Canterbury Primary School – Case Study

Canterbury Primary School

FINALIST – Student Voice Primary School of the Year

Student Voice: A Whole School Approach at Canterbury Primary School

At Canterbury Primary School there is an agreed approach towards ensuring student voice is at the forefront of teaching and learning. Their student voice infographic has 3 main components – Discovery Learning, Co-designing and Student Leadership, all of which put student needs and interests at the core of teaching and learning.

Discovery Learning in Prep classrooms connects kinder with school. It is a developmentally appropriate transition into primary school and provides an authentic and student-centred environment for learning. Investigations follow student interests and teachers link learning experiences with the curriculum, which creates a shared sense of purpose between the teacher and students.

Co-designing units of work alongside Year 1 – 6 students is a consistent approach across the school, and ensures that there is a shared language and expectation for student input into learning design in every classroom. Teachers identify student interests through observation, conversation or through more formal approaches, such as Student Parliament or classroom surveys. They carefully link this to the curriculum ensuring that learning is contextualised, relevant and provides an audience. Examples of this include the Windows to the World exhibition, Young Minds of the Future and L6P Radio.

Canterbury’s Student Leadership program is underpinned by the Civics and Citizenship Curriculum, where students learn through experiencing the parliamentary process for themselves, rather than through traditional methods. Year 6 students are elected into ministerial and backbencher roles in the House of Representatives, and students in Years 4 & 5 are elected onto the Senate. Students participate in a law-making process, where bills are written, presented, debated and implemented, reflecting the high level of autonomy and agency our students have.

Changes Made

Canterbury’s 2019 Attitudes to School Survey data reflects their positive learning environment. Of the 252 Year 4 – 6 students surveyed, they rated:

  • Student Voice and Agency at 98%
  • Stimulated Learning at 100%
  • Motivation and Interest at 99%
  • School Connectedness at 98%.

Student outcomes have also improved due to contextualised learning experiences that ensure student needs and interests are at the forefront of teacher planning and therefore students are more likely to engage and achieve.

The sense of community engagement and pride is also evident, with a large number of parents supporting classroom programs and student led assemblies and events.

What’s next?

Student voice, agency and leadership is a non-negotiable in Canterbury’s school vision, so this is something that they are always evaluating and considering for the next Strategic or Annual Implementation Plan. Some identified areas for improvement are:

  • Ensuring that opportunities and experiences are maintained as students’ progress through the school.
  • Developing teacher capacity to incorporate the capabilities into their planning

For example, by having an explicit focus on the intercultural capabilities, ethical capabilities and the civics and citizenship curriculum (embedded in their Student Leadership program), Canterbury have the ability to continue broadening student perspective to ensure that agency isn’t limited to the grounds of the school, but rather extended on a national and global level too.

The Biggest Challenges

This approach to teaching and learning is significantly different to the parent’s own schooling experience.

The variability of teacher understanding and application.

The Solutions

For parents:
  • Use every opportunity to communicate with parents in regard to the “what”, “how” and “why” associated with your approach
For teachers:
  • Establish thorough handover and induction processes
  • Have consistent planning documents
  • Invest in staff learning and facilitation of planning days
  • Hold weekly data analysis sessions

Canterbury’s Advice for other schools

  • Consider a weekly timetable perhaps, as there are so many opportunities!
  • Can students have more of a role at whole school assemblies?
  • Are students involved in consultation of policies that relate directly to them, such as uniform, bullying prevention or digital technology?
  • At the conclusion of lessons, what feedback do students have for the teacher in order to improve the lesson?
  • Are students happy with the opportunities or resources provided during recess and lunch?
  • Is the curriculum visible to students?
  • Are assessments “done” to them, or are they involved through feedback and goal setting opportunities?

Start small and build up!

The Student Voice Primary School of the Year Award is part of the annual VicSRC Student Voice Awards which recognise and celebrate best practice initiatives, schools and people in student voice. 

Canterbury Case Stud 2019 (66 downloads)