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Australian Current Affairs

Australia must improve performance on indigenous education

Indigenous EducationFederal School Education Minister Peter Garrett will today demand that the states and territories dramatically lift their game on indigenous education, warning that they are not on track to meet their Closing the Gap targets.

Mr Garrett will use the education ministers’ meeting in Sydney to call on states and territories to improve their performance under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan.

He is concerned that some of the targets set under the agreement implemented in 2011 were not likely to be met by the end of this year, and that states and territories were not meeting their reporting requirements.

Mr Garrett will ask all ministers to agree to a reporting process for the next annual report that clearly sets out progress against 28 targets.

The first target is to halve the gap in literacy and numeracy results by 2018. Mr Garrett said while good progress was made in results in the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy from 2008 to 2011, last year’s results were the poorest since the tests began.

“On what we’ve got in front of us, we can see that we are falling way short from what we need to be doing to lift education attainment for indigenous students,” he told The Australian.

“I’ll be telling education ministers they need to strengthen this and there needs to be a sense of urgency around achieving these actions and then reporting on them. We need system-wide change.”

Mr Garrett will demand his colleagues take steps to meet a number of targets by the end of this year. These include putting personalised learning strategies in place for all 150,000 indigenous students in Years 1-10.

Another is to have community partnership agreements in place in the 950 “focus schools”, including an attendance strategy agreed to with indigenous parents and local leaders. Literacy and numeracy strategies must also be put in place that include explicit teaching and use of data to monitor and improve individual performance in all 950 schools.

The final target is for a draft Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce strategy by the end of the year.

All these targets were agreed to by governments as part of the plan, but the most recent annual report for 2011 shows that they are not being met. Only 20,000 students had personalised learning strategies; 24 per cent of focus schools have community partnerships in place and 58 per cent have a whole-of-school literacy and numeracy strategy.

Mr Garrett said there had been a lack of clear reporting by the states in some areas, making it hard to get a clear picture of what was happening within schools and across school systems.

For example, in 2011, Queensland did not report on the number of indigenous students in government or independent schools with personalised learning strategies, nor the number of school and community partnership agreements in place.

NSW, Victoria and Western Australia reported on all indicators but gave no information on whether attendance strategies were developed in consultation with the community.

Source: The Australian – Peter Garrett tells states to lift Gap game

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