Indigenous Education Strategy Newsletter - Issue 6

As we bid farewell to 2015 it is a good to reflect on what has been achieved during the first year of implementing key actions of the Indigenous Education Strategy 2015-2024. 

The team has spent the last few weeks wrapping up the work of 2015 which culminated with the official launch of the Transition Support Unit on Monday 30 November 2015 by the Minister for Education, the Hon Peter Chandler. It was a great event and you can read more about the launch in the article below.

I would like to thank all of our key stakeholders, including teachers, families and students who have worked with us over the past year to implement what is an important and major reform of the Northern Territory Education system.   Schools right across the Territory who are implementing key elements of the strategy are well engaged in the programs, with student results starting to show early positive signs of improving particularly in the area of literacy. The implementation of the strategy has also provided schools with the increased ability to ensure students in remote and very remote schools have access to the best educational opportunities.

I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous new year and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2016 to further improve the educational outcomes of all students across the Territory. 

Tony Considine, General Manager 

Indigenous Education Review Implementation 

Project updates and plans for 2016

There has been a considerable amount of work done across the Department of Education to implement the key actions under the Indigenous Education Strategy Implementation Plan 2015-2017. 

We would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the progress of these projects and what we can look forward to in 2016.

Element One – Foundations 

Expand the Delivery of Families as First Teachers (FafT) into remote communities, including town camps 

  • The Families as First Teachers (FaFT) program is currently operating in 21 remote communities across the Northern Territory.  An expansion of this program to an additional six sites will commence in Semester 1, 2016. The additional sites are Ski Beach, Tennant Creek, Ampilatwatja, Arlparra, Barunga, Nanmarriyanga. 
  • This program continues to engage young parents and their children in early literacy and numeracy and has proved an essential part of preparing children for formal schooling.

Ensure FaFt programs use evidence based literacy and child development approaches and are rigorously evaluated

  • Work continues to develop an early childhood specific assessment tool that will identify individual students developmental level and readiness for school. The test will be undertaken on a yearly basis. 

Establish guidelines for principals for the support and management of early childhood education and care programs

  • A set of guidelines is currently being developed and tested with early childhood principals. The guidelines will be finalised and implemented in 2016.

Schools to provide a clear transition for children and their families prior to and post preschool

  • A strategic framework and service delivery model is currently being developed that focuses on the transition from early childhood to preschool this includes identifying evidence based practices to support students and families.  

Invest in implementing early language and literacy programs in preschools

  • Work is underway to develop guidelines and resource materials to be utilised by preschools and teachers that will support consistent approaches to teaching and learning in preschools. This will be followed with targeted professional learning and system level changes in 2016.

Establish integrated early childhood services in the child and family centre sites

  • Five child and family centres are operating at Gunbalanya, Maningrida, Ngukurr, Palmerston and Yuendumu and delivering programs from a number of government agencies and non-government organisations.
  • This integrated approach of service delivery is designed to improve access to education, care, health and family support, and improve young children’s readiness and capacity to learn and succeed at school.

Element Two – Essentials

Progressively mandate an approach to literacy and numeracy teaching programs to include phonological and phonemic awareness and assessment

During Term 4, 2015, a review of suitable programs commenced and a trial process has begun to ensure rigor and suitability for this project.

In selected schools, implement Direct Instruction in reading, spelling, writing and mathematics

  • 15 Northern Territory Government schools have been teaching reading, writing and spelling through Direct Instruction in 2015. 
  • Direct Instruction will be delivered to an additional 10 schools and in 2016, and four schools will expand delivery to include Direct Instruction numeracy.

Establish NT-wide age benchmarks for numeracy, writing, reading, phonemic awareness and sight words

  • Three tools have been selected to ensure the Department of Education has a quality literacy and numeracy age benchmark assessment system. The tools selected are:
  • Progressive Achievement Tests (PAT) 
  • Foundations for Early Literacy Assessment (FELA)
  • eWrite
  •  These tools provide information on
  • overall system improvement;
  • in-school quality of teaching; 
  • instant diagnostic feedback across writing genres; and
  • diagnostic measurement of student gaps in learning.

The first round of PAT testing took place in May 2015, establishing the bench marks. The second round of testing was completed in October 2015 with results and data available in January 2016. 

Revise principal performance plans and school plans to reflect the mandated approaches and identify school based strategies for success

  • A principal performance plan has been developed that includes the mandated aspects of the strategy that must be actioned at a school level. The principal performance plans will come into effect in 2016.

Develop and implement policy to guide the delivery of Aboriginal Languages and Cultures programs in NT schools following national and Territory policy direction

  • Work will commence on this key action in 2016, including the development of a Northern Territory Aboriginal languages and culture policy with an accompanying implementation plan for use by schools.

Element Three – Pathways

Transition remote secondary students to residential facilities in towns with secondary schools

  • A request for tender has closed for the construction of a 40 bed residential facility in Nhulunbuy. The successful tender will be announced in early January 2016 with construction to commence soon after the facility to be ready for use in 2017. 
  • Following the construction of the residential facility in Nhulunbuy, scoping studies will take place for the construction of a residential facility in Central Australia. 

Establish a Transition Support Unit to support students with the families through secondary pathways

  • The Transition Support Unit (TSU) commenced operation on October 5 2015 after an extensive territory wide recruitment drive and a two week intensive induction. The role of the TSU is to provide essential support to students and families who wish to undertake a secondary education at a regional high school, NT boarding facility or a boarding school interstate.
  • Transition Support Unit staff have visited 40 schools and are working with 150 Indigenous student from remote communities across the Northern Territory.

Establish secondary education provision in regional and urban sites that meets the academic and vocational needs of students from very remote communities

In 2015, selected schools have trialed the Remote Employment Pathways Strategy which has been designed and contextualised for Indigenous students. 


In urban, regional and approved very remote schools, resource employment pathways programs

  • The Employment Pathways Program has been designed to engage Indigenous adolescents in a course of study that gives them all of the pre-requisites required for work in their local community.. 

The program has five key pillars:

  • Employment
  • Life Skills
  • Vocational Education and Training
  • Communication
  • Engagement programs and extra-curricular activities

Implement options for post primary education, including work readiness in approved schools

  • Work is underway to develop post primary curriculum for senior aged students who remain in communities. This curriculum will include certificate level training and work readiness components. 

Element Four – Engagement

Adopt a system-wide community engagement charter to set expectations to drive respectful and purposeful interactions with the community

  • A draft community engagement framework, tool for use by schools and guidelines have been developed that focus on promoting:
  • communication
  • partnerships to learn
  • community collaboration
  • decision-making
  • participation

These documents will be finalised in 2016 and circulated for use by schools and the community.

Work with the Australian Government to align all efforts to improve school attendance, with a priority focus on engaging families, to address the attendance of children where there is inconsistent attendance

  • Negotiations continue between the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Government to align work in the attendance space through a bilateral plan. This will include ways to collaborate in an effort to maximise work on the ground to improve school attendance rates. 

Implement a tailored single provider girl’s engagement program in the Northern Territory

  • A full tender process was held in 2015 to identify a single provider for a girls engagement program at a number of high schools across the territory 
  • The Stars Foundation was the successful tender and has commenced operation at Katherine High School, Dripstone Middle School, Sanderson Middle School, Nhulunbuy High School, Yirrkala School, Casuarina Senior College and Tennant Creek High School.

This builds on the six existing girls’ engagement programs operated by Role Models and Leaders Australia at Palmerston Senior College, Rosebery Middle School, Centralian Senior College, Centralian Middle School, Jabiru and Gunbalunya Schools.

Implement and resource a whole–system approach to behavior management and wellbeing

  • A whole school approach to positive behaviour has been developed and is being implemented across all remote schools and all middle schools. It includes social and emotional curriculum that has been developed collaboratively with Professor Helen Cahill, University of Melbourne. Trials for this approach will be undertaken in early 2016 with a system wide roll out to occur later next year. 

Element Five – Workforce

Implement a workforce plan to ensure education services are provided to Indigenous students by high quality staff

  • A draft remote workforce plan has been developed that identifies actions to attract and retain staff to live and work in remote communities and identifies ways to increase the rate of indigenous employment, build leadership capacity and development of existing staff. The plan will be finalised in 2016. 

Establish employment and professional development arrangements for assistant teachers consistent with those of other staff

  • Assistant Teacher standards have been developed and feedback received through consultation with key stakeholders has been integrated into the draft standards. Approval for standards will be sought by Department of Education Executive Board in December 2015. 
  • A continuum of learning from the Cert 3 level to advance diploma has been developed for the 330 Assistant Teachers and a new learner friendly model has been contracted to the Batchelor Institute of Tertiary Education that will see Assistant Teachers have a strong focus on literacy and numeracy and be able to complete studies closer to home. 

Strengthen principals’ skills for working in very remote schools, including cultural competency training, mentoring and coaching

  • A mentoring and coaching framework has been developed aligned to the Australian Principals Professional Standards that will be rolled out across schools in 2016. The mentoring and coaching framework aims to improve principals skills, strengthen their professional development, build leadership and address the professional isolation of remote life. 

Provide resources to remote school staff including an introduction to Indigenous languages and team teaching strategies

  • A remote school induction package has been developed. The package includes information and guidelines on teacher strategies for students with English as an additional dialect, Indigenous languages awareness, team teaching and cultural competency. This package will be finalised and implemented in 2016.

Undertake a remote teacher housing refurbishment program in addition to new housing construction in very remote centres aligned to major reforms

  • New dwellings and refurbishments have been completed to houses at the following communities:
  • Ngukurr
  • Alekarenge
  • Kalkirindji  
  • M’Bunghara
  • Woolianna 
  • Milingimbi 
  • Maningrida
  • New dwellings will be built and houses refurbished in 2016 at the following communities:
  • Nyirripi 
  • Yuendumu 
  • Gapu wiyak 
  • Maningrida
  • Gunbalanya

Girls’ Engagement Programs

Stars Foundation girls programs have been fully operational at Dripstone Middle School,  Sanderson Middle School and Katherine High School since Term 3, 2015. Programs have also been established and staff have commenced work in Casuarina Senior College and Nhulunbuy High School with a connected program at Yirrkala School, and will be ready for full program commencement in Term 1, 2016. Staff recruitment is underway for Tennant Creek High School where a program will commence operating during Term 1, 2016.

Role Models and Leaders Australia continue to operate girls programs in Centralian Middle School, Centralian Senior College, Palmerston Senior College, Rosebery Middle School, Jabiru Area School and Gunbalanya School.

Assistant Teachers continue to learn  

Twelve Assistant Teachers from the Arnhem and Barkly regions recently attended a workshop run by the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. The teachers, who are all currently undertaking the advanced diploma in Education Support Services, delivered lessons to their peers, whilst the audience observed and provided feedback. This was a great professional development exercise for the teachers, which will further grow their ability in the classroom. 

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Remote Employment Pathways continues to progress 

Throughout 2015, the Industry Engagement and Employment Pathways team has successfully progressed the development of the Remote Employment Pathways Strategy; running trials in a number of remote schools including Ntaria, Borroloola, Gunbalanya and Ngukurr. The trials have provided valuable feedback to enable the refinement of program resources which are customised to suit our remote school context, including MacqLit, Maths Mastery and a variety of other specific resources. An additional six schools will implement the program in 2016.

During 2015, Vocational Education and Training courses, vocational learning and engagement programs have also been developed and implemented. The highlight of this program was the ANZAC ride undertaken by students and training staff at Ntaria School. The planning and organisation of this ride and educational outcomes achieved, was a credit to the school population, guided by the leadership and support of Ntaria School principal, Cath Greene.

In preparation for the expansion of the Remote Employment Pathways strategy recruitment and training for additional staff is currently underway. This includes 17 trainer/assessors, who will deliver vocational learning and VET to secondary students in regional and approved remote schools across the Northern Territory from 2016 onwards. 

Evaluating A Share in the Future

The evaluation of A Share in the Future - Indigenous Education Strategy Implementation 2015-2017 is progressing.

An evaluation framework has been developed by independent consultants ACIL Allen and endorsed by the Department of Education's Indigenous Education Strategy (IES) Steering Committee.

The framework provides an overview of the evaluation approach and details key data collection activities, including stakeholder interviews, department and school self-reflection tools, case studies and quantitative data analysis. 

The first round of interviews have been completed with a range of stakeholders engaged in an initial assessment of early progress and implementation of the IES. 

In early 2016 further interviews will be undertaken, along with the department and school self-reflection tools and comprehensive quantitative data analysis. School and community case studies will also be undertaken in mid-2016. 

The evaluation will produce the following major reports:

  • 2015 Progress Report (to be completed in April 2016)
  • 2016 Progress  Report (to be completed in April 2017)
  • Final Phase 1 Evaluation Report (to be completed in September 2017)

If you would like further information regarding the evaluation, please contact Strategic Services on 08 8999 5793.  

Indigenous Education Strategy Steering Committee 

In October 2015, the Indigenous Education Strategy Steering Committee was established to provide guidance and strategic direction on the implementation of the strategy. 

The committee is a sub-committee of the department’s Senior Management Team and Executive Board. 

Catherine Weber, Deputy Chief Executive Organisational Services, and Marion Guppy, Acting Deputy Chief Executive School Education jointly chair the committee. Other members include:

  • Tony Considine, General Manager Indigenous Education Review Implementation
  • Jasmin Aldenhoven, Chief Financial Officer, 
  • Arthur Townsend, Executive Director Schools South
  • Laurie Andrew, Executive Director Schools North
  • Anna King, General Manager Strategic Services 

Transition Support Unit officially launched

The Minister for Education, the Hon Peter Chandler officially opened the Transition Support Unit on Monday 20 November 2015. The Minister was joined by a large number of key stakeholders to formally open the Darwin office in the Terminal One Building located on the Stuart Highway, Winnellie. 

A number of Indigenous students from Kormilda College also joined in the celebration taking the opportunity to meet the Minister and the Transition Support Unit team.  The TSU staff prepared a sumptuous feast for their guests including goose, curries and a delicious mango dessert.

Rob Picton, Director TSU commented, “The team is highly focused on providing a safe and successful education experience through to Year 12. A feature of our work will be intensive support to Indigenous families and students who are attending residential boarding facilities across the Territory and interstate”.

Since commencing operation in October 2015, the Transition Support Unit has:

  • visited over 30 very remote schools;
  • established relationships with all NT boarding schools, boarding facilities and many interstate boarding schools; and
  • connected with over 130 students including former boarding school students requiring reengagement, students seeking to access boarding schools in 2016 and potential boarding school students who would be prepared for access in 2017.

Last updated: 12 October 2017