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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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2007 NSW Priority Schools Programs Conference: Leading & Achieving

Tracey Kick
Project Officer, Priority Schools and Equity Coordination Unit, NSW Department of Education and Training

On 15–16 August 2007, more than 900 delegates are expected to converge on the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour for the biennial NSW Priority Schools Programs Conference, Leading & Achieving.

The goal of the Priority Schools Programs Conference 2007 is to provide leadership in achieving educational equity for students experiencing intersecting disadvantage in low socio-economic status (SES) school communities. Factors such as geographic isolation, Aboriginality, gender, disability and cultural and linguistic diversity may intersect with socio-economic status to impact upon student learning outcomes.

Leading & Achieving participants will be representing 574 Priority School communities across New South Wales and include students, parents, teachers, members of the executive, regional consultants and state office personnel.

The conference is a unique opportunity for Priority School communities to engage with current educational research specific to low-SES communities, celebrate and showcase effective practice and set strategic directions as a whole learning community.

About Priority Schools Programs

From 2006, programs within the NSW Department of Education and Training that support schools serving high concentrations of low socio-economic status (SES) communities were incorporated into Priority Schools Programs (PSP). These programs include the Priority Schools Funding Program (PSFP) and the Priority Action Schools Program (PAS), which provides additional funding to a small number of Priority Schools in deep need.

The activities of the PSP include professional learning for teachers and community members, resource materials development, research and the sharing of effective practice in local networks of Priority Schools.

PSP consultants and partnership officers, as members of regional equity teams, support Priority Schools to meet program and regional priorities. The consultants and partnership officers also liaise between schools and communities to increase community partnerships and inter-agency links.

In 2003, a meta-evaluation of the PAS program was undertaken by Susan Groundwater-Smith and Stephen Kemmis. Seventy-three school reports were used as a source of information for the research. Knowing Makes the Difference: Learnings from the NSW Priority Action Schools Program outlines the success of the program in supporting low socio-economic status communities. The report included 13 recommendations for future action.

The 2007 PSP Conference

The two-day program will consist of keynote speakers, paper presentations, workshops, the sharing of effective practice by Priority Schools across NSW, panels and a plenary.

Day one will open with a keynote presentation from Professor Peter Freebody, Professorial Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. He will outline some of the challenges faced in improving the educational achievement of students whose lives are impacted by intersecting disadvantage.

Professor Peter Freebody will then facilitate an interactive and dynamic plenary session, involving a series of presenters who will each address a different aspect of the nature of intersecting disadvantage within low-SES contexts. Themes will include geographic isolation, Aboriginality, gender, disability and cultural and linguistic diversity. In this session, delegates will also be presented with the voices of teachers, parents and students as a reflection on these key themes. Opportunity for discussion and interaction with the panel presenters will follow.

Professor Barbara Comber, key researcher in the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures, and Deputy Director of the Hawke Research Institute at the University of South Australia, will provide the keynote presentation on day two. Getting out of deficit: Raising learning expectations and seeing them through will draw on a range of current and recent research collaborations with innovative and equity-driven teachers in low-SES schools.

Each concurrent session will consist of presentations and workshops. Over the two days, the program will include nine regional showcases, 21 workshops and 29 oral presentations. Sub-themes will include: literacy, numeracy, participation, engagement, high expectations, student voice, quality teaching and learning, classroom and school organisation and school culture, and home, school and community partnerships.

Presentations include Students finding their voice, which will examine strategies for giving students a coordinated voice on teaching and learning issues and supporting them in learning more about social justice and equity.

Another workshop will showcase a Transition to School project, which aims to improve linkages between families, prior-to-school services, schools and local communities, and support transition to school for families of Aboriginal, low socio-economic, and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and children and families with additional needs.

The participation of students from Priority Schools as chairs, presenters and delegates throughout the two-day conference is an important and defining feature of the PSP Conference. A concurrent student program scheduled for the afternoon of day one has been developed in consultation with the PSP Student Equity Advisory Team (SEAT).

Students, school staff and community members from Priority Schools are attending the conference thanks to financial support from principal sponsors, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sun-Herald, and major sponsors, Making Cents and Electroboard.

Registration for the Leading & Achieving conference is now open to school communities, the wider education community, and community organisations and strategic partners that support student learning in low SES contexts. Visit the conference website for more information: www.tourhosts.com.au/leadingandachieving


Tracey Kick

Project Officer, Strategic Initiatives

Priority Schools and Equity Coordination Unit

Equity Programs and Distance Education Directorate

NSW Department of Education and Training




Subject Headings

Socially disadvantaged
New South Wales (NSW)