A passion for learning sums up what drives Waraburra State School Principal Jeff Jepson. Spearheading a three-year research project to guide his school through major change led to three measurable successes. The first was increased student engagement in curriculum; the second was their student learning outcomes; and the third was the culture in the school’s community. There was a restructure of practices, an emerging culture of inclusivity and a changing mindset about the role of Special Education Program teachers and Learning Support Teachers in helping support disengaged learners and students with challenging behaviours. The project involved major reform of pedagogy, curriculum delivery, assessment, community links, specialised services, staff development and community links.
Jeff is passionate about championing learning and supporting all, including students with complex needs. A Behaviour and Trauma Teacher were employed at the school as a result. A vision was developed for the school, with professional development aligned to a new way of measuring success which came from consultation with the community to foster and grow learning. Targeted intervention programs for literacy and numeracy have seen student engagement increase. Through Indigenous Closing the Gap support programs, Indigenous students have outperformed other students in writing in Years 3 and 5 and in numeracy in Year 3. In comparison to regional and state levels, Indigenous students at the school are outperforming Indigenous students in all areas. For the whole student population, there has been an 18 per cent increase in students achieving an A or B over the past five years. These results are linked to Jeff’s leading of change to the delivery of curriculum with a focus on positive behaviour frameworks and differentiated learning. The planning process for curriculum focuses on where students are and on differentiating to meet their learning needs. This approach has been driven by Curriculum Co-ordinators who work to engage disengaged students through pre-teaching of concepts. This process has been shared by other schools and quality-assured by curriculum leaders in the region. As Principal, Jeff strongly supports ongoing professional learning for himself and his staff. They have attended several sessions in various fields that feed into the work of the research project. Jeff in particular has done professional development in the area of being Trauma Aware. His inclusive leadership has been reflected in school culture and surveys show improvement in student, staff and parent satisfaction since 2015. Jeff has an open-door policy and creates links with the community, seeking opportunities for students academically, in sports and culturally. He has also sought to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. The success of the reform that Jeff ushered in at Waraburra has led to other schools in the region sending their staff to observe, with plans to replicate Waraburra’s inclusive models in their own schools. A principal for 24 of his 26 years as a teacher, Jeff has played an instrumental role in change to curriculum, pedagogy and professional development at his school. Every morning Jeff greets each student at the gate and is committed to ensuing their success remains his school’s cornerstone. Congratulations Jeff on your nomination.