Kingswood High School

Location: Penrith (Western Sydney, NSW)

Kingswood HS is a typical Western Sydney School, with all the normal positives and negatives, but with a wonderful student body.

Our school is made up of 740 students, including 160 students from a non-English speaking background, 75 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students and a Support Unit with 63 students catering for the needs of students with disabilities. It is a medium-sized coeducational secondary school in Sydney's West with a large percentage of students coming from low-income backgrounds.

How has your school used its Gonski funding?

The funding has been used to provide specialised literacy teachers, upgrade information technology as part of a BYOD program and training teachers to use it effectively, establish joint TAFE/in-school vocational education courses, invest in student welfare and leadership programs, upgrade physical and technological resources for the classroom, employ teachers to closely mentor senior students and provide individualised instruction to improve academic results, set up a recording studio and hire a voice teacher to showcase student talents, employ additional tutors for Aboriginal students and develop an adventure and recreation course for students at risk of not completing compulsory education.

We'd like to share the experience of one of our beginning teachers and how this has impacted on his teaching practice and the students at this school.

"At the end of 2015 I anecdotally mentioned to my colleague, Tim, 'You know, I record music as hobby, it would be really great if I could record some of the year 12's music performances for them - they might enjoy that.'

Having only started teaching 3 terms earlier, and having just recently recovered from the onslaught that is the first 6 months of teaching, I never thought (or perhaps hoped) that Tim would take it seriously. 4 weeks into the holidays I received a video of some kids doing a cover of a song and recording their video onto YouTube.

'We should do this,' said the accompanying message.

In February of 2016, our first performer, Elyse, went behind a low-quality usb microphone Tim had purchased and an old school camera. We recorded the music onto my laptop with some basic software I'd used at home. If you're interested, the video is here. The equipment was basic, as we'd funded the first video ourselves, but luckily Elyse was an exceptionally talented singer, which gave us a good base to show to our Principal that the project had potential.

With proper resources that then came from our school's Gonski funding, we were able to upgrade an underused storage room into a respectable looking studio space. Suddenly students who were either poor attenders or in one case non-attenders, started showing up to record songs. The local community became engaged as we began to reach families on a personal and sometimes cultural level, raising the positivity and engagement of the student and parent body.

Elyse made a few recordings over the course of the year, with one video resulting in her being discovered by the School Spectacular group. We were truly proud to see her perform as a soloist at the Opera house in front of a packed crowd that very same year.

She is an extremely talented person and the videos were able to show that to the world.

Elyse had a great interview in the Daily Telegraph leading up to the showcase, in which she said 'music is something that brings everybody together'. It was our Gonski funding that allowed us to bring the music back to our school, a project which is ongoing to this day.

As true as the day she said it, it really has brought the school, the students and the community closer together."

How has Gonski made a positive difference for students?

The funding has enabled the flexibility to design programs and provide instruction specifically tailored to meet the needs of Kingswood students. There is already some improvement in literacy and social skills and better engagement in learning. We recognise that all programs are in their infancy and will continue to evolve and improve over time.

What could your school do with Gonski funding in the future?

Full Gonski funding would enable Kingswood High School to continue the programs that are already in place. Some of the existing projects have been run with a limited number of students as the costs were beyond our resources. Ideally these projects could be offered to all students who would benefit from being included. Full funding would result in more staff being employed to run existing and new programs to cater for the individual needs of students to improve learning outcomes.

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