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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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The Classroom First strategy: introduction

Special report

This week Curriculum Leadership features a report on Classroom First, a major new intitiative in Western Australia introduced by Sharyn O’Neill, Director General, Department of Education and Training. In the report the Director General outlines the initiative, including the six key elements of the strategy.  This report originally appeared in SM (School Matters) Issue 9, 14 September 2007.


Our goal is a strong public school system – a public school system that earns the respect of the community for the quality of the education it offers.

The public school system will be strong if we work at making:

  • every public school a good school;
  • every teacher an effective teacher; and
  • every student a successful student.

To achieve this we need an integrated strategy with a clear educational rationale.

The Classroom First strategy is just that - and it will be used as the framework for future decision making. It underpins our strategic plan. It provides the rationale for our corporate structures. It reflects our beliefs and commitment to quality public education. It is consistent with the best evidence available about school and teacher effectiveness. It will be implemented using the most effective change management practices.

This paper outlines the objectives and key elements of the Classroom First strategy in terms of students, teachers and schools.

Before describing the strategy, it is important to have a shared understanding of what we mean by successful students, of what effective teachers do, and what the characteristics are of good schools.

Successful students

We want all our students to leave school well-prepared for their future. A successful education will equip them to prosper economically, be happy and secure in themselves, and contribute to their community. We believe in building on our students’ strengths so every student leaves school confident they can succeed.

Our educational programs are designed to give each student the opportunity to achieve their academic potential. It goes without saying that a mastery of basic literacy and numeracy skills is fundamentally important.

But to succeed in today’s world, our students need more than sound achievement in the various learning areas. They need to be adaptable, resourceful and quick to learn. They need to be technologically competent, and adept at seeking out and using information to solve problems. They need to be able to think things through for themselves and show initiative, not wait for direction.

We believe a well-rounded education also builds character. That is why our teachers emphasise self discipline, hard work and doing one’s best. Students who understand themselves, learn to manage their emotions and get along well with others will be best-placed to succeed in life.

Finally, we want our students to have a strong sense of being part of a community. This begins with a feeling of belonging to the school community and later to the wider community. We strive to instil in them a sense of service and responsibility to others.

Effective teachers

The best teachers are able to inspire in their students a love of learning. They build positive relationships with their students; they get to know them and are interested in their overall development and progress.

They have high expectations of students in terms of both their standard of learning and their behaviour. They treat their students with respect and expect it in return. They know that a safe and orderly environment is necessary for their students to progress well and so their discipline is firm but fair.

Effective teachers are able to personalise the learning for their students. They monitor the progress of all their students and challenge each to take the next step in their learning.

They are in the habit of constantly reflecting on how well they are getting through to their students and they search for better ways of teaching those students who are not responding.

Good schools

The most effective schools have their students at the front and centre in the way they operate. The question that most drives what they do is: what is in the best long-term interests of the students?

They provide a friendly, welcoming and cared for environment with clear expectations of the standards expected. Teachers are supported in the delivery of interesting and stimulating educational programs.

These schools are well led and well run. The leadership team provides an inspiring educational vision and puts practical measures in place to enable that vision to become a reality. The resources of the school are marshalled behind the vision.

Good schools are open and accountable, undertaking rigorous self assessments, setting themselves challenging targets for improvement, sharing information about their performance, and using that evidence to inform their improvement efforts.

These schools have an environment that supports teachers learning from their colleagues and sharing best practice throughout the school. They have a strong school ethos and cultivate a sense of pride in the school and a sense of belonging and connectedness in the students.

There are opportunities for parents to become involved and active encouragement for them to become partners in their children’s education.

The main section of the report, Classroom First: Six Key Elements of the Strategy, appears as a second article in this edition of Curriculum Leadership.


Subject Headings

Western Australia (WA)
Education policy
Education aims and objectives