Mark Oliphant College – Taking the first steps

Mark Oliphant College is a state Birth to Year 12 school situated in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. It is classified as a Department for Education and Child Development category 1 school, denoting the highest level of educational disadvantage in the state. The College, opened in 2011, was envisaged, designed and built to deliver the highest possible outcomes in care and education for all of the children and young people in the school community, irrespective of their background. The College community comprises student, parents, staff and partners whose goal is to work together to use, develop and enhance the many strengths that they all bring to the College to improve the educational outcomes for all students. The school mission statement ‘Make learning better’ embodies this approach.

The school has dedicated leadership with a vision for making this mission a reality, coupled with a staff team with a willingness to volunteer, share their passions and learn alongside the students. There are also key partnerships in place, with Playford City Council, and the University of Adelaide, host and administrator of Children’s University (CU).

In October 2013, at the beginning of Term 4, 44 students from Years 5 and 6 formed the pilot cohort of Children’s University Passport to Learning holders in Australia. Just seven (short!) weeks’ later 22 children from this cohort graduated with a minimum of 30 hours in their Passport to Learning at the inaugural CU graduation in the University of Adelaide’s Bonython Hall.

Findings during the pilot phase

During Terms 3 and 4 of 2013 data was collected relating to the attendance, punctuality and behaviour of the pilot cohort and it is clear that there has been a positive impact on all three measured factors. Colette Bos, Senior Leader and Children’s University Coordinator at the College, states ‘participation in Children’s University learning clubs has improved student behaviour through; student voice, ownership, a sense of belonging and improved engagement and relationships.

Post pilot phase

At the beginning of the academic year 2014, additional students were invited to join CU extending into the Year 3 and 4 cohort. By the end of term 1 (April 2014) 140 students at the College were active Passport to Learning holders.

From this new cohort, Colette Bos has highlighted the impact the program has had on one particular student. During the period from February to April 2013, this Year 4 student had a total of 11 full day absences. During the same period in 2014, having become a member of CU in March, the same student recorded zero absences and gained an award for good attendance. The effect on behaviour has been equally emphatic: during Term 1 (February-March) this student recorded eight incidents relating to poor behaviour, during Term 2 (April-May) the student has recorded no behaviour related incidents.

His class teacher had the following to say:

‘When this student began Year 4 he was easily distracted and had significant anger management issues. Since enrolling in Children’s University, he has become a strong class participant, his social skills have improved and this culminated in a nomination from his peers as the class representative. He is now a leader within our group, and sets a fantastic example for other students both during lessons and outside the classroom.’

His mum added:

‘I am so glad there has been this massive improvement. Children’s University has done wonders for him-he is confident and willing to go to school.’

Feedback from Children and Parents

There have been many positive comments from both children and parents about participation in CU throughout this initial roll out phase. A selection is recorded below:

Children’s comments:

‘It is good for you and you have something to do instead of staying at home. You get to learn new stuff and get to know all about the University. I want to go to University when I leave school…I want to learn music.’

‘You get to go to the graduation and it is getting you ready for our real University graduation. I feel honoured to do that.’

‘Children’s University is fun because we do different things, and I don’t have to be bored at home.’

‘Children’s University is about kids that choose to do educational things in their own time. The exciting news for Children’s University kids is that they get to graduate in a cap and gown. But the fun doesn’t stop there because if the kids want to do another year of Children’s University they can do it again next year.’

Parent feedback:

‘Was so proud, not just as a mum, but how the whole graduation was done, well done to the children and to all the people that made this happen.’ (Facebook Post)

‘My girls were so happy and proud as I was as their mum. It was a wonderful ceremony. It’s such a good program for the children, and congratulations to all of them on a job well done. And thank you from me for the opportunity it has given my children.’ (Facebook Post)

‘My child has got excited about learning’ (Graduation video)

‘Children feel proud of themselves that they can think to push ahead for their future.’ (Graduation video)