In late 2006, the What Works team was contacted by the Loddon Mallee Regional Office of the (then) Victorian Department of Education and Training. Loddon Mallee is a large region, extending from Bendigo north to the Murray River and all the way to Mildura in the far north-west of the state. Koorie Education was (and is) a priority area in the region, and preliminary discussions were held about local needs and ways the What Works team could assist in 2007.
A presentation was then made to the senior management team at the Region, outlining a suggested program over a period of some months. Similar presentations were also made to principals, who were at the time engaged in a series of strategic planning meetings.
A program outline was then agreed. Particular features included the following.
- Initially, 22 schools were involved, in six clusters: Swan Hill, Echuca, Bendigo, Robinvale, Mildura and Mildura Primary School. (Mildura PS was a 'cluster' of its own, because its whole staff was involved, in four work teams.) For various reasons, three schools were not able to complete the whole program.
- Most schools had a team of several teachers, together with Koorie Educators, Koorie Education Development Officers [KEDOs] and community members. Principals were often involved as well. A total of about 150 people took part.
- Teacher time release was provided by the Loddon Mallee Region so that teams could be involved in cluster meetings. The Region also provided venues, catering and so on. The What Works Program provided everything else.
- The program was focussed on planning, implementation and evaluation of strategic action in schools, using the What Works tools.
- The use of appropriate data was a central aspect.
- What Works team members facilitated the process and specialists were involved as appropriate.
The program was based on beliefs that
- teams from schools working cooperatively and actively to plan action to improve educational outcomes for Koorie students is more likely to prove effective than approaching the task individually;
- professional learning and the potential to influence positive educational outcomes for students is enhanced if teachers have dedicated time to reflect and work together and can build their learning, relationships and networks over time; and
- the resourcing of professional learning, including materials, intellectual input, facilitation and program management, should be of a high standard and relevant to the purpose defined.
Participants were asked to complete written evaluations of the program after Session 3 and again after Session 4.
Schools featured here include Mildura Primary School, Ranfurly Primary School, Echuca College and Swan Hill Primary School.