Australian schools are failing a quarter of students.

Is your school supporting its weakest students?

In an ideal world, students across the Australian school system would all reach high achievements with the help of their teachers, parents and other administrators. Unfortunately, such a world doesn't exist, which means there are always students who fall behind the pack and those who exceed expectations.

As such, a school system needs to be strong enough and have the right processes in place to support these students and ensure they reach their potential by the time they leave the education system. However, according to the results of a recently released OECD report, countries around the world (including Australia) are failing in this goal.

Student performance is poor in the OECD region.Student performance is poor in the OECD region.

Societal and economic benefits

The 'Low Performing Students: Why they fall behind and how to help them succeed' took information from a 10-year survey of student data from 63 OECD countries. Overall, the organisation found that around one in four (4.5 million) 15-year-olds are not gaining positive outcomes from key educational areas such as reading, mathematics and science.

In fact, progress over the decade has been poor and the OECD discovered that too many students are finishing school without the key skills that will make them productive members of society and spearhead future careers. Additionally, students who don't achieve good results in these areas tend to have poorer motivation, self-confidence and perseverance, the OECD reported.

"It needs to be made a priority and given the necessary resources so that every child can succeed at school."

OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher explained this in more detail.

"The social and economic gains from tackling low performance dwarf any conceivable cost of improvement," he said.

"Education policy and practice can help overcome this issue. It needs to be made a priority and given the necessary resources so that every child can succeed at school."

Australia in focus

While there is a belief that our students are well-supported, statistics from the OECD suggest that improvements are in dire need. In mathematics, around one-fifth of Australian students perform poorly, and the figures for reading (14 per cent) and science (14 per cent) aren't much better. In fact, nine per cent of students are struggling in all three (around 26,000 pupils).

As mentioned earlier, students who don't achieve to a standard level are already behind the eight ball and must work harder to catch up to their peers (if they ever do). Of course, it is important to note that low academic performance is closely linked to disengagement in the classroom.

To address this moving forward, the report noted a number of recommendations – with all certainly within the reaches of Australian schools. Here are a couple of examples:

1) Providing support as early as possible

Often, parents can put down poor educational performance down to a few reasons. Perhaps the teacher wasn't up to standard, there were tricky family situations or the student is a slow developer. However, all the excuses in the world aren't good enough when the child fails to achieve good results later in his or her educational life. 

As such, the OECD maintained that teachers and schools should provide support as early as possible to students identified as behind their peers or suffering from learning disabilities. Whether between the ages of 5-9 or 10-13, there are a number of signs that teachers and parents should be aware of. This could include trouble with test questions, poor organisational skills or even messy handwriting, as an article from Help Guide noted.

How can schools engage with underachieving students?How can schools engage with underachieving students?

2) Supporting minority and immigrant students

Statistically, both minority and immigrant students are at a disadvantage compared to their peers. As such, the OECD report recommended that school leaders create special programmes to help these individuals.

According to Statista, around 15.8 per cent of the population are minorities – either Australian aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or of other ethnicities. At the same time, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in early 2015 that 28 per cent of the population was born overseas – around 6.6 million people.

While not all minority and immigrant students perform poorly at school, it will prove key for Australian teachers, administrators and other senior management professionals to not let these kids slip through the cracks by developing targeted programs.

3) Design a tailored policy teaching strategy

Ultimately, one of the best ways to engage with students who are performing below expectations is by establishing a tailored teaching strategy aimed at the individual, not the group. By understanding the personal issues in depth, teachers have a much better chance of improving skill sets and the attitudes of certain students. 

At Best Performance, this is certainly what we are trying to promote through our Annualised NAPLAN Analysis service (ANA). Offering testing and results for the off NAPLAN years (4, 6, 8 and 10), teachers can clearly track progress throughout the often long 27-months between regular NAPLAN tests.

This information can then be used to design tailored policy teaching strategies and personalised student plans for the future. 

At the end of the day, teachers are responsible for leaving no student behind. With the help of Best Performance, we can help make this a reality.

For more information, contact our team today.

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