Meet a Compass champion: Ekbal Sayed-Rich
Compass Coordinator and Head Teacher of Student Support National Partnerships at Fairfield High School
I chose to pursue the Compass program because it is a proactive program which raises awareness about aspiring to attend university as early as year 7 and not limited to the traditional planning for university during senior years. I also chose to be a Compass coordinator because it is well known through research that there is a correlation between higher education, better health, longevity, job prospects and the ability to earn higher income levels. The benefits for low income families in accessing higher education is positive and life changing and improves the living standards of those families whose members graduate from University.
We have had over 300 students from years 7-12 attend Compass events, including one learning support class. We have also had 20 teachers across 10 faculties, and 86 parents and their children engaging with Compass learning enrichment workshops, revision days, professional learning and university education sessions in 2011. These engagements with the University have directly supported our students’ learning outcomes and the ability for staff to further develop their pedagogical skills in the classroom, thus improving teaching and learning outcomes for their students. Some of the campus activities the students attended include Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Medical Physics workshops, School Certificate and Higher School Certificate revision days, two museum visits, engineering, screen printing, dentistry, bio-physics DNA and NSW Dance Showcase. Other interactions have been based at the school, most notably the filmmaking and editing course.
Students were further exposed to what university has to offer when they attended two Sydney University open days this year. Our teachers sought professional learning in Interactive whiteboard programming, E.S.L pedagogy and film production. Parents showed high levels of interest when they attended the University for themselves with their own children. This parent engagement activity was attended in high numbers, which has been unprecedented in previous years.
The breadth and scope of the program has allowed the school community to engage with Compass on many levels. The social and aspirational benefits that these learning experiences have afforded our students are extremely powerful for raising the academic expectations of our students of a middle or higher ability range. The Compass program has also become the catalyst for changes in the attitude of our students toward higher education and is widely supported by staff and parents who value and respect the benefits of continued higher education. A measure of success is that many students, teachers and parents also attended these opportunities on the weekends or after school. Teachers accompanying their students have noted overwhelmingly on evaluations that a successful experience and greater significance to learning was achieved. Student evaluations of Compass events show that students are setting academic goals to reach university education earlier and are being supported by their parent or guardian in their post school objectives. An example of this is where a year 9 student this year attended the Sydney University Open Day on the 27th August, 2011, and remained behind, with his father’s permission, to attend a nutrition lecture at 2.30pm because he had already set his goals to attend university when he leaves and in particular to study for a Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise and Sports Science). This student’s Individual Education plan shows that he has also recently been moved up from a mixed ability class to one of the higher classes.
I believe that the Compass Program is vital in engaging and directing our students to achieve higher educational outcomes. The engagement of staff and parents in the Compass program has been pivotal to gaining their support and assistance in fostering attitudes among more students to aspire to further education.