A Remarkable Visit to a High Reliability School

by | Sep 25, 2019

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden at Thomas Chirnside Primary School

The principal and staff at Thomas Chirnside Primary School, Victoria recently opened their doors to educators to talk about their experiences implementing the High Reliability Schools framework. The HRS framework defines five progressive levels of performance that a school must master to become a place where all students learn and achieve at high levels.

In developing the framework, Dr Robert J Marzano drew on the concept of a “high reliability organisation”. This organisation type operates in a complex and often high-risk environment — such as air traffic control or nuclear power generation — where any accidents, no matter how minor, could have grave consequences.

For Dr Marzano, a school was no less complex than these industries and the consequences of failure — students being left behind in the school system — just as serious. The five levels of the HRS framework address school effectiveness and help to ensure improved learning for all.

Thomas Chirnside Primary School — A High Reliability School

Principal Bev Thompson discusses the HRS framework

Thomas Chirnside Primary school has transformed its teaching and learning through implementation of the High Reliability Schools framework. Following six years of work implementing the framework, the school was certified in early 2018 as a Level 1 HRS school, and Levels 2–4 in early 2019.

Level 1 addresses the factors considered fundamental to the well-being of a school: A Safe and Collaborative Culture. Successful implementation of Level 1 HRS was achieved through adoption of the PLC at Work process and has transformed Thomas Chirnside Primary School into a high-functioning Professional Learning Community. Professional Learning Teams meet regularly with the goal of improving student achievement levels through improved instructional practice. Students are empowered through practices and processes that encourage them to monitor their own progress towards specific learning goals.

Levels 2–4 HRS provide the foundations for the work of the professional learning teams and the school as a whole and are made up of: Effective Teaching in Every Classroom, a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum and Standards-Referenced Reporting.

For the staff at Thomas Chirnside, the journey has not been without its challenges, however they now find the PLC at Work process and the structure provided by the HRS framework to be indispensable to the school’s continued improvement.

In the school’s PLC room, staff can see at a glance not only how each student is performing in a given subject area, but what they need to accomplish to improve. The visible and interactive nature of this information means student performance isn’t locked away in a spreadsheet, but is visible for all staff to see and for students themselves to monitor. Students understand their performance goals and work closely with their teachers to identify the areas they need to improve in.

Principal Bev Thompson explains the PLC room to visiting educators

Becoming a High Reliability School

Australia is home to two High Reliability Schools certified by Marzano Research : Thomas Chirnside Primary School and Redcliffe State High School in Brisbane, the world’s first secondary school to be certified in Levels 1–4.

For these schools, the HRS framework has been an indispensable tool in bringing about real and meaningful transformation — for teachers and students.

To find out more about the High Reliability Schools framework, get in touch with Hawker Brownlow today. You can also hear straight from the staff at Redcliffe State High School about how HRS has transformed their school in this webinar session.

Contact Hawker Brownlow Education today
(03) 8558 2456


A Handbook for High Reliability Schools
The Next Step in School Reform

This invaluable manual will help transform your school into an organisation that takes proactive steps to prevent failure and ensure student success. Using a research-based five-level hierarchy along with leading and lagging indicators, you’ll learn to assess, monitor and confirm the effectiveness of your school. Each chapter includes what actions should be taken at each level, along with comprehensive reproducible surveys for school leaders, teachers, students and parents that will enable you to quickly and easily gather data and determine specific areas on which to focus improvement initiatives.

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Richard McKenzie Richard McKenzie is the Marketing Manager at Hawker Brownlow Education. Aside from helping to provide the best in educational resources, professional learning and events, Richard enjoys good stationery and taking nice photos. Read more articles by Richard McKenzie

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