Characteristics of Effective Schools by lindahy


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									                    Characteristics of Effective Schools
What makes an effective school?
Effective schools are those that successfully progress the learning and development of all
of their students.

There is no simple recipe for an effective school. Many factors combine to make each
school what it is, and each school is unique. However, it is possible to identify a set of
factors or characteristics that contribute to school effectiveness.

Based on research and consultations with parents, the ACT Council of P&C Associations
has identified nine characteristics of effective schools:

•   Strong and professional principal
•   Strong and professional teachers
•   Clear positive philosophy
•   Environment conducive to learning
•   Effective student welfare system
•   Strong organisational framework
•   Broad, balanced curriculum
•   Meaningful assessment and reporting on student progress
•   Support for parent and community participation

For each characteristic, Council has prepared a broad description and examples of
indicators. Many possible indicators are given for each characteristic, but there are certain
to be others that could be added. Also, the descriptions and indicators may need to be
modified as new issues and research findings emerge. As such, this document is intended
to be a guiding or framework document that may change over time.

There are a number of important issues to bear in mind when using information on the
characteristics of effective schools.

A school’s context and culture
A school’s context and culture will be important in determining the relevance of the
characteristics. For example, student participation (one aspect of creating an environment
conducive to learning) may be much more important in high schools and colleges than at
primary schools (while still very valuable at primary schools).


Underlying the characteristics is the adequacy of resources and funding for schools. The
issue of resourcing illustrates the complexity of school effectiveness, for example, there
may be a marked difference in the effectiveness of schools with similar resource levels.
Further, there is little evidence to suggest that simply increasing resource levels directly

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and automatically translates into improved school effectiveness. However, resources
provide the opportunity for schools to become more effective. Adequate resources are
needed to implement programs and provide a physical environment conducive to learning.


As noted above, for each of the nine characteristics of effective schools, a set of indicators
is suggested (which is not intended to be exhaustive). Together, the indicators can be
used to create an overall picture of what is happening in a school, but taken on their own,
indicators can be much less meaningful. Student satisfaction is a good example. A low
level of student satisfaction, when viewed with other indicators, could point to an area for
investigation or improvement. However, taken on its own, a low level of student
satisfaction could reflect a range of circumstances, within and beyond the school.

Your Child
Aside from the characteristics of effectiveness, there may be many other factors to
consider in deciding whether a school meets or will meet the particular needs of your child
(for example, friends, size, specialist programs and resources, location). In the end, a
school is not effective for you if it does not meet the particular needs of your child.

Using the information

The information about the characteristics of effective schools could be used to:

•   assist parents to take an active part in school improvement. In the ACT, the
    effectiveness of each government school must be reviewed at least once in every five
    years, taking account of the views of parents and students;
•   assist parents in making decisions about school issues;
•   assist parents when they are choosing a school;
•   help guide schools in providing information to parents (and prospective parents) about
    their school;
•   assist schools to develop strategies for improvement.

As such, the information is primarily aimed at parents, particularly those who are or who
wish to be more actively involved in their schools, P&Cs and School Boards, and schools.

School Improvement

While the list of characteristics can serve as a guide or focus for school improvement, it
does not show how to go about affecting change. Improvement is most likely to be
successful if it involves:

•   a commitment by the school community to ongoing improvement;
•   a set of practical strategies for change; and
•   the setting of priorities and timeframes.

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            CHARACTERISTICS                                          INDICATORS
The principal:                                    • Details of the principal’s qualifications and
• is qualified, competent and experienced            experience are available to the school community.
• provides leadership and vision for the school   • The principal is able to convey a vision for school
   community                                         in discussions with the school community.
• strives to improve the school                   • The way the school operates and progresses
• manages resources wisely                           reflects this vision.
• works co-operatively with staff and students    • The school has an improvement plan in place that
• works co-operatively with parents, the P&C         is regularly reviewed and updated.
   and the School Board                           • The issue of school improvement is able to be
• promotes parent participation in school            discussed by the school community in an open
   activities and student learning                   and constructive way.
• promotes high staff morale                      • The principal is well-regarded by the school
• promotes continuous learning and                   community (including parents, students and staff).
   development of staff.                          • The principal is available to talk with parents
                                                     whenever needed.
                                                  • The principal is visible in the school community –
                                                     students and parents know who the principal is.
                                                  • The principal is able to demonstrate detailed
                                                     knowledge about the school and its students.
                                                  • Parents feel welcome to participate in school
                                                     activities and student learning.
                                                  • There is high staff morale at the school, including
                                                     limited turnover of teaching staff.
                                                  • Teachers, including relief teachers, want to teach
                                                     at the school.

The teachers:                                     • Details of teachers’ qualifications and experience
• are qualified and competent                        are available to the school community.
• have positive attitudes and high morale         • There is limited turnover of teaching staff.
• elicit optimal student achievement              • The teachers are well-regarded by the school
• develop students’ critical thinking, problem       community.
   solving and creativity                         • Students have positive views about their
• are sensitive to individual student needs          teachers.
• maintain effective discipline                   • Teachers use a range of teaching approaches,
• welcome parent participation                       and change these if needed.
• are interested in continuous learning and       • Teachers and parents are able to discuss any
   professional development.                         problem areas, as well as proposed approaches.
                                                  • Parents are able to observe that their child is
Across the staff:                                    progressing, and are satisfied with what they are
• a broad range of skills is represented,            learning and achieving.
   including skills in specialist areas           • Parents are able to observe discipline in the
• teachers collaborate and work as a team.           classroom.
                                                  • Parents are invited to assist with classroom
                                                     activities such as reading, art, gym.
                                                  • Teachers attend professional development
                                                  • The staff includes teachers with a range of skills,
                                                     which may include areas such as languages,
                                                     music, performing arts, remedial and special

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            CHARACTERISTICS                                             INDICATORS
The school philosophy:                                • The school has a clearly defined philosophy set
• involves high expectations for all students           out in school documentation and talked about
   and teachers                                         within the school community.
• encourages students to work towards their           • The philosophy is supported by clearly defined
   personal best                                        school goals and policies.
• aims to develop the full potential of each          • The school environment and operations reflect the
   individual intellectually, emotionally, socially     philosophy.
   and physically
• places an importance on the development of
   life skills and positive values and
• recognises that each child is an individual
   with different needs, backgrounds and
• values and welcomes the diversity of
   students’ backgrounds
• recognises that education is a co-operative
   effort that involves teachers, students and

The school environment:                               • Students have positive views about the school.
• is a stimulating environment where students         • The surroundings show that learning is valued (for
   want to be and learn                                 example, on bulletin boards, classroom displays
• is safe, clean, secure and welcoming                  and hallways).
• fosters caring and positive relationships           • The school has a well-stocked and well-used
   between people                                       library.
• promotes amongst students a sense of                • The buildings, grounds and equipment are clean
   belonging and pride in the school                    and well-maintained.
• provides for student participation in aspects       • Parents can observe positive relationships
   of school organisation and life                      between people in the school environment.
• has sensible rules that are clearly defined         • Mechanisms are in place for student participation
   and enforced                                         (for example, a student representative council) in
• has effective behaviour management policies           aspects of school life such as rule-setting.
   supported by a strong student welfare              • The school has clearly defined policies on issues
   system.                                              such as discipline, bullying and student welfare.
                                                      • Parents, students and teachers are aware of
                                                        these policies.
                                                      • Issues such as bullying and discipline are talked
                                                        about in the school community.

The school has a student welfare system in            • There is access to support staff (for example,
place that:                                             school counsellors and careers advisers) who
• supports the development of students to their         understand the school and its community.
    full potential                                    • Students are aware of the support that is available
• addresses difficulties experienced by                 and are able to access it easily.
    students effectively and efficiently              • Parents and students are aware of the links with
• is sensitive to individual students needs and         community support services beyond the school.
• links with community support services and
    resources outside the school.

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            CHARACTERISTICS                                           INDICATORS
The organisation of the school supports student     • Parents/parent representatives/school board are
learning, and there is:                               satisfied with the allocation of resources and
• effective use resources;                            expenditure decision, including timing and
• effective liaison with the school community;        content.
• time for planning, program development,           • There are sufficient administrative and support
    reflection and collaborative decision-making;     staff to meet the needs of the school.
• support for staff appraisal and professional      • The administrative staff know the students and
    development;                                      parents in the school community.
• flexibility to organise student learning in a     • There is strong IT infrastructure with up-to-date
    variety of ways.                                  technology.
                                                    • The school has other physical resources eg
                                                      educational resources, sporting equipment, library
                                                    • A staff development and appraisal system is in
                                                      place, which includes time for teacher training.
                                                    • Time is set aside for staff to do planning and
                                                      program development.
                                                    • Class sizes are in line with system-wide
                                                    • Alternative organisational arrangements are
                                                      considered and used where appropriate, for
                                                      example, smaller class sizes, multi-age groups.
                                                    • Students are satisfied with timetable and subject
                                                      choice arrangements.

The curriculum:                                     • All key learning areas and system-wide guidelines
• provides a range of learning experiences             are addressed.
   within and beyond the key learning areas         • Parents are able to see progress in their child’s
• progresses the social, personal and physical         social, personal and physical development as well
   development of students as well as their            as their academic development.
   academic development                             • Students with special needs, including those with
• ensures students develop a positive attitude         learning difficulties and those requiring
   to learning                                         accelerated learning, are provided for.
• provides continuity from year to year and is      • A range of extra-curricula activities (for example,
   integrated across learning areas                    music and debating) is provided.
• helps students to develop life skills, such as    • Teachers are able to explain how the curriculum
   self esteem, motivation and self-discipline.        works and is delivered.
                                                    • In explaining the curriculum, teachers talk about
For this characteristic, there is a need to            the development of life skills and the philosophy
recognise that in the ACT, colleges often              of the school.
specialise in particular areas of the curriculum.

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            CHARACTERISTICS                                           INDICATORS
The assessment and reporting arrangements:         •   Parents understand, and are satisfied with the
 • provide clear and reliable information across       level of, information provided about their child’s
    the key learning areas and on the social           progress.
    development of students                        •   Information is provided to parents about the
 • lead to sound decisions about teaching              social, personal and physical development of their
    approaches                                         child, as well as their academic progress.
 • identify problem areas and ways to work on      •   Parents can observe changes in teaching
    these in partnership with parents                  approaches in response to assessment reports.
 • allow parents to observe and understand         •   Teachers use a variety of assessment methods.
    their child’s progress                         •   Information provided to students about their
 • are undertaken in ways which support                progress is constructive and supportive.
    student learning and confidence.

INVOLVEMENT                                        • Parents have a positive attitude towards the
 The school environment:                              school and are keen to be involved in school
 • encourages parents/carers to visit and             activities.
    participate in school life                     • Parents are involved in student learning in a
 • recognises that partnerships between               variety of ways and are present at many school
    parents and teachers lead to better learning      activities.
    outcomes                                       • Parents are involved in establishing school goals
 • promotes school and teacher                        and policies.
    responsiveness to parents’ views, inquiries    • The school provides training or assistance to
    and concerns                                      parents about helping at school (for example, how
 • supports the development of links with the         to assist with reading) and on education issues
    broader community including other schools,        (for example, IT, gender issues).
    business, and voluntary and government         • There is an active P&C association.
    organisations.                                 • The P&C and the School Board work
                                                      collaboratively (for example, through overlapping
Overall, there is a strong sense of community         representation).
within the school.                                 • Parents are satisfied with the methods and level
                                                      of communication between home and school.
                                                   • The school seeks and welcomes feedback from
                                                      parents about their level of satisfaction with the
                                                      school (for example, through a survey or by
                                                      encouraging parent comments).
                                                   • The school is seen as a key part of the wider
                                                   • The school has links with other schools,
                                                      government organisations, community support
                                                      services, businesses and the community broadly.

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