The community has a real reason for coming to school
In 2008, the Mount Lockyer Primary School community completed a months-long process and signed a school-community partnership agreement. The Principal was Maxine Auguston and the What Works facilitator was Marisa Kelly. Maxine and community Elder Averil Dean discuss what happened at that time in this one minute video.
I was at a real crossroads when Marisa contacted me to see whether we’d be interested in developing a school-community partnership. We seemed to have done so much but to me it was still just still a little too shallow.
Some years ago we had a history where the Noongar community had been a little disassociated from the school, so we put in place a number of strategies that created partnerships with the community. First we had to engage them so we developed an Elders Circle attendance class, because our Noongar attendance rate was really low. That was based on a system where you empower the community to support families where attendance is an issue through work with the Elders of the community. It was successful but it meant that we had to develop very strong relationships with the Elders in the community and then the families. So that started it.
We then focused again on participation and engaging parents, particularly those with children in the 0–3 age bracket, so that they would be able to support their children through the non-compulsory early years and into the compulsory years. What we found was that some of our Noongar parents were signing their kids up for pre-school or community kindy but they weren’t attending. The result was that when the kids hit school they were already behind.
We developed very strong relationships with those young mums and in a way that was already a partnership but it was still very school-dominated in that it was more about them doing what the school wanted them to do, rather than them having their say. So the school-community partnership became a way for the community to have a bit more control.
But the beauty of having those other programs in place was we had already done some ground work. So the school-community partnership cemented it and I suppose created a more authentic partnership.
Maxine discusses the outcomes after more than a year.
After we finished the partnership agreement we decided that to keep it alive we needed to continue to meet and plan. So when we have a planning meeting in the first week of each term, the community is invited and we usually have about six or eight people coming in. We develop an action plan and each term we tend to look at a component of the partnership that we want to develop. That then becomes the focus across the school.
So for instance we’ve really focused on developing relationships between the staff and the families and the Noongar culture side of it. That’s written in the partnership and we want teachers to have an understanding about where the children are coming from, their background, their interests, what they do at home and what their parents want. That’s been a huge big focus.
Each term every teacher invites the Noongar families into the classroom to talk to them about what’s going on. It can take different forms but afternoon teas are popular. We really want the families to be able to be a part of the education of their kids. And when we speak with the staff we stress that the things we do need to be purposeful, that there needs to be a reason behind it. We’re not just doing this because it looks good. We said we were going to do it in our partnership but it has to be purposeful: we want to show them something, we want them to share an activity with their kids or we want them to be a part of a whole school program like our footy program or cooking program. There’s a reason for them coming in.
So we’re getting to know one another. Maxine continues…
Cherylene Simpson has been involved throughout, as a teacher at the school and a Noongar community member. In this short video, she and others discuss what happened.
When we signed off the agreement I felt really good because I think it brings the whole school together and gives parents some involvement in decision-making. Before that I don’t think they realized how much say they really did have and how much input they can have towards their kids’ education.
They also found out how to go about saying things. Sometimes our community isn’t very outspoken but with the community partnership they were able to say things and not worry about the consequences of saying it. I think they were more relaxed and they were just able to voice an opinion. They’re really cluey about what’s happening.
At first we had community meetings without [non-Indigenous] staff there. I was able to say things about education without the normal jargon and they were able to give back information about how they felt. So first we had community meetings without staff but later then we had meetings with the staff, when the community people were more confident.
The Noongar community is quite big here and they should have a say in their school. But at the same time the partnership brought in the other parents as well and they were all able to mix together.
The agreement has made a difference to attendance, because it’s all documented and parents are more aware. We keep them informed about kids whose attendance is improving and kids who are going down, so it’s all recognized. It works because we act on it straight away. It’s important that when you bring attendance to parents’ attention you have all the documented statistics there. The school community partnership has definitely helped with that.
Also, since the school community partnership agreement we now have IEPs [Individualised Education Plans] for every Noongar kid in the school and those Noongar kids who need extra help are picked up in small group work in maths and literacy. That’s all mixed in with attendance though, because it’s all recorded and monitored at the same time.
The parents know what’s happening and know all the processes involved. It’s all very clear and I think that’s why the community agreement is working here.
Back, l to r, Lola Brown, Dianne Williams. Front, l to r, Brenda Dean, Lynette Knapp.
Lola, Brenda and Lynette are community members and Dianne is an AIEO at the school. Their discussion here is about the way the school and community relate.
We’re welcoming to the Noongar community because our people meet them and greet them at the school office. But sometimes you also have to go out to their homes, just to encourage them to come in to the school. Even when they drop the kids off I get them to come in and have a cuppa in the Noongar Community Room, and listen to them. The room was set up to support the women and kids and support the community. Read on…
Julie Hughes has been at Mount Lockyer for seven years and has been in the role of Behaviour Intervention teacher since 2009. Here she discusses the changes she has observed.
I was asked by Maxine to be the secretary of the group, so I basically typed up all the things and kept in contact with Marisa Kelly.
My thought was that for the first time a lot of the Aboriginal people had a say or had their voice heard. I don’t think they wanted to come in and take over but they just wanted to know that people were listening to them. We already had a culture of inclusion but the process made it more effective I suppose.
This year  I was away at another school in first term and when I came back I particularly noticed a big shift in the way staff were thinking about what's happening. I guess I had to go away to see that. The agreement says ‘these are the things that we’re going to do’ but when we go to the staff we say ‘how can we fit that in?’, rather than saying ‘you will do this, and you will do that’. That’s what I mean by coming to it from a partnership idea: it’s not telling them what to do, it’s involving them in a partnership with the community. As long as teachers are part of it and see other people willing to contribute they will take it on board. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a process just like it is with parents. Julie continues…