National Report on Schooling in Australia 2010

National initiatives and achievements

2.7 Improving educational outcomes for Indigenous¹ youth and disadvantaged young Australians, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds

The first goal of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians is that Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence.
Within the Melbourne Declaration, Ministers acknowledged that:
  • educational outcomes for Indigenous children and young people are substantially behind those of other students in key areas of enrolment, attendance, participation, literacy, numeracy, retention and completion

  • students from low socio-economic backgrounds, those from remote areas, refugees, homeless young people, and students with disabilities often experience educational disadvantage

  • Australian governments must support all young Australians to achieve not only equality of opportunity but also more equitable outcomes

and committed Australian governments to working with all school sectors to:

  • ‘close the gap’ for young Indigenous Australians

  • provide targeted support to disadvantaged students

  • focus on school improvement in low socio-economic communities.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has set targets to lift educational attainment overall and to close the gap between the educational outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. These are to:
  • lift the Year 12 or equivalent attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2015

  • halve the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade (by 2018)

  • at least halve the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students’ Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020.

MCEECDYA strategies

National strategies and actions identified in the MCEETYA four-year plan 20092012 include:
  • development of a four-year action plan to close the gap for Indigenous children and young people, building on the review of the Australian Directions in Indigenous Education 20052008

  • establishment of integrated Children and Family Centres where there is a significant Indigenous population and high general disadvantage

  • attracting high quality principals, school leaders and teachers to schools in disadvantaged communities

  • providing support and incentives to increase Indigenous participation in the education workforce, especially in remote schools

  • supporting coordinated community services for Indigenous students and their families that can increase attendance and engagement in schooling

  • enhancing professional development in the teaching of English as a second language (ESL)², literacy and assessment for teachers working with students from Indigenous language backgrounds

  • strengthening school leadership in disadvantaged schools

  • encouraging a strong focus on the educational needs, mental health and well-being of individual students

  • generating meaningful pathways for all disadvantaged students.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth

State and Territory governments, non-government education authorities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are working in collaboration to close the gap between the outcomes of schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous students.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014, was developed by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reform agenda to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. MCEECDYA approved the plan in April 2010.³  The plan focuses on six priority areas identified as having the greatest impact on closing the gap:
  • readiness for school

  • engagement and connections

  • attendance

  • literacy and numeracy

  • leadership, quality teaching and workforce development

  • pathways to real post-school options.

The plan endeavours to bring together existing commitments made through other key reforms including the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA). Schooling is one of the building blocks in the ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy agreed by COAG. It recognises that a good education is the way to jobs and opportunities in later life. The plan promotes the use of personalised learning strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and was informed by public consultations undertaken in 2009 and 2010.
The plan also builds on commitments by governments to introduce substantial structural and innovative reforms in early childhood education, schooling and youth engagement.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are also benefiting from the three Smarter Schools National Partnership agreements (Literacy and Numeracy, Low Socio-economic Status School Communities and Improving Teacher Quality) and the Youth Attainment and Transitions National Partnership. These agreements are for all Australians, but have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific measures. More information on these partnerships is included in the National initiatives – developing stronger partnerships section of this report.
The Youth Attainment and Transitions National Partnership Agreement has an explicit focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. It is providing action to engage young people aged 18 to 24 in education and help them to make the transition to further education, training, employment and a career. The Youth Connections Program began in January 2010 and provides an individualised and responsive service to support those most at risk of disengaging from education, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.
More information on educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth is provided in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education section of this report.

Low Socio-economic Status School Communities

All governments have agreed that they have mutual interest in and shared responsibility for improving educational outcomes in low socio-economic status (SES) school communities and in supporting reforms in the way schooling is delivered to those communities.
The National Partnership for Low Socio-economic Status School Communities facilitates a range of school-level and broader reforms addressing educational disadvantage associated with low socio-economic status school communities including:
  • incentives to attract high quality principals and teachers

  • more flexible management and staffing arrangements

  • more flexible school operational arrangements

  • innovative and tailored learning opportunities for students

  • strengthened school accountability to parents and the community

  • external partnerships with parents, schools, businesses and local communities.

Commonwealth funding of $1.5 billion is being provided to States and Territories over a seven-year period, to be matched by State and Territory co-investment. Over the life of this National Partnership, 1,734 schools serving low socio-economic status communities will be targeted for support. This National Partnership is supporting student engagement and attendance through whole-of-school strategies as well as targeted intervention for particular cohorts, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students from a non-English speaking background and students with disabilities. There has been a strong focus on the establishment of external partnerships with parents and organisations to support student learning and wellbeing, especially in the early years.
 
Information on this partnership and its implementation in 2010 is also included in National initiatives and achievements – developing stronger partnerships in this report. More detailed information is available on the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) Smarter Schools National Partnerships website.
 
The needs of students from low socio-economic backgrounds (whether or not they attend a school participating in the Low Socio-economic Status School Communities National Partnership), as well as those experiencing other forms of educational disadvantage, are also addressed in the other Smarter Schools National Partnerships. Information on these partnerships – Improving Teacher Quality, and Literacy and Numeracy – is included in the National initiatives and achievements – developing stronger partnerships section of this report.
The National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions, including the Compact with Young Australians and the National Youth Participation Requirement, is also vital to addressing outcomes for educationally disadvantaged young Australians. These initiatives are outlined in National initiatives and achievements – supporting senior years of schooling and youth transitions in this report.


¹ The Melbourne Declaration, MCEETYA four-year plan 2009–2012 and data collections use the term `Indigenous' to refer to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Where possible, this report uses `Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' in preference to the term `Indigenous'.
² This term has been changed to English as an Additional Language (EAL).
³ The plan was subsequently endorsed by COAG in May 2011.