Four years ago, the NSW Education Department employed fifteen principals on salaries of up to $200,000 per year to try and lift academic performance in struggling schools, ABC News reports.
All the schools have large numbers of Indigenous students and all are based in regional and remote parts of the state.
The program is called the Connected Communities Strategy.
At Hillvue Public School in the regional city of Tamworth, Chris Shaw was given new powers to employ staff, change school operating hours and parts of the curriculum.
“I am paid a higher salary and with that comes the expectation that you will do more and I think that’s fair enough,” he said.
“My approach is always to have high expectations for everybody. Not only students but teachers, community and everybody we are working with.”
At Hillvue Public School, 78 per cent of students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander and many students are from low-income families.
So how did the principal turn the school around? To begin with, he got Aboriginal parents involved with their child’s personal learning program (PLP).
Year 3 teacher Jess Westerman said the key to the school’s success was community engagement.
“At the beginning of 2014 at Hillview, I maybe had two to three or four parents turn up for PLP meetings and now this year I’ve had 100 per cent, which is an amazing increase in parents’ involvement in their child’s learning,” she said.
The school has also produced some extraordinary academic results.
“This year, we had 63 per cent of our Year 3 students reach the top 2 bands for NAPLAN, compared to 27 per cent last year, which is astonishing,” Ms Westerman said.
All students at Hillvue Public School are taught an Aboriginal language, and change at the school has been largely driven by the Aboriginal people themselves.
Chris Shaw, the principal at Hillvue Public School in Tamworth.