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  What Works - The Work Program

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Other programs

Maths in Context | Aboriginal Tutors | Boomerangs and the Peace Garden | The Play Group and Pre-School

Maths in Context

Deputy Principal, Vicki Muscat, talks about Maths in Context:

We speak very highly of Maths in Context and we believe it has been a huge focus and made a huge impact in our school.

The first thing we did was go to Sydney for training. When we came back, we needed to get the community to come and talk about it, and that was a most amazing experience. We sometimes have trouble getting the community into the school, but we advertised this by saying 'we don't want to tell you something, we want to know what you think.'

As a result, we had the biggest roll-up of our Aboriginal parents to anything. And the first question I asked on the day was 'what do your kids come to school with?' In other words, 'what do they know already?' Then we went on to 'what do they need to know?

The parents talked first about the kids having knowledge of art, the enjoyment of science, a sense of family and gossip! And the thing they concentrated on that the kids needed to know about was money... how to handle money and how money works.

It was just like a chat. I remember that I had a PowerPoint presentation and all this technology but what they really wanted was to have a talk about it, to share. So I dropped the technology and we talked.

And we've kept a core group meeting every couple of months for two years, helping develop two units of work [Years 3 and 6] about money. We report to every ASSPA meeting as well and their support has been important.

One important thing is that it's turned out to be very successful for our Aboriginal kids, but it has been inclusive of the non-Indigenous kids as well. That's something about all of our programs; they are inclusive. That's supported very strongly by our Aboriginal parents.

Two years ago, teachers were finding that our Koori kids weren't really engaging with maths. Now they do! And we've found that these units have given them a focus and the teachers have become enthused as well.

Our quantitative data two years ago showed that the Koori kids were, on average, way below where we wanted them to be. And this was coming through on our BST [Basic Skills Test]. These days, the data show that they're catching up. Some are working beyond the expected outcomes.


Aboriginal Tutors

Vicki talks about the way Aboriginal tutors work in the school.

We have a variety of Aboriginal tutors coming into the school, mostly working with literacy and numeracy. They usually come through the ASSPA Committee and can be parents, retired people or younger men and women. It's harder to get men, but we have had some terrific role models.

There's a training component first and we provide that in the school. The training includes activities you can do with children, confidentiality, child protection and so on. And then teachers work out programs with the tutors in particular classes.

You have to remember that tutors are not teachers but they bring something special to the place. Sometimes we find the tutors can talk better to a parent than I can. Or sometimes parents will be more comfortable about approaching the tutor if there is a problem. So the tutor will come and see me and we can work it out. It's another communication link for us with the community.

We've found that the tutor program has had enormous benefits when it comes to outcomes for Koori kids.


Boomerangs and the Peace Garden

Vicki again:

Our ASSPA committee came up with the idea that every child could design and create their own boomerang that tells their own story. Every kid, not just Koori kids. We wanted to do it but where would we find 670 boomerangs? In the end I approached one of our local granddads and he cut out each individual boomerang.

The first batch took a long time to come and I found out that he was actually flighting them. So the first 80 are actually flighted. But he cut and made every single individual boomerang and every child in the school designed and painted one, and they are all displayed in the hall.

When we wanted to create a Peace Garden we asked every member of the school community to bring a bag of soil from their home and put it into the garden. So every child brought a bag of soil, put it into our garden and we held a ceremony and the tree was planted.

Every child's home is represented. It has every continent on one of those paths leading into the centre, which is a coming together place, a meeting place. Off the Australian path we have our Koori path which will be stencilled and have trees and plants. It will end up being a learning area.

Some people brought soil from their own gardens. That was fine but some of our Koori parents brought soil from as far away as Moree.


The Play Group and Pre-School

Paul Britton talks about the Play Group and Pre-School:

Our Play Group and Pre-School are very important to us.

Our research in 1999 told us that out of 400 kids in local pre-schools only four were Aboriginal. So that meant that very few of our Aboriginal children had been to pre-school before they came here and some were up to two years behind other kids in their academic development.

I thought we could do something about that because it wasn't a lack of intelligence, it was just a lack of prior experience. And so we set it up ourselves in 1999, with funding from the Department of Community Services.

We always give priority to Aboriginal children, but we take others as well because our Aboriginal parents say 'look we don't want our kids brought up in a vacuum.' One of our Aboriginal parents says 'it's not a black world, it's a white world and we've got to educate our kids so that they can manage and succeed in a white world. That's the reality.' It seems to work. Everyone knows there's a wider context.

I think we've always known that if we want to make things better for Aboriginal kids we need to work on non-Aboriginal kids as well. And that's been like a bit of a policy right across the school. When Aboriginal children have a special event going on they always take a non-Aboriginal friend as well. We've pushed multiculturalism because that gives every child a chance to be proud of their heritage. In doing so it is quite natural to acknowledge the original cultural heritage in this country. The Aboriginal people own the heritage here, it just fits. And nobody says Aboriginal children are getting special treatment. There are benefits for all kids.

One of the extra benefits of the play group and pre-school has been that more Aboriginal parents will come up to the school. We know that sometimes people don't get involved because it's an alien or a strange environment to them. But a lot of parents start off in that very informal play group setting and they come through with their children. Because they start off being involved at a non-threatening level they see that they can have an input and that continues when the kid goes on to school.

This school is like a microcosm of society. That's what's great about it. This is what the world is like, with all these cultures. And we've got a huge number of Aboriginal kids, which is great because their culture is unique to this country.

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