Changing the game: a school at the beginning of its high expectations-relationship journey

Jul 17
Author:Cara Shipp
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Share on FacebookEmail to someone

After completing the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program in 2015, I obtained a grant to implement SSLP work within a new school structure at Wanniassa School, Tuggeranong, ACT – a school with 11% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, one of the largest populations in Canberra schools.

This work, based on high expectations with high support, was linked with the Big Picture Education design principles (personalised, relevant, real-world learning with a career-ready focus) and Accelerated Literacy (best practice literacy support in Aboriginal education). I implemented this framework across English and HASS and “homegroup” classes within the Year 8 cohort.

Within one semester, the percentage of students achieving at C standard or above in English moved from 67% to 88% and in HASS from 63% up to 80%. In addition, the percentage of students attending at least 90% of the time (the recommended target in the research) rose from 65% to 83%. Significantly, the Aboriginal students within the cohort showed the most marked improvement, with one boy in particular improving attendance from a 74% average in 2015 (his worst term was 63%) to a 91% average in 2016 (his best term was 100%). Another girl had moved from 34%-89% attendance in 2015 when we piloted this program in one class. She maintained the attendance of 80-90% in 2016.

Our Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander students can achieve outstanding results

Moving to a new school in 2017, my principal, Kerrie Heath and I, were alarmed at the number of Aboriginal students disengaged from classes. Within the context of a school restructure commencing in Semester 2, I assumed two complementary roles – coaching across the school on differentiation to meet all students’ needs and setting up a Centre for Excellence for our Aboriginal students. Drawing upon the previous recipe of SSLP, Big Picture-inspired programs and Accelerated Literacy, Kerrie and I brought 8 ways pedagogy into the mix and are in the process of implementing a new education model incorporating these frameworks and pedagogies. Two beginning teachers of Aboriginal heritage have been recruited for the centre.

We hope to demonstrate to staff across Campbell High School (a 7-10 school), and more broadly across the Education Directorate, that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can achieve outstanding results with a culturally responsive, relevant, engaging and appropriately scaffolded curriculum. Our main goal is to challenge and extend our students so that they graduate Year 10 with a clear career pathway in mind and, ideally, with some work experience and industry mentors already under their belts. We hope to empower staff to learn strategies and alternative teaching methods from observations in the centre that they can implement in their classrooms. Ultimately, we dream of a day when such a Centre is no longer necessary because all teachers are supported to meet all students’ needs in all classrooms across the school.

I will outline the features of the Centre’s pedagogical approach and share the progress of the Centre so far at the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Education & Transitions conference, taking place in Sydney this October.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of Western New South Wales, and Dr Tyson Yunkaporta, for their provision of the 8 ways framework. This can be used by anyone working with Aboriginal students but you are asked to share your work back with the Western NSW community on their wiki.

Aboriginal Education

Submitted by Cara Shipp

Cara Shipp

Cara Shipp is an Aboriginal/Welsh educator and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation (from Dubbo, NSW). She is passionate about the teaching of literacy and has completed her Masters in Education, including Indigenous literacy, through Deakin University. Cara is Executive Teacher, Professional Practice and Special Programs at Campbell High School, ACT and previously worked at Wanniassa School, ACT, from 2011-16 in a range of leadership roles including running special programs for at-risk students, leading the English/HASS faculty and leading the Year 8 programs in a middle school style school restructure in 2016. In 2016, Cara was awarded the ACT Public Education Award for Leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education. In 2017, Cara was awarded the Australian Education Union Arthur Hamilton Award for Outstanding Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and the ACT Branch of the Australian Education Union’s Reconciliation Award.
Cara has a blog on Aboriginal Perspectives in the English Classroom:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other blog posts you may enjoy: