Indigenous Education Strategy Newsletter - Issue 4

Welcome to the fourth edition of the Indigenous Education Strategy newsletter, providing an update on the implementation of key projects. 

There was some very positive coverage from the media visit to Borroloola School in September, with journalists from The Australian and the ABC having the opportunity to see Direct Instruction being delivered in a remote school.

Teacher, Lauren English welcomed the journalists into her mixed Years 4 to 7 classroom where a Direct Instruction lesson was being taught. Although formal results from the Australian Government’s Remote Flexible Literacy program are yet to be released, Principal Max Agnew indicated outcomes were improving.

It was clearly evident that students with good attendance progress in their literacy quickly when studying using the Direct Instruction technique. Borroloola School has a number of attendance programs in place, including the Australian Government’s Remote School Attendance Strategy, and the journalists were impressed with the school’s initiative to provide enhanced and more flexible arrangements to lift school attendance.

The strategy details a comprehensive approach to improving attendance and engaging young people in quality education pathways.

Other schools are also adopting strategies to improve attendance. Following consultation with parents, teachers and the local community, Lajamanu School is trialling a flexible school year model over a two year period, starting in 2016. Under the model, Terms 1 and 2 will be extended and Terms 3 and 4 shortened.  This approach will accommodate cultural events, having holiday periods fall over events where the school can experience a drop in attendance. Lajamanu is the second school in the Territory to introduce a flexible school year with Gunbalanya School operating under its own model since 2012. 

The Indigenous Education Strategy recognises that regular and sustained attendance is the key to unlocking future opportunities for young people.

We look forward to continuing to provide information on these and other initiatives aimed at supporting students to attend school so they can take advantage of the education opportunities available.

Tony Considine
General Manager
Indigenous Education Review Implementation

Transition Support Unit staff ready to roll

Following a comprehensive recruitment exercise, the Transition Support Unit (TSU) is now fully staffed, with new employees participating in planning and induction programs.

A total of 22 new staff have been recruited from a range of backgrounds including teachers, social workers and local community members. Employees will be based in the regional centres at Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, Nhulunbuy and Darwin.

Rob Picton, Director TSU commented, “The recruitment of positions to the TSU has gone very well and I am pleased about the quality of the applicants we have recruited. During the induction program last week the new staff learnt more about their roles and responsibilities, undertook team building exercises, learnt about cultural awareness, and took time to develop a shared vision for the team. We also touched on the importance of data collection, discussed new and existing partnerships and identified our key stakeholders.

“The team is very excited to be embarking on this work and providing support to Indigenous families and students who are attending residential boarding facilities across the Territory and interstate”.

Transition Support Unit – Position Profile at Risk Boarding Manager

The At Risk Boarding Manager will play a critical role in providing a rapid case management response and support service to students that are at risk of disengaging from boarding school or disengaging from the transition to a boarding school.

At Risk Manager North, Kim Power and At Risk Manager South, Lance Po-Ching, have been appointed to the positions.

“These are key roles in ensuring students not only successfully transition to a boarding facility, but also enjoy a safe and successful experience leading to the best secondary education opportunities we can provide,” said Rob Picton.

“The positions will be the link between the student and appropriate support services to ensure students engage in secondary boarding schooling. Kim and Lance will remain in close contact with students and families and work with each party on strategies to engage students with schooling and ensure that students are supported at all times.”

Workforce Development - Assistant Teachers

Workforce planning and development, particularly strengthening and developing Indigenous teachers and assistant teachers is a priority of the workforce element of the Indigenous Education Strategy.

One of the key initiatives is the establishment of employment and professional development arrangements for assistant teachers to ensure arrangements are consistent with those of other staff.

The first group of assistant teachers who have enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Education Support will attend an intensive workshop at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) in November 2015. The Advanced Diploma has been developed and accredited with support from the Department of Education.

On completing the Advanced Diploma, students will receive a qualification aligned to the new Level 5 Assistant Teacher negotiated as part of the last enterprise agreement.

“This is the first of many steps in recognising the value of our assistant teacher workforce and the critical role they play in the delivery of education in remote communities,” commented Tony Roberts, General Manager Human Resources, Department of Education.

“It is also a wonderful example of the strong working partnership between the Northern Territory Government and Batchelor Institute.”

Positive School Wide Behavior – a key to effective learning

Bruce Wilson outlined a constant theme from respondents in the Indigenous Education Review; problems associated with student behaviour constitute a barrier to effective teaching and learning.

The picture is both complex and multilayered, with respondents citing hearing loss, lack of sleep, foetal alcohol syndrome, hyperactivity, trauma associated emotional issues and other aspects of mental health as factors.

A key project in 2015-2016 is the development and implementation of a whole-system approach to positive behaviour and wellbeing that meets the needs of Northern Territory students.  A positive behaviour framework that focuses on proactive holistic responses and has a strong emphasis on relationship building and social and emotional support for students will be implemented. Social and emotional learning has been shown to have a significant impact on enhancing a student’s connection to school, improving classroom behaviour and learning outcomes.

Michele Oliphant, Manager Mental Health and Behaviour, will lead this project. Recruitment has commenced for the new Wellbeing, Engagement and Behaviour team who will be responsible for implementation in a staged progression across the regions.

The team will use the most up to date research to develop an approach that is tailored specifically to build the wellbeing of Territory students and to promote safe and supportive school communities.

Tender for Nhulunbuy Residential Facility

Following extensive design work involving stakeholders across North East Arnhem, the tender is now open for the construction of the new boarding facility in Nhulunbuy.

The facility will be constructed in two stages. Stage one will cater for 40 students, with stage two doubling the capacity to 80 students.

The construction tender for stage one is expected to be awarded in December 2015, with the facility set to welcome students from January 2017.

Indigenous Leadership Conference

A number of Department of Education staff participated in the Indigenous Leadership Conference – Navigating the Health Education Nexus, held in Darwin at the Convention Centre on the 28 and 29 September 2015.

Speakers from Australia and New Zealand led discussions and workshops which focussed on the links between Health and Education. The conference was well attended with positive feedback about the quality of presentations and keynote speakers.

The Department of Education’s contribution included a keynote speech by the Chief Executive, Mr Ken Davies, on the challenges and opportunities for connection between education and health services, particularly in the implementation of the A Share in the Future strategy.

The Indigenous Education Review Implementation team including members of the Transition Support unit provided information on the Indigenous Education Strategy at the conference expo.

Stars Dripstone Girls Engagement Program

The Stars Foundation program at Dripstone Middle School for Indigenous female students opened its doors in Term 3 under the guidance of two staff members Mark McLean and Kylie Duggan.

The school has provided an outstanding facility which has become the Stars Room and already there are close to 30 female Indigenous students enrolled in the program.

These students have played basketball and indoor soccer against the Sanderson Stars girls and these events were enjoyed by a number of the program members.

Principal, Peter Swan and AIEW, Karen Newman have been a terrific support to the development of the Dripstone Stars program. There are a number of exciting activities planned for Term 4 and everyone is looking forward to expanding the program into 2016, commented David Francis, Stars Foundation Director of Operations.

Last updated: 22 January 2016

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