The Directorate monitored achievements made against the headline indicators in sections of the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009 report.
Achievements in this reporting period included:
- an increase in the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in preschool with enrolments growing from 172 children in the February 2011 census to 199 children in the February 2012 census
- an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in public schools with enrolments growing from 1,283 students in February 2011 to 1,337 students in February 2012
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the ACT continued to outperform Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in other jurisdictions in literacy and numeracy achievement as measured through NAPLAN
- 51 of 71 (72%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in year 10 in public schools in February 2011 were awarded Year 10 Certificates
- 53 of 56 (95%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in year 12 in public secondary colleges were awarded Year 12 Certificates
- priorities contained in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Matters: Strategic Plan 2010-2013 were embedded in network and local school plans
- six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander year 11 students were awarded a scholarship in March 2012 to support their successful completion of school to year 12 and gain entry to university to pursue a career in teaching.
Early years learning
The Directorate continued implementing the Australian Government's National Agenda for Early Childhood Reform by providing children with access to 15 hours of preschool each week for 40 weeks per year. In the ACT, this initiative was delivered through preschool units in public schools where educators provide play-based learning experiences to foster concepts of being, belonging and becoming. Students were also provided with developmentally appropriate learning programs to support the development of literacy and numeracy skills and their capacity to engage with school.
Preschool placements in the ACT are for children who will be four years of age on or before 30 April in the school year. The February 2011 school census reported a total of 172 preschool children whose families identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The February 2012 school census reported 199 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in preschool – an increase of 27 children or 15.7 percent.
In the ACT, the Koori Preschool program provides early childhood education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged birth to five years. Children under three attend with a parent or carer. The program had capacity for 100 children across the five school sites: Ngunnawal Primary School, Kingsford Smith School, Narrabundah Early Childhood School, Wanniassa Hills Primary School and Richardson Primary School.
Enrolment and participation figures for the Koori Preschool program across the five sites are as shown in Table C21.1.
Table C21.1: Enrolment and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the Koori Preschool program
July to December 2011
February to June 2012
Narrabundah Early Childhood
Wanniassa Hills Primary
Source: Planning and Performance Branch
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children may apply for early entry into preschool six months prior to their preschool year. Early entry is offered for the full hours in which the preschool program operates (either 12 or 15 hours per week).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can access the Koori Preschool Program for nine hours per week. In addition to this, children who are eligible by age can access a local preschool for 12 to 15 hours per week. This gives these children access to 21 to 24 hours per week in a preschool program (nine hours in the Koori program and 12 to 15 hours in the local preschool program) over an 18 month period, prior to commencement in kindergarten.
The Koori Preschool Program is delivered by a teacher who is supported by a school assistant. During this reporting period there was only one Koori Preschool supported by a school assistant who identified as an Aboriginal person.
Literacy and numeracy
Throughout this reporting period the Literacy Excellence Project for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students continued to operate in five high schools in the Tuggeranong Network in partnership with the Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation. At Gugan Gulwan, project staff delivered an intensive literacy project aimed at supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to develop the skills to participate successfully in their regular English classes at school. The project also provided professional learning to teachers in literacy, valuing culture and ways to effectively embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across the curriculum.
The Directorate and project representatives will work with the University of Canberra to evaluate key elements of the project including student engagement, literacy outcomes, and parent and carer engagement with the project. A summary of the evaluation will be included in the 2012-13 Annual Report.
One of the key actions outlined in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Matters: Strategic Plan 2010-2013 was to track and monitor performance, progress and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. In this reporting period, primary and high schools provided information about the type of strategies being delivered to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who scored at or below the national minimum standard in one or more of the strands assessed in NAPLAN. Examples of the strategies implemented included the development of Personalised Learning Plans, the allocation of Learning Support Assistants to work with individual students and scaffolded approaches to literacy tasks. This work forms phase one of a longer term approach to assist schools to target strategies and resources to improve performance and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
School leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education
In November 2011, 43 deputy principals, representing 45 percent of possible participants, participated in a one-day leadership conference structured around the keynote presentation by Professor Mark Rose (Deakin University): On the fringe of curriculum: Silent Apartheid as an element in the path of reconciliation. Formal feedback on the program from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Ms Michele Abel, Chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group, participated in the workshop sessions throughout the day.
Forty-three participants, predominantly from the North/Gungahlin Network, attended an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Transition Planning day in August 2011. Mr Brian Ralph of the NSW Department of Education and Communities facilitated the workshop and the Chair of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group participated in the day.
The North/Gungahlin School Network established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander transitions as a whole of network priority in 2011. Accepting the Challenge officers facilitated a whole of network approach to improving transitions in a trial conducted from term 4, 2011 to term 1, 2012. The successful trial has progressed to a pilot program involving all schools in the network from 2012-13.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Section also provided strategic advice, a proposal brief and an implementation plan to the Tuggeranong Schools Network to support the implementation of a project focusing on improving the attendance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and other students, across the network.
In September 2011, Dr Anita Heiss presented an address on Aboriginal identity and stereotyping through personal experiences in contemporary literature for children and young people to 53 Directorate staff. Dr Heiss also provided participants with extensive links to curriculum resources.
Eleven schools completed the 2011 Action Inquiry Program and provided reports on their school-based inquiries. Professor Tony Shaddock from the University of Canberra and Accepting the Challenge project officers are working with an additional 11 schools in the 2012 program. All inquiries focus on improving an area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education through an evidence based approach.
Five school leaders were supported to attend intensive Stronger Smarter leadership training and were implementing school-based initiatives in the Dickson College cluster. The total number of Stronger Smarter trained officers in the Directorate was 13.
A network of ACT Focus Schools was established in term 2, 2012 to ensure clarity and consistency around expectations and reporting requirements and to provide leadership support. The network has committed to meeting each term.
To ensure that current and future Directorate employees are provided with cultural awareness and cultural competency training, a cultural competency framework is being developed. The completed framework will provide direction for tailored training packages. The framework will include a package specifically for senior officers of the Directorate.
Eight schools participated in school-based training packages as part of their whole of staff professional development. These schools included Gilmore Primary School, University of Canberra High School Kaleen, Canberra High School and Gold Creek School.
Pathways to training, employment and higher education
Improving year 12 completion rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is a key goal for the Directorate. Student Aspirations Coordinators work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to support them in successful completion of secondary school and progression to higher education, training and employment options.
In the reporting period the Aspirations Coordinators identified and worked with 128 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from years 5 to 12. Of these students, 76 regularly engaged with the program coordinators and attended activities. Many new students were nominated and supported by their school to participate in the Aspirations program in the first half of 2012.
The Directorate allocated funds to high schools and colleges to allow for the provision of subject specific tutorial support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. High schools and colleges adopted a variety of approaches to provide this support, including after school study centres, employing a casual teacher to work in the school with students during the day and employing university students who have been approved to work with children.
During the reporting period four students who received the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Scholarship, received an offer to university and one student took up employment with the view of studying in the future.
As at February 2011 census, 56 students were enrolled in year 12 in public schools/colleges excluding special schools/colleges. Fifty-three students received a Year 12 Certificate with eight of these students receiving a VET Certificate as well. Table C21.2 provides details of the results achieved.
Table C21.2: Year 12 results of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, 2011
Year 12 Certificate (only)
Year 12 Certificate and VET Certificate
VET Certificate but no Year 12 Certificate
Neither Year 12 nor VET Certificate
Source: ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies
Since 2010, the Directorate has provided a program of Australian School-based Apprenticeships (ASBAs) specifically designed to target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and delivered by the Indigenous Social Inclusion Company. The program has been highly successful and as of April 2012 there were 46 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students completing ASBAs: 21 in Certificate II in Community Recreation, and 25 in Certificate III in Community Activity.
The Priorities Support Program (PSP) funding provides access to quality vocational education and training to target groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The funding supports vocational education and training courses which provide real opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have their skills recognised and to move back into the workforce or to change careers. This occurs through the provision of recognition of prior learning, gap training for existing workers and up-skilling of people not currently in the workforce who may require extra skill sets to add to their previous work experience.
In 2012, the Directorate provided $78,000 of PSP funding for delivery of the CHANCES program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The program presented a range of positive training opportunities for participants in a flexible and supportive environment including: improving individual education and employment opportunities; creating a sense of community and social inclusion; and providing access to a nationally recognised qualification. Outcomes include achievement of Certificate I in Work Preparation and achievement of Statements of Attainment in Certificate II in Business. Six students gained employment and four students were progressing to the Certificate II in Business.
Links to national plans and policy
The ACT Government remains committed to closing the learning achievement gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. That commitment has been articulated in various national partnership agreements including the National Indigenous Reform Agreement. The agreement underpins a significant set of priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and has been formulated around the following six building blocks:
- life expectancy
- young child mortality
- early childhood education
- reading, writing and numeracy
- year 12 attainment
In June 2011, the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs' National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010-2014 was launched. The plan articulates clear targets for closing the learning achievement gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The plan also outlines key actions that are required at the national, state and territory and local school level for the period 2010-2014.
The Directorate utilised the Strategic Plan 2010-2013: Everyone matters and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010-2014 when developing a local strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.
In December 2011, the Directorate presented its first report to the ACT Legislative Assembly on progress and achievements made as a result of implementing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Matters: Strategic Plan 2010-2013.
During the reporting period, the Directorate also reported on its achievements against the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to Reconciliation Australia. The RAP identified measurable targets towards improving the following three focus areas:
- improving the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- demonstrating respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- creating educational, training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Significant progress was made during the reporting period on implementing key actions outlined in the RAP. Those achievements were used to develop an updated RAP which will cover the period July 2012 to June 2014. The updated RAP will have targets and actions in the same three focus areas as the 2010-11 RAP.
Since 2008 there has been a steady increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolling in public schools as shown in Table C21.3.
Table C21.3: Enrolment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in public schools, 2008 to 2012
Source: Education and Training Directorate, February School Census, 2008 to 2012
Attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in ACT public schools improved slightly during the reporting period compared with the results for 2010. This was the result of an improvement in attendance for students in years 1 to 6. Attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students remain significantly lower than those for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Attendance continued to drop in later school years for all students with the decrease greater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students than for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Caution is advised in the interpretation of attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students due to the small number of students.
Table C21.4: Attendance rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in public schools, 2007 to 2011
Source: Planning and Performance Branch
Note: Attendance rate is the number of actual days of attendance as a percentage of the total school days.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are staying at school longer. The retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in public schools from year 10 to year 12 has continued to increase steadily since 2009.
Figure C21.1: Apparent retention rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, 2007 to 2011
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Schools Australia, Table 64a
Over the reporting period the Directorate continued to deliver key programs targeted at improving attendance, retention and the successful completion of year 12. These programs included the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Aspirations Program and the allocation of funds to high schools and colleges to allow for the provision of subject specific academic support.
Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to succeed at school is a priority for the Directorate. In the reporting period, all ACT public schools in the Tuggeranong Network focused on tracking and analysing performance data of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to better identify needs and allocate resources to support student learning.
In 2011-12, the Directorate continued its support to high schools with the allocation of seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officers (ATSIEO) positions. The ATSIEOs focus on enhancing relationships between staff, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their parents or carers. The success of these relationships impacted on positive connectedness to school, improved attendance rates and learning outcomes of students.
The schools in which the ATSIEOs were based were Calwell High School, Wanniassa School (senior campus), Melrose High School, Stromlo High School, Lyneham High School,
Melba-Copland Secondary School and Telopea Park School.
In the reporting period, the Directorate continued the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Worker program with four workers employed in the primary school sector. Workers were located at Richardson Primary School, Wanniassa Hills Primary School, Gilmore Primary School and Ngunnawal Primary School where they provided in-class support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their teachers.
In 2011, the Directorate established a Transition Support Officer position to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with high level needs in their successful transition at key points in their schooling. The Transition Support Officer implemented programs to support students in preschool through to year 11, in the following school settings: Southern Cross Early Childhood School, Duffy Primary School,
Hughes Primary School, Campbell High School, Dickson College, Palmerston Primary School, Ainslie School, Lyneham High School, Majura Primary School, Stromlo High School and Belconnen High School.
The Student Aspirations Program continued in 2011 with coordinators supporting identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across all ACT public schools from year 5 through to year 12. In 2011, the coordinators supported a total of 150 students with 130 of these students regularly participating in extension programs and related activities.
Partnerships and collaboration
The Directorate worked collaboratively with a number of key government and non-government agencies to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in their educational journeys. The Integrated Service Delivery program is a collaborative service delivery model established as a joint initiative between the Community Services Directorate, ACT Health and the Directorate. This program provided early intervention services to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and their families who presented with complex needs and were being supported by a number of government agencies. The program aimed to ensure that relevant education, health and family support services were delivered in a culturally competent, integrated manner. Schools with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled during the reporting period were able to refer students with high level, complex needs to the Integrated Services Delivery program.
Throughout the reporting period the Directorate continued its relationship with Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation to support the delivery of educational programs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in ACT public schools. In 2011, the Directorate provided funds to allow Gugan Gulwan to broker the delivery of subject specific tutorial support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in years 7 to 12 in Tuggeranong.
During this reporting period, the Directorate continued to work collaboratively with the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service particularly in implementing the Hearing Health in School program. This partnership resulted in increased access to hearing health services for preschool and primary school Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children identified as requiring hearing support and intervention.
Box C21.1: Proud ambassadors
Louis Mokak and Mitchell Baum are proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ambassadors and have been excellent mentors for other students. They are very musical and often perform at events highlighting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. They have been good friends throughout high school and are both high achieving students with a very positive view about their future.
Both Louis and Mitchell were surprised to learn of the COAG statistics on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education published in late 2011, that showed attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students had dropped to 60 percent while academic performance had fallen by 30 percent. The two high achievers believed Australia had made significant progress in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.
They also believed that family played a major role in their success. They were grateful,l to their families and teachers, for receiving such strong support throughout their schooling years.
For more information contact:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Student Engagement
(02) 6205 7029