabled the Bright Spot schools to change and improve is shared and that there are mechanisms for these school leaders to connect to spread successful ideas and actions across states and sectors.
The goals of The Connection are to:
Social Ventures Australia (SVA) identifies Bright Spot schools in communities experiencing disadvantage and then supports these schools to grow their success across the long term. SVA does this by helping them to further build upon their approach and share their results with others via The Connection program and across state-based boundaries
The Connection commenced in 2014 with eight exemplar schools (five in Vic, three in NSW).
SVA established a 5-year partnership with each of these ‘Powerhouse’ schools to create an evidence base about why their models have been successful, to build the leadership of these schools and to support these schools to become beacons for other schools/communities and sustain their success.
In 2015, the program was expanded to incorporate 18 apprentice schools (Star Hub schools), facilitating the dissemination of best practice to these schools by arranging site visits, mentoring and providing professional learning for practitioners. Another 10 Star Hub schools were added in 2016 and with the aid of the Foundation's grants, the program expanded to 54 schools in 2018.
A 2018 evaluation by ACER, RMIT and The Connection team showed that this model catalyses and sustains change that builds the capacity of participant schools. Participant schools say The Connection creates and sustains improvements by:
The latest and most comprehensive evaluation of The Connection by RMIT’s Policy, Strategy and Impact team: Unleashing the Power of the Collective in Education (September 2020) grouped improvements in teaching and learning within three key Insights:
One of the challenges has been about how the initiative can more efficiently expand the work to reach schools located in communities experiencing disadvantage in rural and regional areas.
Travelling into urban centres is often prohibitive and resource-intensive. This restricted the access to engage some schools that could make both invaluable and important contributions to the network design and increase the diversity of education perspective and experience within the group.
In response to entrenched issues of education inequity, SVA has pioneered an effective approach to accelerating improved teaching practice through practitioner-led collaborative networks. After the initial five years of The Connection, the case is strong for expanding and replicating The Connection’s networking model to more schools, in more states, and include a wider range of approaches.
SVA now has a vision to reach over 1000 schools and to support better learning and education outcomes for up to 500,000 students in disadvantaged communities by 2024. A key enabler to reach this scale will be government application, promotion and, finally, adoption of the network model.
SVA is developing virtual and online capability to complement the design by co-creating an innovative collaboration platform. The goal will be to provide more efficient access, build inclusion of schools across different regions while enabling them to connect, share and collaborate across greater distances.
Further to this capability focus, the intention is to incorporate a target group of Early Education educators to expand the diversity of the group and test the design across a broader spectrum of education practice.
- SA Star Hub Principal