Sydney Catholic schools rank top in literacy, numeracy distinguished list

Six Primary schools in Sydney Catholic Schools are among the nation’s best performers after their students made significant jumps in literacy and numeracy learning in NAPLAN tests between 2014 and 2016.

The schools – St Paul of the Cross Catholic Primary Dulwich Hill; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary Mt Pritchard; Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary Fairfield; St Felix Catholic Primary Bankstown; St Martha’s Catholic Primary Strathfield; and St John’s Catholic Primary Auburn – have been recognised across the nation after their students made substantial learning gains from Years 3 to 5 in their NAPLAN results in literacy, numeracy or both.

The schools were among 400 across the nation identified in the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) distinguished list.

Every year, ACARA annually identifies schools demonstrating outstanding gains by comparing the gains of students from schools that are similar across the nation.

This year, Sydney Catholic Schools represent nearly half of all NSW Catholic schools named on ACARA’s distinguished list. Across all Sydney Catholic schools, the average learning growth for students from Years 3 to 5 was higher than the state average in both literacy and numeracy. It was nearly 4 points higher for numeracy, and nearly six points higher for literacy.

A collaborative teaching and learning culture has lifted numeracy levels at St John’s Catholic Primary Auburn.

Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, paid tribute to the hard work of students and teachers.

“Showing significant learning growth above the national average in literacy and numeracy is testimony to the high quality teaching and early intervention strategies in place in our schools. It reflects the skilled work of our teachers and the hard work of our students and their families,” he said.

While Sydney Catholic Schools make up only 6 per cent of all NSW primary schools, they make up 12 per cent of those NSW primary schools included in ACARA’s list of outstanding achievers.

What the principals said:

Antonella Dolores, St John’s Catholic Primary Auburn:

“At St John’s the principle of ‘know your learner’ underpins our school wide pedagogy. Our collaborative teaching and learning culture allows us to use student data to analyse and strategically inform personalised learning.

“This direction has dramatically impacted on student learning growth and self confidence. Having a strong partnership with the whole school community has given parents the knowledge to support their child’s learning at home.”


Br Nicholas Harsas, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary Fairfield:

“In a school community such as Our Lady of the Rosary Fairfield, with our large number of EALD (English as an Additional Language or Dialect) students, explicit teaching is essential and this benefits all learners.

“The school provides consistent professional learning opportunities enabling teachers to understand and respond to student achievement data. This data then informs targeted intervention necessary for students. High expectations are set for all students who strive to reach their full potential. The school timetable values and protects learning time with uninterrupted English blocks and Maths lessons for all grades each day.”


Warren Loy, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary Mt Pritchard:

“At Our Lady of Mt Carmel we have established and implemented targeted learning programs in order to address the literacy and numeracy demands of all of our students covering a wide range of diverse learning needs. Ongoing professional learning for staff in the teaching and learning of reading and critical thinking skills has led to significant improvement in student learning outcomes.”


Judy Gastin, St Martha’s Catholic Primary Strathfield:

“We attribute the significant learning growth to school-wide, consistent, evidence-based teaching practices. We have refined our approach to assessment, targeted invention, monitoring and the analysis of relevant data. Teachers have had the benefit of working closely with our Literacy Numeracy coach who is developing their capacity through on-going, targeted, professional learning.

“She, in turn, has had the benefit of outstanding professional learning with colleagues and mentors from our neighbouring cluster of Catholic primary schools.”


Lisa Wahab, St Felix Catholic Primary Bankstown:

“Our school’s vision statement AIM – ‘Aspire, Inspire and Make a Difference’ drives learning conversations between teachers and students, who ask of their learning: ‘Is that Aspirational? What and who inspired you? How are you making a difference to your learning and the learning of others?’’.

“We are committed to setting individual learning goals for Literacy and Numeracy, and ensuring parents know their child’s learning goal so that they too are a partner in learning. Teachers know that every child will make one year’s growth each year they are at St Felix, and that this looks different for every child. We also support staff by allowing them quality time to look at data, discuss students’ needs and growth and to support teacher’s learning.”


Frances Stewart, St Paul of the Cross Catholic Primary Dulwich Hill:

“Since 2015, opportunities for teacher professional learning have been a priority. Working with a school based Literacy and Numeracy coach, staff have had opportunities to analyse data in both literacy and numeracy and create teaching and learning that is personalised. Early and ongoing intervention enables students to receive explicit, targeted teaching and receive timely feedback that leads to improvement. ” 

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