10 Years - BP@HS Congratulations

This year we take a moment to celebrate success. 2021 marks ten years of Big Picture at Hunter Sports High School – ten years of providing students with an opportunity to become the centre of their learning and pursuing their passion. According to Deputy Principal Scott O’Hara, the key to the success in creating change was good leadership and the advisors' willingness to take a risk. Big Picture is now a viable academic pathway for students willing and able to take responsibility for their learning.

Hunter sports yarning circle

A core team of advisors were led by NSW’s original advisor, Michelle Handyside, who encountered sleepless nights and demonstrated total commitment. She and her team built resources, created networks and had two Year 8 advisories with a total of 34 students. From simple beginnings in “the old building up the back” to new facilities with dedicated exhibition spaces, the Big Picture design for learning now accommodates five advisories from Year 8 to Year 12, while offering personalised learning based on strengths, passions and interests. Furthermore, Principal Rachel Byrne recognises the benefits of the Big Picture design for ALL students and incorporates some of its principles in mainstream. Outlearning experiences, such as internships, play a key role in the success of students at Big Picture. The pandemic in 2020 demanded creative approaches, drawing on opportunities available within the home and school to ensure this continued effectively for students. Examples included working with interior design professionals during a home renovation, discussing a career in the police force with the youth liaison officer at the school and discovering alternative pathways in aviation.

School data shows many students demonstrate improved attendance and reduced suspensions when they move to Big Picture

The BP Academy has established experience, success and longevity. The current team, comprising Michelle Handyside, Paula Quigley-Walker, Craig Martine, David Staley and Head Teacher Nikki Ladas, have shared many stories of their students, past and present. These stories reflect the diversity of young people and their interests and demonstrate the positive pathways that students have chosen to follow post-school. Students spend time at school developing their passions, which provides valuable insights into further study and/or career choices. Former students from the Big Picture Academy at Hunter Sports High School are now employed or run their own business in a number of trades, such as carpentry, bricklaying, scaffolding, roofing and spray-painting, following internships and relevant TAFE courses undertaken whilst at school. Others have pursued careers in photography, elite sports, psychology, teaching, early childhood, medicine and law. This demonstrates the high level of success of Big Picture students in pursuing further study at university, TAFE, or in entering employment.

The Big Picture Academy at Hunter Sports High School has a strong partnership with the University of Newcastle (UON) and was the first Academy to transition students to university using the Graduate Portfolio in 2017: Sophie studied physiotherapy, David is currently studying medicine and Hamish studied Business Law, also becoming the first Big Picture graduate of UON. Advisory teachers maintain contact with previous cohorts – an alumni event for students from 2012-2015 saw more than 80 students attend, the majority of students that were enrolled in BP over that time.

"I found my own way in to Big Picture. They had great data on improvement scores and I was curious about what they were doing differently”

David Staley – Advisory Teacher

Big Picture Advisory teachers at Hunter Sports High School have a strong focus on connecting with students. Students thrive when this connection corresponds with and actively supports their interests. Students feel their advisor knows them well and report growing in both confidence and academic ability. A review of the Big Picture Academy (2020) found students were inspired (81%), motivated (76%) and happy (87%) to be in Big Picture. Advisory teachers appreciate the regular contact from parents expressing gratitude for positive changes in terms of engagement in learning and the improved mental health that they notice in their child, or in some cases, children. Parents feel their children enjoy Big Picture and exploring their passions, and that they are flourishing (70%) and motivated to learn (74%). There is also much attention to defining success for each student individually. This could be transitioning to work from school, returning to mainstream education, “finding your voice”, personal growth or gaining insight through reflective practice.

“A highlight for me was EJ, a Big Picture student, being elected school captain of HSHS in 2020”

Craig Martine – Advisory Teacher

TeachingThe team at Hunter Sports High School have created a fluid space for learning in their Big Picture Advisories. Students are encouraged to be free-thinking, set goals and create a pathway to achieve their goals. The students are responsible for their progress and are also aware of the strengths of the design and the support of their Advisory teachers. Of importance is providing students with opportunities to reflect on growth and development, and have sufficient insight to communicate with clarity and to gain a clear understanding of their future pathway. Through tenacity and perseverance, Big Picture graduates from Hunter Sports High School have experienced outstanding success in transitioning to post school pathways as confident, self-sufficient and successful contributors to society. Continued dedication, high expectations and consistent implementation of the design will contribute to the team moving forward with the same shared vision, while building upon past success.

From the students:

“If I wasn’t in Big Picture, not only would I not be pursuing my passion, I wouldn’t have found my passion.”

“My greatest improvement has been interacting ‘properly’ with adults in formal conversations”