To kick off a series of guest blog post to highlight the 2012 Partnclip_image001ers in Learning Innovative Pilot Schools here in Australia, today we hear from Manunda Terrace Primary School in the Northern Territory. Having visited this school myself and experienced first hand the fabulous atmosphere Sally and her team have created, I am proud to say Manunda Terrace are a member of the 2012 program. Throughout this series of highlights, I hope to show that innovation and change in schools takes many forms; culture, technology integration, student empowerment, innovative learning spaces etc. are all different ways that a school can transform itself. The key is to understand where you are strong where you can effect change on a short term basis and understand how to enable whole-school change in the medium to long term.

Manunda Terrace Primary School

Manunda Terrace Primary School is a mid-sized, multi‑cultural, urban primary school catering for children from Preschool to Year 6. Twenty-two ethnic groups are represented in the school population. The number of students who come from a Language Background Other than English is 52%, with 45% identified as ESL learners who are monitored and assessed on ESL levels. Altogether 48% of the total school population identify as Indigenous. There are currently 233 students enrolled with 26 in the Preschool.

There is a vision of excellence for our programs and the school motto, ‘Anchoring Our Strengths, Learning for Life' drives the vision of ensuring that all students are given every opportunity to reach their potential. As a school community, we are committed to making a difference and delivering on our overall vision of providing a high quality, relevant and culturally sensitive education.

The School offers a range of programs, but at the core is the delivery of an uninterrupted literacy and numeracy teaching and learning program for three hours daily, with two adult staff in every class room. Additional programs include a comprehensive Community Engagement Program offering a Nutrition Program, Homework Centre, formal and informal family interest and educational forums, and a pre Preschool Playgroup. We have a small farm, an Outside School Hours Care Program, language, music, choir, state of the art library, excellent technology resources, and a commitment to environmental recycling.

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Technology plays a central role in the school with all classrooms equipped with a minimum number of laptop and PC devices. While there is this minimum specification, there is still the normal disparate nature of ICT skills across the staff. We continue to take the opportunity to avail of professional development in this area when possible and strive to continue to explore new avenues and possibilities in this area.

The school is fortunate enough to have a new ‘innovative learning space’ for the school and community to enjoy. With library facilities, a computer lab and a flexible assembly/learning space, all staff have the ability to utilise a different learning space than just their home classrooms. Also, by hosting community events it allows the school to become a part of community life. Spaces like this can provide a new focal point in the school and shows that even in a traditional school setting, one can introduce flexible, innovative spaces for the whole school to enjoy.

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Our selection to the Microsoft: Partners in Learning Project has provided the impetus and avenue to continue to upskill our staff, promoting the use of technology to focus on reflective and continuous improvement in professional practice. Our year-long project has been on improving pedagogy through a coaching model, using Microsoft OneNote to create each teacher’s professional portfolio. Each teacher has self-rated against the criteria outlined in the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership National Professional Standards for Teachers. Teachers have used OneNote to document evidence supporting their ranking. This has provided the content for coaching conversations, professional dialogue, collaborative practice and enquiry based approaches, where learning and teacher development is central. Whilst the project is midway, our goal is to create a sustainable professional culture where teacher learning and development will have a positive and real effect on student learning outcomes.

Sally Winch, Lisa Hirschausen and Lesley Collins

Manunda Terrace Primary School

30th August, 2012