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Outram School – Using challenges to develop the KCs

Outram School has chosen a unique approach using 'challenges' to focus on the development of the key competencies.

"All we can do is find ways of capturing something of what it is like, not be conclusive or definitive."

Greg Carroll, Principal

Each five weeks the school has a particular (whole school) focus that begins on a Monday morning with a 'challenges' assembly. Here, housekeeping issues for the week are addressed together with examples of the way particular students have been noticed in the previous week putting these challenges into action.

Sharing in this way enables expectations to be both visible and transparent to staff and students.

Each classroom has a vision poster, which is an embodiment of the things that these challenges encompass.

The vision document is presented in pictorial format, enabling individual classes to personalise the vision and teachers to integrate it into what they are focusing on in the classroom. When syndicates are planning, these challenges help to inform their decision-making process.

Classrooms include materials such as:

  • Y-charts, enabling students to refer back to the collaborative unpacking they have done for the particular challenge
  • captioned photographs showing the challenge in action
  • photographs with speech bubbles to enable students to make their personal experiences overt
  • children's stories, describing how they have put the challenges into practice
  • copies of brainstorms and other thinking tools that have been used to tease apart what the challenges look like in practice.

A series of posters displaying the challenges, together with a carefully chosen picture to illustrate each one, are also used to reinforce the approach. Each classroom displays the poster for at least the duration of the five-week focus on that challenge.

"We aim to build resilience and build capacity in the children to tackle difficult learning and know what to do when the going gets tough."

Classes are blogging, and 'Room 9, we shine, all the time' blog gives many examples of how the children are meeting the challenges throughout their school and wider lives.

Every effort is made to make learning at school transparent and emphasise that school is not the only place children can be successful and face ‘challenges’.

Challenge indicators

Below are examples of the particular things these challenges mean to teachers and students at the school. Each bold heading is the challenge and the list below are the indicators exemplifying each one. The intention is to integrate and immerse students and teachers in these by making them a part of the culture at Outram. Teacher modeling of these dispositions enables the process to be more transparent for students.

The challenge indicators are also included when reporting to parents. These will look very different for students in year 1 to those in year 6, however, the value for the staff as a whole is that they continue to discuss the criteria to ensure they are making their judgments as valid and consistent across the school as they can.

Perseverance and dedication are two of the most often mentioned challenges.

Original and independent thinker

  •  Will generally look beyond the obvious.
  •  Responds in a way that appropriately challenges their own and others' thinking.
  •  Creates new ideas and thoughts and can justify their opinion.

Accepting risks and taking challenges

  •  Manages physical risks and takes appropriate actions.
  •  Is willing to try something new.
  •  Is able to recognise what is personally challenging and perseveres to achieve.
  •  Knows their limits but pushes beyond them towards personal excellence.

Perseverance and dedication

  •  Is able to persevere on a task through to completion.
  •  Is able to keep on task when an activity is challenging.
  •  Takes pride in the presentation and quality of their work.

Cooperation and team work

  •  Works actively with confidence in group situations.
  •  Co-operates with others and respects varying opinions.
  •  Accepts different roles within a group.

Respecting and appreciating ourselves and others

  •  Encourages and supports the efforts of others.
  •  Is able to win and lose graciously.
  •  Listens and speaks with courtesy.
  •  Displays empathy towards others.

Curiosity and wonderment

  •  Asks questions and actively seeks the answers.
  •  Shows awe and gets excited about new things and learning.
  •  Eager to share discoveries and amazing things.

Accuracy and excellence

  •  Identifies, sets, and monitors appropriate personal goals.
  •  Gives their personal best in all areas of the curriculum.
  •  Achieves a high standard when presenting work.
  •  Extends their own areas of strength.

Contributing to the life of the school

  •  Takes on (seeks) responsibility and leadership within the school willingly.
  •  Takes the ‘challenges’ and puts them into practice.
  •  Looks after the school and its property, people, and systems.
  •  Is a good ambassador for our school.

Integrating the key competencies

The table below shows the way in which the key competencies and challenges have been integrated for planning.

PDF icon. Integrating the KC table (PDF, 31 KB)


  • The challenges replace all mention of the KCs in planning or programmes.
  • The criteria listed above are intended as indicators of the challenge being achieved or worked on. No attempt is made to level or make judgments as to mastery of any of these areas.
  • These expectations may change in emphasis for individual children and will change for different year levels.
key competencies

Updated on: 14 May 2010