Results from the 2020 Stronger Smarter Census suggest that if we are to enact transformational change for Indigenous students in our schools, everyone needs to be on board with a collective vision and mindset of ‘high expectations.’
Census respondents, our alumni from the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program (SSLP), view the Stronger Smarter Approach (SSA) as something to be implemented beyond their own teaching or workplace practice. Regardless of whether or not they are in a leadership role, alumni describe how they are working with other staff in the school towards a buy-in approach where everyone is on-board with a school improvement agenda.
The Workplace Challenge
For many alumni, the starting point to enacting change in their school is based on the Workplace Challenge they set during the SSLP. In the 2020 Census, 85% of respondents reported they had completed their Workplace Challenge. Half of those had moved beyond their original challenge to set themselves other ‘challenges’.
Bringing staff along on the journey
In many cases, Workplace Challenges are built around bringing staff along on a journey of transformational change. As some alumni describe, this sometimes involves trying to change established mindsets, where there are still excuses for not holding high expectations, and an ‘unwillingness to rock the boat.’
Alumni recognise this cultural change takes time and means taking small steps, taking time to listen, and not making assumptions. They report success when they are able to work with a team of like-minded’ or ‘similarly inspired’ colleagues who are willing to ‘take on new ideas and who understand and value the philosophy and shared language of Stronger Smarter.
Often these staff have also attended the SSLP, and several respondents describe how personal attendance at the SSLP gives the passion and commitment to keep going. One participant described how those who had not attended the SSLP were not as motivated to keep the momentum of change, with ‘things changing for a while, and then dropping back to the old negative ways.’
Engaging the school leadership
Not all respondents who had completed their Workplace Challenge said they had been able to make the changes they wanted. Enacting the SSA is an ongoing process. A school-wide, strategic approach requires support from school leadership, and alumni tell us this leadership support is integral to success in their Workplace Challenges.
Being is a school leadership or government roles makes it easier to take the enactment of the SSA to others in the school. Alumni is these roles are more likely to complete their workplace challenge, found it useful, made the changes they wanted in the school, and set other workplace challenges.
For those not in leadership positions, enactment requires trust from managers to give staff the autonomy to implement innovations or new practices, with groups of Stronger Smarter trained staff working together to drive change. The majority of Census respondents had leadership support, even where the leadership has not undertaken the SSLP. In a few cases, however, respondents described how they were continuing to work with leadership to show the value of implementing Stronger Smarter in the school.
Enacting the SSA will always mean bringing all staff in the school along on school change journey.