School Review Service

Why do schools need reviewing?

From January 2017, all Australian schools will be required to develop a school improvement plan.

A plan for school improvement is a process of collaboration, investigation and learning. To identify and prioritise areas for improvement, schools must first understand their current strengths and weaknesses.

By undertaking a review, conducted by an independent third party, schools arrive at a comprehensive starting point for the development of a school improvement plan, and are able to determine the best possible course of action for ongoing improvement of student learning and wellbeing.

School Review Services
How does a school review work?

"A plan for school improvement is a plan for collaborative investigation and learning, and usually involves a number of steps."

How does a School Review work?

An ACER School Review is conducted over 2–3 days (depending on school size), with the resulting report providing detailed, evidence-based feedback in relation to each individual domain, along with a set of overall Commendations, Affirmations and Recommendations.

Each domain is assessed using qualitative profiles and designated as 'outstanding', 'high', 'medium' or 'low', with evidence to support the designation provided.

Upon the completion of a school review, ACER is able to work with the school leadership team to develop a comprehensive School Improvement plan, based on the findings of the report.

Schools are also able to complete a self-review, using the National School Improvement Tool as a guide/framework, rather than undergo a review performed by an external partner. ACER staff are also able to help in this scenario, providing guidance and oversight to school-based teams as they undertake a school review.

“The review process allowed us to stop, listen, take in information, evaluate that information and come up with an operational plan that will lead to better outcomes for students and for staff. It dovetailed beautifully with our strategic planning.”

Fiona Godfrey, Principal, Radford College, ACT

What are the benefits of conducting a School Review with ACER?

ACER School Review staff undergo rigorous training to ensure that their judgements and recommendations are made consistently across schools. An ACER School Review is objective, independent and supported by evidence and insight from our work in educational research.

Each review takes into account unique environment and contextual factors, providing a report specifically tailored to the requirements of the individual school.

In addition to these intangible benefits, schools may engage ACER to conduct a review to:

  • prepare for a system or governing authority external audit
  • respond to a drop in academic achievement
  • realign school objectives with recent leadership changes or restructure
  • support a new strategic plan, or
  • provide leverage among the school community for leaders to implement a strategic agenda.
"The [ACER] consultants engaged our whole community in reflection on where the School was in each of the nine National School Improvement Tool domains. Teachers were visited in their classrooms, which they valued highly; they felt this accorded status to their class work."

Beth Gilligan, Principal Dominic College, Tasmania

Frequently asked questions

Why ask ACER consultants to do a review?

ACER consultants bring knowledge, expertise and a bank of experience as former principals or senior leaders. An external review allows for an independent view to gather evidence and develop a clear line of sight through all levels and stakeholder groups within the school, to then form appropriate, narrow and sharp recommendations on which to build school
improvement plans.

When is a good time to do a review?

A review can be conducted any time it is convenient for the school, however some suggested times include:

  • Early in a new principal’s incumbency
    an ACER Review can provide a ‘point in time’ summary and a road map for school improvement work.
  • After a principal’s extended leave
    a review is useful as a way of mapping improvement and identifying areas for future focus.
  • Mid-contract
    a principal may choose to invite ACER to undertake a review to allow for big picture planning in teaching and learning.
  • Near the end of a principal’s contract
    a review is useful as an overarching recording of teaching and learning current and recommended practices.
  • If there has been a significant change in the leadership team
    schools report that an ACER Review is extremely worthwhile to bind a team through focusing on improvement.
  • Schools entering a new Strategic Planning cycle
    will find the review can be instrumental in establishing the Teaching and Learning goals for the overall plan.

How should a school prepare and what data should be considered?

Part of the purpose of an ACER School Improvement Review is to assist with focusing on use of data and on what data will be most useful in tracking improvement. Information provided to consultants prior to the visit is useful to set context, however the ongoing attention to the use of data may be discussed and included in a recommendation with the ACER Review Report.

What is the role of leadership, staff, students and parents?

School leadership must include access to all stakeholders in the process of the review schedule, to increase a sense of ownership and the validity of conclusions reached.

What is the impact of an ACER School Improvement Review?

Improvement in teaching and learning depends on the development and empowerment of principals and teachers. In the short term, an ACER School Improvement Review allows external experts to delve deeply into a school’s practice and then to filter, plait and weave themes and recommendations which will lead to clear goals for an explicit improvement plan in the area of teaching and learning.