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B1 Community engagement

The Directorate values partnerships with students, parents, carers, teachers, school leaders, tertiary education providers and other institutions to design an integrated system for learners.

A successful extension to the Directorate’s community engagement and communications processes has been the increased use of social and online media. Community members are able to access updates about school and Directorate events quickly and easily through a range of platforms in addition to the Directorate website. Individuals are able to respond to updates as well as requesting information. Many schools are now using specific mobile phone applications allowing direct communication with parents and carers.

The Directorate provides updates on public school activities, programs and services via Facebook and Twitter, has a LinkedIn page and has established a presence on Pinterest and Google+. The ACT Public Schools Facebook page was launched in
mid-2009. The number of people who follow the page has continued to grow to more than 850. Since the last Annual Report the number of followers of the Directorate’s @ACTEducation Twitter site has more than doubled to 800. The addition of these communication channels has proved a positive and useful tool in promoting school and Directorate events locally and internationally.

The Directorate implemented a new ‘responsive design’ website design to improve the accessibility of information to people with a disability and also to be adaptable to viewing on mobile devices. School websites are progressively being updated to more accessible template designs.

Major advisory groups and consultations

The Director-General, together with other Directorate staff, meets on a regular basis with the executive of the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, the Australian Education Union, the Catholic Education Office, the Association of Independent Schools and the ACT Principals’ Association to discuss key issues and progress on major initiatives.

Government and Non-government Schools Education Councils

The Government Schools Education Council and the Non-government Schools Education Council advise the Minister for Education and Training, or when asked by the Minister, inquire into and give advice on any aspect of their respective schooling.

Community and education members representing significant stakeholder groups form the membership of both councils. The Directorate provides secretariat support for these councils including compilation of their annual reports which are annexed to this report.

Non-government school proposals for development

The Education and Training Directorate informs the community of all applications relating to the in-principle approval and registration of non-government schools in the ACT.

When an application is received by the Directorate for in-principle approval the community is informed of, and invited to inspect and comment on the application through a notice published in the Community Noticeboard of the Canberra Times and by posting the information on the Directorate’s website.

Where the application is for provisional registration, registration of a provisionally registered school, or registration of an existing school at an additional campus or additional educational levels the community is informed of the application through a notice published in the Community Noticeboard of the Canberra Times and by posting the information on the Directorate’s website.

Where the application is for the renewal of registration of an existing school the community is informed through a posting on the Directorate’s website.

The community is informed of the Minister for Education and Training’s decisions regarding applications for in-principle approval and registration through a posting on the Directorate’s website.

During the 2012-13 reporting period the community was:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group (the Group) meets with ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, groups and organisations and provides advice to the ACT and Commonwealth governments on education and training programs and initiatives under the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan. Priorities of the Group include community consultation and engagement and education and training partnerships.

Five new members were appointed to the Group and an induction session was held in November 2012. There are currently six members who continue to provide valuable advice and leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education across the ACT.

Throughout 2012, the Group contributed to policy and curriculum development. The Group participated in:

Four community meetings were held to provide information and receive feedback on local and national policies and programs. These meetings were held at various educational establishments including a specialist school, a university, an independent school, and a public primary school. The Group also met with the Minister for Education and Training as well as Commonwealth Ministers and the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body.

Work continued throughout 2012 to establish stronger links with education and training providers. Two cross-sector meetings were held. The Directorate and the Catholic Education Office have committed to identifying opportunities for collaborative professional development for teachers.

The partnership between the Directorate and the Group continued to provide an excellent mechanism for collaboration and consultation with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Regular meetings were held to discuss ways for the Group and the Directorate to work together, share best practice and information.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultation

During the reporting period, the Directorate consulted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body.

Consultations included:

Minister’s Student Congress

The Minister’s Student Congress is a peak student leadership body established in August 2012. It provides ACT public school students the opportunity to discuss educational issues important to them directly with the ACT Minister for Education and Training. The Congress consists of two students from every ACT public school and has an elected Executive comprising two students from each school network.

The Terms of Reference for the Congress are to:

  1. provide advice to the Minister on issues of interest and concern to students in their Networks
  2. discuss matters raised by the Minister and report back to the Minister through an Executive
  3. act as a reference group for major initiatives affecting ACT public schools.

The Congress Executive provided the first report to the Minister, on behalf of the Congress, in April 2013. The Executive Report recommended that the Congress continue to be used as a way to empower youth, to allow youth to create leadership networks in Canberra and to continue as a way to give students a vision of what they can achieve in their schools.

Key achievements for Congress members throughout the reporting period included presenting at the Engaging Schools: ACT Public Schools Leadership Conference, supporting the National Children’s Commissioner Big Banter national listening tour and facilitating workshops for the Directorate’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, Respectful Relationships Conference.

The Disability Education Reference Group

The Disability Education Reference Group (DERG) is a community consultative group convened by the Executive Director, Learning, Teaching and Student Engagement and provides the opportunity for the community to provide advice to the Directorate on the education of students with disability in ACT public schools.

Membership of the DERG includes organisations representing principals, the Australian Education Union, parent associations and other government and community organisations involved in the support of people with disability and their families.

The DERG continued to meet once a term through the reporting period and offered advice on the Directorate’s More Support for Students with Disability National Partnership programs which included:

The DERG was a significant contributor to the development of the Parent Information Guide. The guide is a comprehensive information and reference guide for parents of students with disability on the Directorate’s Disability Education processes and the services available.

The DERG will continue providing input to the following Directorate projects:

The Minister’s Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties

The Minister’s Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties was formed in September 2012 by the then Minister for Education and Training Dr Chris Bourke. Ms Irene Lind was appointed by the Minister to chair the Taskforce.

The Taskforce was established to consider how to improve assessment and support for children and young people in ACT public schools with learning difficulties, including but not limited to students experiencing: language disorders, comprehension and processing disorders, dyslexia related issues and significant difficulties in general numeracy and literacy.

The Taskforce met on several occasions through the reporting period and prepared a Final Report which was presented to the Minister in July 2013. The recommendations to be considered in the Report provide a direction to build on the already high standard of professional practice in ACT public schools.

ACT Safe Schools Taskforce

The ACT Safe Schools Taskforce (the Taskforce) was originally formed in 2007 to provide a forum to receive feedback on the development of the Safe Schools suite of policies.

A key project of the Taskforce was providing support for the Directorate’s Respectful Relationships Conference opened by Minister Burch on 15 March 2013. The Conference was a forum for ACT schools in support of the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.

At the Conference teachers and students from public and non-government schools came together to gain a greater understanding of the impact of violence on relationships with a particular focus on girls and women. Teachers and students participated in workshops to develop strategies for implementation in schools.

School boards

The Education Act 2004 (the Act) requires each public school to have school board as a way of sharing authority and responsibility with the local school community. The Act caters for general school boards and boards for schools with a different structure such as the early childhood schools.

Most public schools have a general school board with provision for a principal, an appointed member representing the general public, two staff members, three parents and citizens members, two student members (in high schools and colleges) and up to two board appointed members. The board appointed member positions can be used by schools to strengthen a desired skill set on the board, to support curriculum specialisation or to ensure that all constituent groups in the school community are involved in school decision-making. All appointments, apart from board appointed members, are made by the Directorate’s Returning Officer on behalf of the Director-General.

The Act details the functions of public school boards including establishing the strategic direction and priorities for the school; monitoring and reviewing school performance; oversight of curriculum, educational, financial and resource-related policies; developing relationships between the school and the community; encouraging parent participation in student learning; and developing recommendations to the Director-General.

During the reporting period, the Directorate provided training and support in the establishment and operation of school boards in accordance with the requirements of the Act. Specific training and networking opportunities were provided for school board chairs.

During the reporting period the Directorate supported the establishment of school boards at two new public schools: Neville Bonner Primary School and Franklin Early Childhood School.

Training and Tertiary Education Consultation

Vocational education and training (VET) forums

The Directorate consulted with the community through quarterly VET Forums. The VET Forums provided opportunities for face-to-face engagement between Directorate staff and VET stakeholders in the ACT. The VET Forums provide information to VET stakeholders on policy, program and business processes. During the reporting period, four forums were held with approximately 100 participating stakeholders attending each. Participants included representatives from Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), group training organisations, Australian Apprenticeships Centres and members of industry and training sector organisations.

In addition, dedicated consultations were conducted with VET stakeholders on key developments such as:

During the reporting period the Directorate developed stage 1 of a modelling and analytical tool referred to as the FINE (Forecasting of Industry Needs and Entitlement), in consultation with industry. This model will inform the evidence base of the Skills Needs List, which identifies VET qualifications needed to address skills needs and priorities in the ACT.

Canberra CareersXpo

The Rotary Club of Canberra City coordinates the CareersXpo in term 3 each year. The Directorate supports the CareersXpo by organising school visits.

In 2012, approximately 8,000 students from the ACT and regional NSW visited the CareersXpo held at Exhibition Park in Canberra. More than 100 exhibitors represented universities, employer groups, registered training organisations, apprenticeships, trades, private providers, disability services and government agencies including the Department of Defence.

The CareersXpo also incorporated an evening session where international keynote speaker, Mr Sam Cawthorn presented on building career resilience.

‘Try’aTrade’, was also available to students who wanted to try their hand at a multitude of trades ranging from plastering to hospitality.

Seminars were presented by the Australian National University, University of Canberra, Canberra Institute of Technology, University of Sydney, University of NSW, the University Admissions Centre, Macleay College, International Working Adventures, and Southern Tablelands Group Training.

ACT Training Excellence Awards

The ACT Training Excellence Awards is the premier Vocational Education and Training (VET) community event in the ACT. The 2012 awards were held on 6 September to reward and recognise the outstanding achievements of apprentices, trainees, school students, employers, colleges, registered training organisations and industry within the VET sector. The Vikings Group continued its partnership with the Directorate by supporting the awards financially and through the provision of the venue and staff. Two ACT winners, the Apprentice of the Year Sara Burke and Vocational Student of the Year Gloria Davison were subsequently named national winners in their categories.

Re-engaging Youth Network Boards

To advance the ACT Youth Commitment, four Re-engaging Youth Network Boards (RYNB) were established to assist businesses, training providers, government and non-government agencies to work together to keep young people engaged in education, training or work.

The inaugural Engaging Communities Engaging Students Expo was held on 9 May 2013. This Expo was organised by the Belconnen Re-engaging Youth Network Board, with endorsement from the other three Boards. The Expo provided the opportunity for the Directorate, school staff and stakeholders to connect and build relationships with community and business providers whose services support students who are disengaged or at risk of disengaging to improve engagement with their learning.

Schools capital works

During the reporting period, the Directorate continued stakeholder consultation on the planning, design and construction of capital works projects for new and existing schools and childcare centres. Consultations included Design User Groups and Design Working Groups for new schools, school communities, school executives and childcare service providers where works are planned at existing schools and childcare centres. The Directorate consulted stakeholders on the following capital works projects:

These projects are discussed in detail in Section C14.

Major partnerships

The Directorate has a range of specific partnerships with business and community groups. These partnerships are based on honesty and transparency, where voices are heard and opinions are valued.

Major partnerships include Capital Chemist, Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Country Women’s Association, Paperchain Bookstore Manuka, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Canberra Refugee Support, Rotary Club of Canberra City, Vikings Group, Binutti Construction Pty Ltd, Hawker Brownlow Education and Teachers Mutual Bank.

Capital Chemist awarded scholarships of $500 each to two year 10 students from each public high school for their demonstrated commitment to academic endeavour and citizenship in 2012. The scholarships provide assistance to students with the completion of their senior secondary education. A total of 45 scholarships were awarded, valued at $22,500.

Box B1.1: Capital Chemist Awards

Photo of, left to right, Brodie Carnegie and Teagan Pyne, winners of Capital Chemist Awards

The 2012 Capital Chemist Scholarships were awarded as part of a commitment by the Capital Chemist Group to the Directorate to support public high school students entering college. Pictured are the recipients of the scholarships, Brodie Carnegie (graduate of University of Canberra High School Kaleen) and Teagan Pyne, (graduate of Melba Copland Secondary School) who each received a scholarship worth $500 to support their ongoing academic and citizenship endeavours.

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment Canberra offers in house study scholarships to year 12 students from ACT public senior secondary colleges. Successful recipients can use the scholarships to off-set costs of attending the first year of any of the four selected courses provided by the Academy. Further, the Academy provides a one off cash grant towards IT equipment as well as cash prizes to be awarded to selected students attending colleges. The scholarships and prizes acknowledge the hard working and talented students at the colleges, providing them with opportunities, especially in the fields of computer games, special effects and software development. In 2013, a total of nine scholarships, 20 prizes and two grants were awarded by the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, valued at $115,300.

The Country Women’s Association awarded scholarships of $350 to students commencing year 12 in 2013. The students (from public and non-government schools) were selected on the basis of their aptitude and commitment to completing their schooling in the face of adversities. A total of eight scholarships were awarded, valued at a total of $2,800.

Paperchain Bookstore Manuka supported, through a contribution of book vouchers to the value of $10,000, the 2012 Chief Minister’s Reading Challenge. Book vouchers were awarded to participating schools from public and non-government sectors. Seventy schools registered for the Challenge, with more than 10,000 students completing the Challenge.

Paperchain Bookstore Manuka also supported the 2012 Year 10 Excellence Awards with a $5,000 contribution. A total of 46 awards were presented to students.

The inaugural Fred Hollows Award was launched exclusively in the ACT in 2012. Inspired by late Fred Hollows (1929 - 1993), the (non-monetary) awards acknowledge the positive contributions and small acts of kindness to peers made by public and non-government primary school students, whether as groups or individuals. A total of 22 awards were presented.

Canberra Refugee Support presented scholarships of $250 to students at the Directorate’s and CIT’s Introductory English Centres. The scholarships recognise the outstanding achievements of refugee students and offer encouragement for the pursuit of personal and educational goals. A total of 18 scholarships were awarded, valued at a total of $4,500.

Binutti Construction Pty Ltd, Hawker Brownlow Education and Teachers Mutual Bank provided both financial and in-kind support for the 2012 Public Education Award.

Other community partnerships supporting public education include ACT Children’s Week, the Returned & Services League of Australia Woden Valley Sub-Branch Incorporated, and the School Volunteer Program - ACT Incorporated.

The Directorate was again proud to be a financial sponsor of ACT Children’s Week, 20-28 October 2012, providing an opportunity to identify, raise awareness and celebrate the requirements, rights and achievements of children and young people in our community. The ACT Children’s Week Committee provides small grants and awards to people ‘making a difference’ in the lives of children and young people. ACT schools hosted a range of activities during the week and several teachers received awards for their contribution.

Based on a partnership, the Woden Valley Returned Services Club held its annual Combined ANZAC and Peace Ceremony on 10 April 2013, inviting all Woden Valley primary schools to participate, with over 500 students and teachers attending Eddison Park, Woden. The ceremony included an essay writing competition based on an ANZAC theme with three cash prizes being awarded to students.

The School Volunteer Program of the ACT is a registered voluntary organisation which places volunteers in ACT public schools as mentors, confidants and communicators. In the reporting period, up to 115 volunteers mentored students in 28 primary schools and three secondary schools. In the past year, the Program contributed over 6,000 voluntary hours in support of students.

The Directorate’s Corporate Sponsorship policy provides guidance on corporate sponsorships, either cash or in-kind.

For more information contact:
Information, Communications and Governance
(02) 6205 9328