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									  Students Move: Supporting
Students Who Change Schools

A report to the Commonwealth Department of
      Education, Science and Training

         Students Move 1

Education Service
Project Team
Julie Hotton
Karen Monk
Susan Pitman                 February 2004
                                                                                               Students Move 1: Summary

                                Table of contents

     Introduction ..............................................................................................................2

     Aims and Objectives of the Students Move Project ............................................ 3
     Methodology ............................................................................................................ 3
     The Students Move Resource ................................................................................ 4
                   Students Move 2 Best Practice Approaches and Case Studies
                   From Australian Schools ....................................................................... 4
                   Students Move 3 A Guide for Schools to Support Students
                   Who Change Schools .............................................................................. 6
                   Students Move 4 Appendices ................................................................ 7
                   Students Move 5 The Dissemination Strategy ..................................... 8
     Recommendations for school systems ................................................................ 9

Students Move: Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                         Students Move 1 Executive Summary

All students experience change and movement as they progress from one year level to the
next throughout their schooling. Mastering change is a normal and necessary task of healthy
development. This has been established and our understanding informed by a fertile
research literature on the development of self-efficacy, coping and resilience, (Frydenberg,
2002, Fuller, 2001). Change brings new experiences and learnings. Overcoming challenge
and stress contributes to resilience, (Seligman, 1995). It is through managing change that
children and young people build a belief in their ability to cope and thrive in a world which
moves and rearranges itself about them.

Points of transition have long been recognized as critical moments in determining wellbeing.
School transition has often been associated in research studies with a lowering in self-esteem
and self efficacy, with psychological distress and decreases in academic achievement (Eccles
& Buchanan, 1996). While change happens for every school student, students who change
schools one or more times are faced with challenges and changes additional to those of the
more standard school pathway. A previous report commissioned by the Commonwealth
Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and the Department of Defence,
Changing Schools, (2002), highlighted the impact of moving schools on student learning. The
Changing Schools report found that the effects of mobility might be seen as negative, neutral
or beneficial, depending on the circumstances of the move.

Recent surveys published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that, during 1999
and 2000, 30% of members of households with children moved at least once during that three
year period, with an increasing proportion of this relocation being movement between one
State or Territory and another.

There are many reasons why families move home and children change schools. For some
children, moving schools follows a family lifestyle choice, for others it may be a natural
consequence of regular shifts associated with parental employment. It may be associated
with closure or relocation of industries, cultural or social imperatives, family changes or
stresses or a child’s behavioural difficulties at school. Children may move because the
primary carer with whom they live changes from mother to father to grandmother or because
they are in out of home care and placement changes lead to school change.

Students starting in a new school must negotiate and successfully adjust to a new formal
institutional setting, (dress codes, codes of conduct, time-tabling, groupings), a new informal
school setting, new academic expectations, an unfamiliar social order and often a new home
and family environment. How soon and how well students can assimilate the vast array of
new information will to a large extent determine the success of their adaptation to the new
school environment. Research into student mobility from the child’s viewpoint has identified a
number of important factors that impact on adjustment, (Curriculum Corporation, 1998).
These are:

    establishment of their status in their peer groups
    presentation of adequate enrolment information and effective transfer of student
    placement in classes working at the appropriate ability level
    maintenance of academic performance and coping with changes in curriculum and year
    adjusting to changes in their family situation and personal connections that may
     accompany the move


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                           Students Move 1 Executive Summary

A key finding in research into student mobility is the positive conclusion that where moves are
supported and seen as positive by the student’s family, potentially negative effects of the
move are diminished. Furthermore, where the level of mobility is low, the effects on learning
tend to be negligible and students may benefit from the challenge of moving school, achieving
personal growth as they find new friends, learn to do things differently and learn in new
contexts, (DEST, 2002).

By and large however, research into the effects of geographical mobility on children has not
produced clear findings (Henderson, 2002, Rumberger, 2002). It remains methodologically
difficult to separate the effects of mobility from the effects of poverty, family breakdown and/or
other confounding factors where these accompany a move. No consistent pattern of positive
or negative effects of mobility per se on children’s development has been established.

The Changing Schools project canvassed the views of parents and teachers about student
mobility, categorizing concerns expressed into the following areas:

    the potential effect on student learning and wellbeing of social and emotional issues
     associated with family relocation
    difficulties for students associated with variations in school starting ages and transition
     points that cause problems in student placement when relocation occurs from one State
     or Territory to another
    variations in curriculum content and teaching methodologies between schools,
     particularly when the move is interstate
    the potential for absenteeism to be associated with mobility and to contribute to
     significant gaps in learning that can be compounded over time
    particular issues for specific groups of students including the children of Australian
     Defence Force personnel, Indigenous students, secondary students and students with
     special needs.

Aims and Objectives of the Students Move Project
Students Move, a joint project of DEST and the Department of Defence, was established to
help schools, school systems and parents minimise the negative impacts that can be
associated with students changing schools. The project aims to provide information and
guidance to help address difficulties that may be faced by mobile students, their families and
the schools that they attend.

The key objectives of Students Move are to:

    identify and document best practice approaches to support and facilitate the adjustment
     of mobile students
    develop a strategy for the efficient and effective dissemination of best practice
    produce a guide for schools and systems

The Students Move project proceeded in three stages. The identification stage initially
established best practice criteria through consultation and literature review. It was judged that
a cited practice needed to:
     be identified as effective in the research literature
     if identified by project schools or stakeholders, to be supported by the literature


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                         Students Move 1 Executive Summary

    test positively in focus groups
A range of strategies were then used to identify and contact schools providing best practice
support to students who were mobile. Self nomination was invited through a range of state
and territory avenues and across the state, catholic and independent school sectors.
Nominations were invited from key stakeholders and others. Literature and web searches
were conducted, reference was made to schools involved in previous and related studies and
geographic/socio-demographic locations likely to be associated with mobility were targeted.

In the data-gathering stage, representatives from fifty five schools, (61% primary, 23%
secondary, the remaining 16% combined primary-secondary), and four organisations were
interviewed. A literature search and extensive consultation with stakeholders and others were
used to gather material for consideration for inclusion in the guide for schools. Further
consultation and an appropriately targeted literature search were undertaken to inform the
development of the dissemination strategy.

In the production stage, the form of each component part of the Students Move Resource was
developed and the information presented. The parts were assembled and integrated into a
set of complementary draft documents. The content was refined through focus group, expert
consultant, stakeholder feedback and the input of the members of the Student Mobility
Working Group.

The Students Move Resource
The Students Move resource produced by the project is comprised of the following five

Students Move 1 Summary
Students Move 2 Best Practice Approaches and Case Studies from Australian Schools
Students Move 3 A Guide for Schools to Support Students Who Change Schools
Students Move 4 Appendices
Students Move 5 A Dissemination Strategy

While both the guide and the report of school practice provide clear and specific reference to
important mobile student cohorts such as ADO, Indigenous, special needs and students with
socio-behavioural difficulties, presentation has emphasised an action mindset rather than a
descriptor mindset. It was clear that many strategies which work well for a particular cohort
also have value for students who are mobile for different reasons. Consequently the resource
was designed to highlight the range of strategies possible thereby encouraging users to think
broadly in planning interventions.

Students Move 2 Best Practice Approaches and Case Studies
from Australian Schools
This part of the resource documents the best practice approaches identified through the
interviews with representatives of a diverse set of schools and some other agencies across
Australia. The best practice approaches gleaned were categorised under twelve headings
chosen to reflect the content of the interviews in a way that would assist a reader bent on
school or system improvement. These categories broadly align with the key elements for a
whole school approach to school improvement outlined by Hill and Crevola (1997) Most of
the headings link the school examples clearly to the recommended strategies and
approaches presented in part 3, the Students Move guide for schools. The school examples
were categorised as follows:


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                          Students Move 1 Executive Summary

    Celebrating the positive: optimistic approaches to student mobility
    Whole school approaches to social-emotional wellbeing
    Starting well: enrolment, transition and induction
    Transferring student information
    Curriculum and teaching; assessment and reporting
    Flexible structures, programs and groupings
    Individual learning and support plans
    Specialized staff support
    Student to student support
    Making moving on positive
    Connecting families into a school community

A well-organised, articulated and committed whole of school approach to supporting student
wellbeing was the effective practice most commonly identified by school leaders and others
interviewed. For most schools this meant responding to the social, emotional and/or learning
need of mobile students within an established support framework available to all students in
the school. An aide or special resource might target mobile students in a way which
strengthened the school’s response to the needs of other students. School culture and the
values conveyed were also widely identified as facilitating the happy transition of new
students into the school community, as was commitment to sound school-wide programs or
policies like behaviour management policies or peer support programs. Responses by
schools to cultural issues associated with mobility, primarily in the Indigenous communities
but also among other ethnic groups, was a source of a number of best practice examples.

A theme of some responses was the importance of addressing the social- emotional needs of
new students as a priority and precursor to learning effectively in the new setting. Debate
was frequent on whether immediate priority should be to these needs or to early educational
assessment allowing a quick start to a suitable learning plan. Consensus seemed to be that
both should happen very soon after enrolment. Advocates of early educational assessment
of new students varied in commitment to more formal or informal assessment.

Some schools saw the way they had structured their classes and/or teaching programs as
crucial, with multi-age classes, reduced class sizes, sub-school teams and learning teams
figuring in their support strategies. Schools consistently emphasized the importance of being
able to individually tailor their response to a student’s needs and circumstances. The ability
to respond to individual needs was the second most common example of a best practice
approach cited.

Experienced and committed staff and professional development on issues around mobility
were identified by several schools as important, as was additional classroom support in
teacher or aide time. The use of specialist or non-teaching staff to support mobile students
or, more generally, students with particular needs, was popularly seen as very important. The
deployment of Defence Regional Education Liaison Officers (REDLOs) and since 2002,
Defence School Transition Aides (DSTAs) in schools was widely viewed as enabling those
schools to provide quality transition processes, better support to ADO students and parents
and useful liaison with the parent employer, Australian Defence Force. The REDLO and
DSTA roles varied somewhat from school to school, reflecting environment and experience.
Across schools other special support positions were also highly valued and funded through
specific programs or the general school budget. This occurred particularly in schools with
mobility associated with low income families and/or Indigenous status and where learning
difficulties were likely.

Family-school-community connection was widely seen as important in supporting mobile
students. Schools offered a rich and sometimes inspiring range of examples of strategies for


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                         Students Move 1 Executive Summary

engaging parents in the school community, building good communication with parents,
helping parents settle into a new area and reporting to parents on their children’s adjustment
to the new school and subsequent progress. Schools used and valued collaborative case
management with other community agencies, especially where there were learning and/or
behaviour difficulties. Collaboration between schools enabled schools to share knowledge
when students moved between them and was cited by several schools as promoting best
practice, through facilitating shared learnings and experience.

Students Move 3 A Guide for Schools to Support Students
Who Change Schools
The schools’ guide provides comprehensive and accessible guidance on student mobility for
schools and school systems. In establishing an understanding of mobility, it sets the working
definition of a mobile student as one who has moved twice or more in three years, explains
the extent of student mobility in Australia and discusses the reasons for mobility, effects in
students and key factors in successful adjustment. The guide notes that a moving student
must negotiate a new formal institutional setting, new informal school setting, new academic
setting , new social order and often a new personal and family environment. It is explained
that the challenges for schools occur when new students arrive outside “normal” school
starting times, in large numbers, with educational backgrounds not congruent with a school’s
programs or when other issues impact upon the new student’s ability to learn.

The bulk of the guide then addresses in detail what schools, parents and school systems can
do to best support mobile students. It notes that those of us who move see more of the world
than those who stay in one place and reminds the user to celebrate the positives of moving
and avoid assuming that because problems may exist, they will exist.

Schools are advised, in the guide, to embed their support of mobile students in a whole
school approach to student wellbeing. Key characteristics of such approaches are described.
An audit aid has been developed and is provided to prompt and assist self-assessment of a
school’s practice in supporting mobile students across nine components of school practice.
This is a key tool for schools serious about reviewing their current approach. It demonstrates
what a true whole school approach encompasses and it supports schools or systems wishing
to systematically plan improvement through a school charter or business plan. The Audit Aid
is one of a range of aids for school leaders, teachers, parents and others. These aids are
interspersed with the advice and discussion throughout the main body of Students Move 3 or
included in the Additional Information section at the end.

The school guide provides advice on sound practice to “make anytime transition time”, on
starting well through strategies for smooth enrolment, transition and induction, on information
keeping and transfer – “prompt and professional paperwork” – and on creating and using
student portfolios. Practical information and ideas are offered on how to engage and value
mobile students and how to creatively monitor the students’ achievements.           A sample
Welcome Plan is detailed and designed to prompt good practice and stimulate discussion. In
the “Read the Signs” segment of the guide there are indicators for when a mobile student may
need more help and a section on strategies for when a student is leaving a school, to help
make “moving on” positive. An extensive list of helpful strategies and ideas are presented in
topic tables for the teacher in the mobile student’s classroom and for the wider school support
team there is advice on engaging and supporting the new family in the school community.

The guide provides specific advice on interstate moves and much helpful information on
government policy, state levels, structures, curricula, contacts, processes, transition points
and school and system terminology. It discusses and guides on moves in the critical final

Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                           Students Move 1 Executive Summary

years of schooling, moves where students have special needs and mobility with students who
are Indigenous. A section explains what happens for students from Australian Defence Force
families, noting key supports and contacts.

A section of the schools’ guide, “Particularly for Parents”, provides, for parents and families of
mobile students, advice in “Tips” and checklist format designed to be easy and attractive to
download from a website or photocopy from hardcopy. Advice covers information to obtain
about a school, about choosing and approaching a new school, tips for moving and tips for
parents of students with special needs. Of interest to both parents and teachers will be
names of fiction books and other resources about moving. Books for students are presented
in age group lists.

The schools’ guide includes a set of recommendations for school systems.

Students Move 4 Appendices
The appendices are an important component of the Students Move Resource, designed to
augment the use of the best practice examples and the schools’ guide where users require
more detail of the Students Move project or the approaches and strategies used by the case
study and other cited schools/organisations. The project methodology is described in some
detail in Appendix 1. Also appendixed, by school or organisation, is the information on which
each of the best practice examples is based - presented to reflect the structured interview
format in which the information was gathered.

Students Move 5 The Dissemination Strategy
The Dissemination Strategy provides guidance and recommendations aimed at the Students
Move Resource being useful and used. The strategy presents directions and suggestions for
using the resource at state level and at region, network or district, diocese, sector and school
levels. As Granger and White note, (2001), “the goal of dissemination is utilization.” A product
is not most usefully disseminated to its target audience on trust as a good thing. There
should be some messages accompanying it. The recommended key promotional messages
about student mobility and the relevance to it of the Students Move resource, are:
    that mobility is not necessarily negative and may be life-enhancing for both movers and
    that students who move have equal rights with students who do not. Meeting these
     needs is a duty not a charitable act.
    that supporting mobile students is a whole school community responsibility
    that sound curriculum, information, communication and welfare structures will benefit
     mobile students and all students
    that consideration, reflection and regular review of current practice are needed
    that the resource will directly and efficiently assist schools and systems to improve
     outcomes for mobile students.

The components of the recommended Dissemination Strategy are:

Adoption of Students Move as a Support to Best Practice
Dissemination would be strengthened by the general adoption by states, territories, sectors,
and other stakeholders of the resource as a recommended support of good practice and it is
proposed that the strategy be so adopted.


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                           Students Move 1 Executive Summary

Widely linked WEB content
The succinct guidance and information in Students Move is suited to WEB publication in the
context of best practice in education and student wellbeing. Inclusion in DEST and links with
Australian Defence Force, states and territories, sectors and other stakeholder sites is
advocated.     The WEB resource should by and large reflect the hard copy guide with
stakeholders, including schools, encouraged to use content such as tips lists and the school
improvement Audit Aid, on their own sites.

State Launch Forums in Target Areas
It is recommended that the Students Move resource be introduced and promoted through
state and territory launch forums held centrally or where mobility is common. The forums
provide a promotional focus and should include a brief presentation on the project’s findings
on best practice, an introduction to the resource and showcasing of local best practice

Training for Facilitators of Students Move Best Practice sessions
After the launch forums dissemination plans should proceed at state or regional and territory
level with joint sector participation encouraged. Appropriately skilled support agency or
school representatives who have attended the state forum would then participate in a session
to train them to coach and support others in the use of the resource. This group should
further the introduction of the Students Move resource to key school personnel at local levels
through existing networks and schools with significant student mobility.

Students Move Local Best Practice Planning Sessions for Schools
The Students Move Resource provides the material for local best practice planning sessions
for schools. These sessions should include awareness raising, information on effective
practice, reference to the best practice school examples, review of current practice through
supported audit activities and action planning for improvement in the local context. The
Students Move school interviews showed that successful school strategies often had a local
flavour related to their predominant cohort of mobile students. Irrespective of special cohorts,
schools geographically close often have mobile students in common and useful existing
network relationships. The group learning strategy is designed to strengthen network

Support of Ongoing Networking and Effective Communication
At the local network/district level, objectives include getting matters related to mobile students
a regular place in the business of existing networks; to have best practice strategies
discussed across schools and to make connecting with like school communities elsewhere
perceived as desirable and easy to accomplish.

Introducing the resource through the proposed Dissemination Strategy creates the space for it
to be understood and seriously regarded. It meets criteria set by the National Centre for the
Dissemination of Disability Research, [USA], 2001, in that it involves:
     launch forums
     interactive coaching and planning sessions to convince participants that they have the
      power to improve their practice
     a variety of methods including person-to-person, written information and electronic
     the level of information and language are congruent with user needs
     proactive communication channels are included
     current networks are used and strengthened
     information is linked with resource
     specialist support and ample information on practices, examples and contexts is


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                         Students Move 1 Executive Summary

Recommendations for school systems
   It is recommended that the Students Move Resource be adopted as recommended
    support material by school systems and be disseminated as described in the
    Dissemination Strategy.

   Ongoing endeavour is recommended to address issues arising from system differences
    in school structures, starting ages, nomenclature, curriculum, reporting requirements,
    information sharing, assessment procedures and eligibility requirements. Many of the
    barriers to best practice in supporting mobile students exist because of differences
    between state and territory education systems.

   It is recommended that nomenclature which is self-explanatory, clearly defined and
    common across states/territories and jurisdictions be developed in relation to class level
    and similar key educational concepts.

   Common assessment criteria and eligibility for special needs entitlements should be
    developed. They should be applied nationally and travel with the child on a pro rata

   It is recommended that a set of protocols common across systems and sectors be
    established and communicated to direct the transfer of information between schools and
    systems. These should take account of the relevant privacy legislation but also address
    the issue of a receiving school’s need to know relevant family information. The protocols
    should include clarification of who is responsible for the transfer of records and other
    relevant material between schools, particularly across borders. Currently there is
    considerable variance in the extent to which schools take responsibility or rely on
    parents to transfer information.

   The development should be encouraged of systems and/or procedures for reporting on
    student achievement which allow for more flexible access to a current student report at
    any time in the school year.

   The very evident benefit of dedicated non-teaching positions (eg the Defence School
    Transition Aides) for schools with significant mobility issues support a recommendation
    for continued funding for such positions with consideration of funding extended through
    support to school clusters where ADO family students are spread more thinly.
    Consideration of sharing or pooling tutor time currently individually allocated to students
    from ADO families is also recommended as curriculum issues or learning gaps may be
    experienced in common and better addressed through group sessions.                    ADO
    background students with special needs might be excepted.

   Networking between schools which have high student mobility should be encouraged
    and supported to facilitate best practice and particularly for information sharing and
    support where there are trends of student movement between particular schools. The
    introduction of the Students Move Resource should be approached as an opportunity to
    further this.

   To facilitate understanding of curriculum differences and their implications for interstate
    students, a clearinghouse, accessible to teachers, of textbooks commonly used in each
    state and territory, might provide a useful resource for schools with students moving
    interstate. It is recommended that the feasibility of setting up such a resource be


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools
                                                       Students Move 1 Executive Summary

   Reporting and assessment of a school or school sector’s performance should include a
    sub-set for mobile students. Performance indicators should be included which reflect
    responsibility for provision of effective education for mobile students.

   It is recommended that schools be encouraged to target the support of mobile students
    in their formal school improvement and planning processes.


Students Move Supporting Students Who Change Schools

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