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Grant Stephensen


In his four years at Mabel Park State High School (MPSHS), Associate Principal Grant Stephensen has listened to students, implemented popular programs that have more than doubled the school’s enrolment, garnered awards attention and increased student engagement and performance.

When Grant first arrived at MPSHS he consulted not just current students, but also pupils from the high school’s feeder schools. He quickly identified the need to create specialist programs and established two gymnasiums, a dance studio and a STEM lab. Through the strategic employment of staff he was able to grow Dance, Art, Robotics, Rugby League, Football, Basketball and Netball to full capacity.

The school’s total enrolment numbers went up from 615 in 2016 to 1410 in 2020 – more than doubling in four years. Listening to students also led to a redesign of the school uniform.

Grant’s work was also instrumental in MPSHS winning both the Education category and the Premier’s Award at the Queensland Reconciliation Awards in 2018. The same year Indigenous Year 9 students at MPSHS were outperforming non-Indigenous students in Year 9 Numeracy results and there was no educational gap in Year 7 Reading results.

Grant’s work has proven integral to the school being nominated for or winning several other awards at regional, state, and national level, including winning the 2016 Showcase Award for Excellence in the Junior Secondary Years.

With the roll out of Senior Assessment and Tertiary Entrance across Queensland, Grant led professional development in this area, brokered Certificate III courses to assist students in gaining Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) points, organised timetables and offered subjects through distance education that were not available onsite at MPSHS.

The school’s Mabel Track database ranks students across the five key areas of Grade Performance Average, Attendance, Effort, Uniform and Behaviour with Bronze, Silver and Gold rankings. In the 2017-18 period there was a 24 per cent increase in the numbers of Years 7 to 9 students achieving Gold and Silver awards.

Other outcomes from Grant’s work include a significant improvement in NAPLAN Reading performance from 2016 to 2018: while reducing the withdrawal rate from 40 per cent to 18 per cent, the school also greatly reduced the proportion of students in the lowest-performing category. There was also an 18.5 per cent increase in Year 9 English A and B grades during 2016 to 2019.

A 2018 school survey showed 100 per cent of parents agreed with the statement, “My child is getting a good education at this school.”

Kirsty King, Head of Teaching and Learning at MPSHS, says Grant is a champion for many students and encourages every teacher to be a champion too.

“Grant believes that education is the vehicle for young people to achieve their dreams,” Kirsty says.

Taking on board the desire of students to utilise laptops, Grant created the laptop-based iMPact class. Ninety per cent of students enrolled in iMPact has reported it has increased their engagement in their education. Grant is working towards making MPSHS a fully Bring Your Own Device school by the end of 2021.

When Grant came to the school in 2016, the community approached him about having a girls Rugby League team and the following year there was one. The players became state champions in 2018 and retained the championship last year. As students their attendance, behaviour and academic results improved as well. Heavily involved in the creation of what is now a Program of Excellence, Grant has applied the same program to football, basketball, and netball.

Grant harnessed the expertise of staff and appealed to their sense of moral purpose to see every student succeeding. Major reform included the redesign of curriculum, review of assessment, adoption of the framework and teaching strategies of Dr Robert Marzano’s Art and Science of Teaching and the development of staff through a peer mentoring model.

Ninety-six per cent of staff report there has been a definite improvement in their teaching practice through professional dialogue brought about by Peer Coaching.

After 19 years in the profession, Grant is currently considering further study with a Masters, continues to develop himself as a leader and has taken opportunities to be Acting Principal at MPSHS and other schools.

Congratulations Grant on being shortlisted for the TEACHX Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning Award.

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