Sentral ready to help drive effective school leadership

As the 2020 school year has rapidly approached, many school leaders will already be attending to the significant task ahead of planning for and providing effective leadership. Whilst some readers may think that leadership is simply a part of the job for principals, it’s worth remembering that education in today’s world is filled with ever-growing challenges and responsibilities. This means that principals and others in leadership roles need to be constantly aware of the changing educational landscape and be ready to respond appropriately. Coupled with insight from quality PD courses and research, Sentral can provide a solid foundation for your school’s leadership strategy. Let’s see how that might work.

One way for principals to develop new insights on emerging leadership issues is to attend a leadership program, such as that offered by The Principals’ Centre at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s a “centre dedicated to the support and development of principals and other school leaders”, and “has attracted thousands of educators from across the globe to its professional education programs, inspiring today’s school leaders to be outstanding in their roles”  (Harvard Graduate School of Education). If you’re in Sydney or can easily get to Sydney, then you’re in luck. From 13 -16 January 2020, the centre is offering a course hosted at the University of Sydney Business School titled “Leadership for School Excellence”.  Those fortunate enough to attend will be presented with hard hitting objectives, including language such as “high expectations for instructional quality”, becoming a “more effective school leader”, “being informed by relevant school data” and “increasing engagement” to name a few. This course sounds like hard work.

Courses like these come at the right time, for as recent research shows, school leaders and principals are indeed under pressure in several areas. Take for example findings from the TALIS 2018 survey, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). What’s that?

“The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) collects internationally comparable data on the learning environment and the working conditions of teachers and principals in schools across the world. It offers teachers and principals the opportunity to provide their perspectives on the state of education in their own countries, allowing for a global view of teachers, the education systems in which they work, and the successes and challenges faced by teachers and school leaders”. (Australian Council for Education Research)

The report is comprehensive, and a full analysis is beyond the scope of this article. However, let’s take a look at a few salient points. The report states that,

Almost two-thirds of Australian principals cited high workload and level of responsibility in their job as issues that substantially limited their effectiveness. Principals of schools with a higher proportion of socioeconomically disadvantaged students were more likely to report a lack of principal support such as higher levels of teacher absenteeism, lack of support from parents or guardians, and lack of shared leadership within the school. (Australian Council for Education Research)

There’s a lot packed into that statement.  This of course is a high-level view and may not accurately reflect your local school context. However, reversing those issues might seem insurmountable and that’s why courses such as those offered by Harvard are so pertinent in today’s education climate.

Sentral helps drive effectiveness

So how does a school management platform help to address issues like those mentioned above? Surely leadership is done by the people and not the software. Yes, that’s absolutely correct. For example, in a recent podcast interview with Kylie Fabri, Deputy Principal at Callaghan College Wallsend Campus in Newcastle (a Sentral school), Kylie made very clear that it was the people who ultimately made the difference, but that achieving the outcomes was made that much simpler and effective with the right tools at hand. And that’s why Sentral plays such a vital role at Callaghan.

Consider these findings from TALIS 2018.

A little more than one-third (34%) of Australian principals’ working time was spent on administrative tasks and meetings, while one-quarter (25%) of their time was spent on leadership tasks and meetings. Prior OECD research identified curriculum and teaching-related tasks and meetings as a key component of instructional leadership and supporting teaching. (Australian Council for Education Research)

According to those surveyed, more than half a principal’s time is is spent on administration and meetings with some leadership included. That’s a fairly substantial proportion. Now imagine if that time could be reduced, or at least made more efficient. The time freed up could then conceivably be used for ‘curriculum and teaching’ related tasks which have been shown to be a key component of instructional leadership.

Sentral Administration reduces burden

The Sentral Administration module ensures that your school’s student data are complete and secure. Student profiles are intuitively presented to the user resulting in fast access to required information. The ability to find, access and appropriately share information significantly reduces the time taken to manage a number of tasks such as communication, wellbeing and activities. With a centralised system of information, school leaders have access to all necessary information within the one environment.

Sentral Finance streamlines payments

Closely related to student records administration is the handling of payments for items such as fees,  events and activities. Sentral Finance introduces a level of integration and control that enables superior oversight and functionality. Complex family situations and households are handled seamlessly with advanced rules and billing notifications. Together, a properly functioning administration and finance system has the power to make a significant positive impact to the functioning of every school.

Sentral Wellbeing improves community

Consider these findings from TALIS 2018.

Incidents related to school safety are a particular concern to Australian principals compared to the OECD average. Intimidation and bullying of students is a particular issue, with 37 per cent of principals reporting that this occurs at least weekly in their school. Also of concern is the relatively high incidence of intimidation or verbal abuse of teachers or staff. Twelve per cent of Australian principals reported that this happens at least weekly, compared to three per cent on average across the OECD. The incidence of cyber-bullying, measured for the first time, was also relatively high compared to the average across the OECD. (Australian Council for Education Research)

The Sentral Wellbeing module provides a comprehensive system for recording events related to students’ wellbeing and enables a range of staff to collaborate as appropriate. Whether contacting parents, or checking the validity of student accounts of events, Sentral provides the resources to accurately track and record all necessary information. This creates an environment where staff and school leaders can feel confident that they are working with the most up-to-date information on all wellbeing concerns.

Whilst surveys like TALIS sometimes provide findings that we’d rather not read about, they also contain many positive results. In addition, they remind us that education is continuously evolving and that educators need to evolve with it if Australia is to provide opportunities for excellence in teaching and learning. Sentral recognises that in a climate of increased accountability and regulatory compliance, time spent on teaching and learning is a critical priority. It’s what drives Sentral to continue to innovate and evolve with the industry it serves. Through its commitment to the educational needs of Australia’s children, Sentral will continue in its core mission; to help teachers and students be the best they can be.

 

Australian Council for Education Research. (2019). TALIS 2018, The Teaching and Learning International Survey. Retrieved from https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=talis

Harvard Graduate School of Education. (2020). The Principals’ Center in Australia: Leadership for School Excellence. Retrieved from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/ppe/program/principals-centre-australia-leadership-school-excellence

Teachers call for reduction in administration according to survey

91% of teachers in NSW reported administrative demands were a major hindrance to their core job according to a University of Sydney survey conducted in July 2018.

Around 18,000 primary and secondary public school teachers in NSW were involved in the Understanding work in schools: The foundation for teaching and learning survey and asked to rank the frequency of activities in schools across planning and preparing lessons, reporting to parents and playground duties.

Teachers believed data collection requirements such as administration, paperwork, data and reporting were delaying constantly move them away from their key focus – providing quality lessons to their students.

Sentral is a solution that helps teachers move away from the hassle of daily reporting, paperwork and administration. Sentral provides tools to make student assessment and reporting a breeze throughout their education lifecycle so teachers are able to spend their time on what matters most.

Here’s how most of Sentral users are evaluating student learning and differentiating their teaching to address students’ needs more:

Using target teaching methods

Sentral allows teachers to insert data and compile comprehensive insights to individualise student performance and tailor requirements for those performing or underperforming.

Save time

Did you know you can save time on collecting, managing and reporting by creating teacher friendly workflows? Spend time on what matters most with automatic templates to insert data.

Communicate better in and out of the school

Improve your communication frequency and quality with Sentral by sending reminders using the Parent Portal to notify parents of homework and assessment tasks and direct message parents about achievements or concerns – that way you can always remember what you said and track progress!

Analyse your class results and plan accordingly

Analyse class results and identify whether you need to amend classroom activities at the right classroom level. You can also easily analyse student, class or cohort performance to measure against internal standards.

For more details on how Sentral can help your school, visit www.sentral.com.au

Education and technology adoption delivering industry empowerment in the classroom.

Education software exists to drive the education industry to greater efficiency, so it can be said teachers of today are being empowered by technology more than ever before to help develop student academic performance.

One may not think of Schools as typical to adopt technology. However, this is all changing. While digital technology has been around for decades, over the last few years the education sector in Australia has invested significantly more than most high-achieving OECD countries across public and private schools according to the Education at a Glance 2018 report.

The application of technology such as Sentral Education’s web based software, has added innovative and paperless tools allowing teachers to spend more time interacting with students and identify learning patterns faster.

As today’s world continues to evolve and become more automated, teachers and administrators are asking for web-based software solutions to help seamlessly manage school administration, student data to empower and deliver results.

Without technology wasted time is spent on duplication of processes, lack of insight and the operation of different systems between schools.  New technology offers the possibility to review  inefficient methods and adopt a central process with transparency for both teachers, students and parents.

Helping to reduce excessive workload

The Education Training Directorate (ETD) claims that a reduction in face-to-face teaching hours is not the most effective or efficient way to reduce teacher workload. Back in 2015, the ETD in the Sydney Morning Herald proposed to reduce teacher workload by a minimum 20 hours per year by streamlining or re-assigning administrative tasks.

Sentral Education plays a large part in eliminating wasted time and reducing inefficient processes across many of the responsibilities teachers deal with daily including administration, attendance, assessment and reporting, wellbeing and parent communication.

Changing landscape of the classroom

Technology has allowed teachers to focus more on student needs rather than mundane and repetitive tasks.  With Sentral Education, we hear all the time that teachers have developed a more personal interaction with students by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of academic performance. Parents also gain as Sentral assists in continual education development digitally with comprehensive visuals that parents can understand using Sentral’s Markbook tool.

Restoring work-life balance

Technology in the classroom helps to restore work-life balance for teachers who can now identify and eliminate non-essential tasks and spend time getting to what matters most.

Sentral Education is the trusted solution of choice in over 2,800 schools across Australia.

www.sentral.com.au

Is Australia embracing Schools of the Future?

The future can be predicted but unknown, where the unimaginable can happen. With all the buzz around the future of work and how robots and artificial intelligence are taking over jobs, isn’t it time we also look into how schools work?

The challenge in education is to develop a framework to shape students’ minds, look out for future trends and approach a culture shift in the way education is delivered.  Across the world, various educational institutions either use traditional ways of teaching or are creating innovative platforms for to share knowledge.

In a recent Sydney Morning Herald article, a Learning Village in Sydney’s North Shore plans to develop an open space, encouraging students to use critical thinking by putting the onus on students to “take responsibility for their learning.”

The modelled village removes traditional architectural structures such as school bells and multiple closed off classrooms. Instead they have been replaced with outdoor ‘camp fire spaces’ where teachers can mentor students and large spaced ‘waterholes or ‘campfires’ for student group collaboration.

The idea is to create a space where students can find a teaching style that caters specifically to them and not pressured to conform to traditional systems which might not inspire them to learn. The education structure also will change and transition from grading years to progression based on learning achievements.

Sydney’s new Learning Village may seem like an ambitious change from traditional educational systems. However, there are institutions around the world who have already implemented these innovative changes with great success.

In the UK an Academy has been utilising innovative teaching methods since 2017. Constructed out of renewable materials, an Academy was built with the aim of “connecting people with the environment and one another”. The space comprised of multiple open areas to encourage creativity, knowledge and social responsibility within students. The purpose was to “take the lid off the classroom” in an attempt to engage students in their own learning, and to encourage exploration and curiosity.

Innovative educational systems are great, but what do they really do for our children? Through a collaborative learning environment, a push towards critical thinking and the onus on students take responsibility for their own learning, transdisciplinary skills can be developed. With the future constantly evolving, so will the need to investigate different ways to teach our future generations. Through transdisciplinary learning, students are no longer just focusing their attention and skills on a few educational areas but are encouraged to be masters of multiple disciplines. A collaborative educational system facilitates learning through other students as well as teachers and the education system. Each student’s view is unique and through sharing these views with each other, students can gain a greater perspective and learn the ability of adaptivity.

Transdisciplinary and innovative education may be the way of the future, but how do you make ensure your child is taking responsibility for their own learning?

Sentral Education is constantly looking towards the future of education and can help you track your child’s achievements and learning goals through the open communication between parents and schools. Review learning tasks and check how your child is collaborating with behavioral updates.

Keep up to date with your child’s learning and more here: www.sentral.com.au