We're on about getting comparable outcomes for all kids no matter where they live
Bound for Success began with a draft discussion paper in 2005. It was acknowledged that educational outcomes of Indigenous students in Cape York and the Torres Strait were poor and that thorough, considered action was needed to change that situation.
Following consultation with Cape York and Torres Strait communities, Bound for Success strategy documents for the Torres Strait and Cape York were released in 2006.
Bound for Success is a comprehensive and detailed strategy, and the documents underpinning it are referred to throughout this case study. The material below, however, focuses on the views of key people working in the Torres Strait in 2007, particularly on the two central (and interlinked) issues of
Tagai College sees itself in this way.
Tagai State College's name is anchored on the constellation of Tagai, a symbol that unites the peoples of the Torres Strait. The position of Tagai across the sky instructs the world order, predicting new seasons and ensuring everything has a place.
Tagai State College, like the constellation, is a collection of individual entities that together make up the whole. With each campus considered as equally unique and important as the stars of Tagai, together they form a College far stronger than the sum of the parts.
The Torres Strait Islander people use the stars of Tagai for navigation. Each star's position therefore is vital to ensure a safe journey. Like the constellation, each Campus of Tagai State College is committed to our Vision and Mission Statements to ensure we achieve our objective — providing the highest levels of teaching and learning for our students.
Navigating YUMI to a successful future, by embracing our unique Torres Strait Island identity, to achieve a world-class standard of education. [YUMI (pronounced You-Me) is old Creole. In this context, YUMI identifies a collective of people, united by a common purpose. It signifies unity and promotes synergy.]
Tagai State College guarantees the highest standards of teaching and learning to achieve the aspirations of the Torres Strait Nation.
One of the actions called for by the Bound for Success strategy document (p 23) was: 'Action 11: Education Queensland will create clusters of schools connected to four proposed state colleges in the Cape and Torres Strait region.' But it was also noted that further consultation with the community needed to occur about establishing a state college on Thursday Island.
Don Anderson is Executive Principal of the new Tagai College, established as a result of this process. Tagai comprises all the 17 previously separate schools in the Torres Strait. Here Don discusses what happened and introduces the reasoning behind the new structure.
A key element of the strategy was to establish all the state schools in the Torres Strait under one college umbrella. That means we can establish clear lines of authority and accountability. I keep saying that to build a house you don't have to know how to drive a nail; you get people who know how to do it. Which means I don't have to have the expertise but I do have to have a team of people with expertise in their areas that I don't have. I have very strong beliefs about college structure and it's about leadership by executive. Authority and accountability have to be defined within the structure.
So we've moved from having 17 points of accountability [the 17 principals of the individual schools that make up the College] to a structure which has authority and accountability based on a defined operational structure. Some principals were somewhat concerned at the outset that in a more focused role they would be deskilled as 'proper' principals.
Our Heads of Campus are accountable for the educational programs — how they're taught, how they're measured and how they're reported on. That's their job. They have a lot of authority within that, but they have specific accountabilities. We've put in other structures to make sure they don't have to be accountable for all the other little things principals usually have to worry about. At the same time, they are supported in the roles they do have.Read on...
Steve Foster, a Torres Strait Islander, is Tagai's Associate Principal, Outer Island Campuses and is also responsible for the HR portfolio in the College. He is based at Badu Island, where he has been principal for some time. An earlier account of work at Badu is available here on the What Works website.
Here Steve discusses why the establishment of Tagai College has promoted consistency and accountability.
If you look at systemic data from the past across our schools and the Torres Strait District, the outcomes can easily be read as unsatisfactory and unacceptable for most of the students. I believe that a number of things contributed to this. One major reason was that there were 17 individual schools operating within the district with 17 different leaders. These were leaders who came with all good intentions and wanting to do the right thing, but often because of their inexperience found it hard to contextualise things. They would therefore implement strategies they had used or seen elsewhere and this did not work in the Torres Strait. There was no consistency in curriculum delivery across the 17 schools.
Now the Tagai College structure is all about how we can be more consistent and more accountable. When we spoke to communities they were saying, yes, give us that. Don't talk about it, do it.
Another issue that had a huge impact on student learning outcomes was the high turnover of leadership in the schools. Data on leadership within the Torres Strait showed that if you averaged the term of leadership across the 17 schools, every school would have a new principal every 10 months. And this data is skewed by the fact that two principals had been in two of the schools for over 10 years. Some schools had three or four principals each year and this had a huge impact on student outcomes. With each new principal, school priorities would change and this was confusing, not just for the teachers in the school, but for the students and the community as well. So people were meaning well but the consistency wasn't there. There was a high turnover of teachers as well and this added to the complexities of delivering quality educational programs.
The Tagai State College structure is all about having more consistency, with strong leadership at the executive level. The College now has experienced and recognised school leaders making up the College executive with a major focus on accountability for student learning outcomes and quality PD support for staff and community. When we spoke to communities during the community consultation phase they were saying, yes, give us that model. One Elder said 'Don't talk about it, do it, if this is going to help our children with their learning.' It was obvious that if we kept doing the same things we were only going to continue attracting the same results and this wasn't good enough. Change had to happen.
The formation of the College has now allowed our Heads of Campus to focus on being strong curriculum leaders. The College executives have focused on developing systems and implementing these so as to eliminate a lot of the distractions that school principals were dealing with on a daily basis. That has now allowed Heads of Campus to concentrate on their core business — Teaching and Learning. Read on...
The Bound for Success strategy document called for the following actions.
Below are some details of how these actions are taking place.
Leanne Fox is Principal, Bound for Success Curriculum. She discusses first the Scope and Sequence that has been developed.
Initially, we had some very robust conversations about what exactly is the bottom line that we want our students to leave with from knowledge, process and skills perspectives at the end of Year 10. That's the basis of the Scope and Sequence and it has to be consistent with the other documents in Queensland. In fact, Curriculum Branch has been supportive and instrumental in the writing process.
The philosophical viewpoint in the Scope and Sequence document is that they are statements of the learning that students will demonstrate. So it's very student focused. It says 'when I've taught this, this is what I will see students doing'. And it says, for instance, that by the end of Year 1 the student must be given multiple opportunities to demonstrate this learning. The teacher as the professional then needs to backward map that and ask 'what is it that I need to do pedagogically so that students can demonstrate the learning?
I think the Scope and Sequence does provide clarity, and it is very much developmental. At the same time, we've identified opportunities for incorporating local traditions and cultures as well. It's preparing our kids for the twenty-first century while providing valued and authentic opportunities for that local learning. They're part and parcel of the curriculum and not seen as a token add-on.
Extensive documentation is available on the Bound for Success website, and the complete Scope and Sequence statements can be accessed on the right of this page.
We also have a suite of diagnostic tools that focus on literacy and numeracy. Teachers can go on-line and work with them, using the evidence they've collected and the evidence they must collect is clear. For example in relation to reading, you must have mis-cue analysis, you must have some anecdotal observations and so on. So there is some quality assurance around the evidence that teachers use to make judgements. Then they choose goals to focus on with the student over the next semester and we provide some fairly prescriptive teaching strategies we know will work. It really informs their planning and at the same time provides some of the support to beginning teachers.
There's another diagnostic map called Health Awareness. It's based on the HPE scope and sequence and it's really important that people understand that this is not about teachers becoming health diagnosticians.
It's actually a demonstration of our belief that if something is valued by the community, by the government or by Education Queensland, we will embed it in curriculum. It can't be an add-on. We've also done that with Maritime Safety. It's our core business; it's about quality teaching and learning, but it's also addressing the agendas of other agencies.
The Individual Learning Plan (ILP) has now gone on-line. It's going to support teachers from both a pedagogy and a planning perspective. It's going to give principals the opportunities to look at what exactly is happening in classrooms. And conversations with parents can be much more definite. There won't be these global end-of-semester report cards. ILPs will be very, very specific things about what it is the student can do and what it is that we're working on. Read on...