Big Picture Education Australia emerged from the work of two ground breaking school reform initiatives: The National Schools Network (NSN) and the Big Picture Company (USA).
The National Schools Network (NSN)
The NSN was funded by the Hawke-Keating Government in 1991. It was one of a few national networks of its kind in the world. It is recognized nationally as one of the few groups that can bring together diverse stakeholders in a collaborative way to advance ideas, programs and policies with a special focus on schools in disadvantaged communities in all sectors.
The NSN had the research and development task of asking the following question.
“What is it about the way our work is organised that gets in the way of student learning?”
The NSN had a marked influence on approaches to teacher professional learning around the country. These influence are still evident today. Current research on effective professional development for teachers acknowledges the very things that the NSN has always stood for. Beginning with the teachers interests and developing innovative approaches to learning together such as the research circle, using protocols to look at student and teacher work, and action learning methods particularly in learning communities.
The Big Picture Company (USA)
Meanwhile in the USA, The Big Picture Company (USA) was founded by educators Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor in 1995 with aims to catalyse vital changes in urban education by generating and sustaining innovative and personalised schooling. Dennis and Elliot began collaborating with national policymakers to design a student-centred high school and created the Big Picture Company (now Big Picture Learning) as the launching pad for what has now become a national education reform movement.
The first Big Picture School, The Met Center, was launched in 1996 with 50 students in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Over a decade later, The Met is now made up of a group of eight small Big Picture schools. There are also nearly 500 Big Picture schools in systems of small schools across the the world, now Australia has joined them.
Big Picture Education Australia
Big Picture Education Australia was founded by Viv White and John Hogan (formerly of the NSN) with the support of a committed and experienced team of innovators. Their interest in, and focus on, whole school change around a set of design distinguishers arose out of the deficiencies of previous sporadic and often piecemeal interventions. They drew on the success of Big Picture Learning (BPL) in the United States, especially through the work of Elliot Washor and Dennis Littky. White and Hogan have reshaped the distinguishers of BPL to further emphasise academic rigour. They also developed an implementation process to reflect their own experience of successful school innovation. Big Picture schools in several countries maintain close contact through the Big Picture Learning International Network (BPLIN).