A study group program making waves

Case study: A study group program making waves

Who’d have thought Year 12 could be a team pursuit? At Brighton Grammar School in Melbourne, it is just that. Sport is a big deal at this boys’ school. All the students play sport, whether it’s cricket, badminton or volleyball in the summer, or rugby, basketball or hockey in the winter. Sport is in the school’s DNA.

So when Ray Swann, head of senior school, was thinking of ways to really lift academic performance, he knew sport was the key. Swann came up with the idea for a program that could transfer his students’ love of sport and desire to win into studying for their exams.

Called the Syndicate Program, it takes the boys’ ‘all or nothing’ desire to win at sport and puts it towards their academic work. Just like they are in teams for sport, all
Year 12 boys form small study teams that train together throughout Year 12. They meet on weekends or after school at specific times to study. They talk game plans – how to approach assessments or exams – and they focus on the ultimate prize.

Except that the grand final isn’t for AFL, it’s their final Year 12 exams.

The school ran a pilot program a few years ago and the early findings were impressive. The boys who were involved in the first pilot really lifted their ATAR scores.

When asked about the program, one boy said: ‘I couldn’t believe how much work we started to do. We’d meet on a Sunday, play some FIFA, and then do six to seven hours’ work. I couldn’t do that by myself.’

Another said, ‘It helped me realise how much work I actually needed to do in some of my subjects.’

Swann says the program works because the boys do not feel like they are alone. ‘It can be very isolating to go and sit in a room by yourself and study. But with the Syndicate Program
they say, “We are in this together.” They can look up and see a friend sitting across from them and they don’t need to talk, or they might test each other and look over each
other’s study notes.’ Last year the school had the best results in its history,
and schools around the country now want to implement the program.

‘The boys really do feel like they are letting the team down if they don’t turn up to a study session,’ says the school’s principal Ross Featherston.

‘Study shouldn’t be about a solo flight and, as kids’ stress levels increase, you know you are not alone, and this lessens the stress and increases performance.’


This is an extract from ‘If You Want to Blitz Your Year 12 Exams Read This Book’ by Alexandra Smith, published on 18 December 2017  by ABC Books 
A copy of the extract can be found here. To order a copy, click here