Quality Teaching

for All Learners


School improvement and CEMSIS

Catholic Education Melbourne’s Horizons of Hope education framework commits our schools ‘to achieving the highest standards possible based on reflective practice, using data, research and evidence to ensure progress and growth in learning’.

A rigorous school improvement process is one of the ways our schools meet this commitment.

The purpose of our school improvement process is to improve outcomes for students so that all members of our Catholic school community are learners who:

  • honour the sacred dignity of each person
  • search for truth
  • embrace difference and diversity
  • build a culture of learning together
  • engage with the deep questions of life
  • honour equitable access and opportunity for all
  • commit to achieving the highest standards possible
  • make a difference in the world.

In 2019, Catholic Education Melbourne delivered two key school improvement initiatives. Over 320 schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne participated in new school improvement surveys and 36 schools trialled the School Improvement Framework Rubric Review.


Catholic Education Melbourne School Improvement Surveys

The Catholic Education Melbourne School Improvement Surveys (CEMSIS; pronounced with a soft ‘c’) are a purpose-built tool for driving school improvement within a Catholic context.

CEMSIS was delivered over a three-week period in September and collected data on how students, families and staff perceive their school. Perception data provide a crucial data set in informing the work happening in schools across the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Participants in the survey comprised 14,000 teachers, 39,000 secondary students, 29,758 primary students and approximately 12,600 families.

Though no survey can accurately and fully assess every aspect of the education experience, CEMSIS has generated usable evidence about the degree to which Catholic school students positively endorse how they are:

  • engaging in their learning
  • demonstrating Catholic values
  • feeling a sense of belonging to their schools
  • demonstrating a positive disposition towards learning
  • feeling safe in school.

The survey also asked students for their perceptions of how the adults in a school support them in striving for those outcomes.

Families were asked questions about their perceptions of the school culture, their level of engagement with the school and its quality, quantity and frequency, and Catholic identity.

Student, family and staff data sets were provided to schools through an online portal for the first time, with the data sets being directly accessible to schools in a matter of weeks after survey completion.

The data were made available to schools in a blend of data visualisations and granular statistics, which allowed schools to compare against Catholic system and within cohort averages.

Schools used CEMSIS to listen to and learn from their communities in relation to decision-making and effective school improvement.

While CEMSIS data are a valuable source of information that can be used for school improvement, they are not used in isolation.

John Paul College, Frankston, was one of the pilot schools that trialled CEMSIS in 2019. The school’s principal, John Visentin, said the surveys provided a ‘wealth of new information about what students, staff and families want to see improve, and the new reports were particularly good at visualising complex information that made finding patterns and understanding trends easy’.

Other significant improvements identified were the online access, average length of time to take the surveys and completion rates. The average time taken was 21 minutes for students in Years 4–6 and 13.5 minutes for those in Years 7–12. The completion rate for students was 95%, for staff 97% and for families 87%, indicating that the opportunity to contribute to school improvement is one taken seriously by our community.

School Improvement Framework Rubric Review

In February 2019, Catholic Education Melbourne launched the School Improvement Framework (SIF) Rubric.

The new rubric is a streamlined version of its predecessor and was developed with input from the Principal Reference Group, School Improvement Working Party, principals, school leadership teams, school reviewers and Catholic Education Melbourne’s Regional Learning Services teams.

The purpose of the SIF Rubric is to:

  • provide school leadership teams with a frame of reference for reflecting on their progress towards their School Improvement Plans
  • assist schools in collating relevant evidence (both quantitative and qualitative) for school review
  • support evidence-based conversations about current performance
  • scaffold progression to support future school improvement.

It has five spheres that are used to measure school improvement: religious dimension, learning and teaching, leadership and management, student wellbeing and school community.

Catholic Education Melbourne uses the rubric as a school improvement assessment tool that supports deep learning and ongoing monitoring of improvement throughout the four-year cycle of the whole-school improvement process for all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Benefits of the new version have included greater conceptual clarity, more accurate progressions and greater alignment to school effectiveness tools such as CEMSIS and school improvement processes.

Later in 2019, Catholic Education Melbourne also trialled a new model of school review – the SIF Rubric Review – with 36 schools in the Archdiocese.

Four core improvement drivers provided the basis for the move to one model of school review and the renewed framework: Catholic particularity, impact focus, systemness and coherence.

Forming a valuable part of the self-reflection process, the SIF Rubric Review supported trial schools to review their progress against the goals and objectives in their School Improvement Plans.

Once completed, the rubric provided a key source of data and evidence for school reviewers to use during the formal school review process.

Reviewers tested and validated the judgments made by the trial schools as a way to establish clear improvement directions for the schools.

As it supported schools, and the system, to become more intentional in the alignment and coherence of all tools, resources and professional learning, the SIF Rubric Review model also enabled ongoing and continuous improvement.

In providing one core articulation of effective practice in a Catholic school, the SIF Rubric Review was able to help unpack a clear progression for improvement across all core capabilities of a Catholic school, underpinned by drivers for improvement.

The SIF Rubric Review model is the basis of school review for all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. On an ongoing basis, the new rubric will enable deep learning and the ability to measure the impact of improvement, as well as ensuring schools continue to meet external legislative and regulatory requirements.