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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 4398 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

students. It is very much about individualised and targeted support. In one school, there is a young indigenous male teacher just out of university-a very impressive young man. He has initiated a homework program for the students at that school.

I was talking to him the day after he had started this program, and he was cautious because it was after the first time. The first time he held it, 100 per cent of parents attended to understand how they could support their children through homework and he is running the homework centre. It is early days, but they are some of the things that are happening within individual schools.

Narrabundah's program is excellent. They bring a doctor into the school, they have community services coming into the school and they provide breakfast every morning. Some of the outcomes they are setting there for their students are really impressive as well. It is nice to acknowledge that a lot of emphasis is being placed on this area and there is a lot of commitment from the teachers to the day-to-day handling of issues.

One teacher was talking to me about how a young student had been going really well and how happy they were that he had been at school all the time, and then I was out at the school on maybe week 4 of the term and they said that they had not seen this young person all term. The school had gone to the house daily to try and find him. There was no concern for the young person's safety; it is just that he had not been at school. That is a constant challenge for the schools when they report their outcomes. The absentee rate does not necessarily reflect the effort that goes in to get these students to attend school.

We can always do better there. There has been the employment of the home-school liaison officers, who have increased from two to 11. It is early days but, from all accounts, just having resources going into providing a link between home and school we believe will certainly improve the outcomes for students. The focus of those liaison officers is to address the issues of attendance, engagement and retention of students.

Also this year, four indigenous teacher appointments have been made in the ACT, following a targeted recruitment drive. That is a very small number, but it is great to have those four teachers as part of the team because, as with that young teacher just out of university, the relationship and the rapport they have with students are impressive.

Schools are also now required to develop individual learning plans for indigenous students who need additional learning assistance or have particular needs, strengths and interests. These are put together in consultation with the student, parent and/or carers and the home-school liaison officers. We are looking at partnerships with the schools as communities centre at the University of Canberra to provide additional support in literacy to indigenous students and their families. The schools as communities centre is working closely with Commonwealth, Queensland and Northern Territory governments to improve literacy levels of indigenous students.

There are areas that we need to do better. As I said in the tabling of this report, literacy, numeracy and absentee rates are the main ones, and we are determined to work to improve these results. I do not think there is one answer. We are looking at every way that we can improve the outcomes for these students and encourage them to be part of those decisions.

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