Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Villawood is adding value to students’ first three years of school with mathematics and literacy programs formulated to ensure they thrive academically.

About 88 per cent of the school’s students come from a language background other than English, yet data shows 91 per cent of current Year 1 students perform above grade level in reading.

As an Instructional Leader, Diana Shields supports teachers from Kindergarten to Year 2 at the school to develop high quality literacy and numeracy programs for students.

The approach is data-driven, with teachers looking at students’ writing samples and interview data to devise intervention programs for those whose learning growth may have slowed.

It’s a really collaborative way of ensuring that our students are achieving.

– Diana Shields

Literacy support includes access to learning support officers who work with students in 15-minute small group sessions to develop their awareness of and ability to pronounce sounds.

Students are also exposed to the art of problem solving early through Sydney Catholic Schools’ Vision 2020: Mathematical Expertise and Excellence (ME&E) project. The project gives students ‘launch tasks’ to help them explore different topics in mathematics while building independence and perseverance.

The tasks are often open-ended. Year 1 students recently used an unopened packet of M&M’s to explore number combinations that add up to 20, asking students to think of as many combinations of the red and green coated chocolates as they could to make up the number.

Four staff have become highly accomplished at delivering the ME&E program, and by the end of the year all staff will have completed professional learning for the project.

‘We have high expectations for our students at Sacred Heart Villawood,’ Mrs Shields said.

‘Our students have their own goals in reading, writing and mathematics each term. These are set through a three-way conversation with the student, teacher and parent.’

‘It’s a really collaborative way of ensuring that our students are achieving to the best of their ability. We promote positive, constructive feedback for our students so they can ask, and answer, ‘Where am I going to go next in my learning?’