External School Review 2011

Section A:  School Context

St Ita’s Dutton Park is an inner Catholic co-educational primary school and resides in an area that has undergone tremendous regeneration in population.  It is a sought after choice of schooling by a highly educated parent demographic.  They have high expectations yet are equally supportive when such expectations are realized in a mutually respectful educational partnership.  There is a strong history of a participative community culture in this school.
The experienced and highly competent principal is in her third year at this school and the APRE is in his fourth year.  They present as working well as a team.  The principal is leading an extraordinarily thorough building program, which by the end of 2012, will finalize a complete redevelopment and regeneration of this challenging site that overlooks a pristine bush sanctuary and slopes to the Brisbane River.
There is an experienced and generally long-serving staff who present as committed to the educational, emotional and spiritual well-being of their students.  There is a supportive pastor who is ably assisted by a religious sister who, with the school leadership, tries to establish links for parents and students with the worshipping community. There have been for many years Greek Orthodox students who are well supported in their faith development by the local Greek Orthodox community.  Such strategies are integrated into the Religious Education Program in a mutually respectful manner, including relevant professional development of staff.
There is a strong enrolment pressure on this community as with most other Catholic primary schools that are in close proximity to the city.

Section B:  Engaging the School Community with Internal School Review

Engagement of the community in the internal school review process is of a high order.  Staff were invited to take leadership of the respective components and indicated that discussions and decision making surrounding this process was engaging, animated and purposeful.  Recommendations are taken seriously and acted upon in a prudent manner.
The parent representatives from the School Board and P&F Executive indicated that these bodies, and the broader parent community, were well informed of the on-going process of review and that there were ample opportunities to engage in and contribute to the process.
The pastor indicated that he is well informed about the life of and the directions of the school.
Evidence was presented that confirmed a strong alignment of the internal review process with initiatives that are leading to improvement in the educational life and culture of the school.  These include the development of the Vision for Learning, the strategic implementation of programs such as First Steps, the development of the Performing Arts Program during 2011, and good use of BCEO expertise in a non-dependent manner.
It is pleasing to see a direct inter-relationship of the school review process with the real life of the school community and the positive engagement of the community in the process. 

Section C:  Use of Aggregate Data on Student Outcomes

There is good use of a range of student learning data to inform decision-making.  The STIE role holder takes a delegated leadership role in regard to many of the processes surrounding this.  There appears to be a good knowledge of students and their capabilities and an increasing range of opportunities for identified students to engage in educational initiatives outside of the school, such as, “The Young Scholars Program”.  The principal initiated reflective, open and constructive dialogue with the panel about stretching further the capacities of some of the students who are currently seen to be performing well.
As with most primary schools this is an area in which there could be further development in terms of teachers on-going referencing to such data in their curriculum decision-making, implementation and processes.  This may also be further assisted through BCEO initiatives in terms of ICT programs for curriculum and student learning data interface.

Section D:  School Strategic Directions for Improved Learning

The panel commends the school for the processes used to distil the future directions to four key macro areas: The development of the religious dimension of the school; the implementation of the Australian curriculum; the development of a student well-being policy; and, the completion and refurbishment of the school facilities.
Each of these was well documented and elaborated upon in the dialogue by the school leadership with the panel.  They were also well affirmed by others with whom the panel engaged in conversations.
As stated earlier, the panel suggests that identifying and making better use of integrated data on students could be addressed further.  It suggests that this could be part of the strategies aligned with the implementation of the Australian curriculum.
The panel also wishes to commend the principal and those who support her for the manner in which the enormous re-building program has been enacted.  Given the size and scope of the program, and the intimate size of the site, it could have easily impacted upon the learning program of the school and its community life in a deleterious manner.  It could have also overshadowed the internal and external aspects of the review process.
It is clear to the panel that this school community is focused upon its students as learners.  There is a pleasing evolution in the staff as a learning community.  The principal and APRE are to be commended for this.
This was a well-organized and thorough process of review characterized by excellent and clear documentation, and, school leadership and a community open to engage in and learn from the process. 
Mr Damien F Brennan
External Review Panel Chair
(Director, Damien F Brennan and Associates)