National Report on Schooling Australia 2012

National initiatives and achievements

2.7 Improving educational outcomes for Indigenous youth¹ 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, Education 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.

Ministers 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.

Agreed national strategies under the Melbourne Declaration include: the development of an action plan to close the gap for Indigenous children and young people; providing increased access to quality early childhood education programs for Indigenous children; supporting coordinated community services for Indigenous students and their families; strengthening school leadership and teaching in disadvantaged schools and generating meaningful pathways for all disadvantaged students.

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 that are incorporated in the National Education Agreement.

These are to:
• lift the Year 12 or equivalent or Certificate II attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2015
• lift the Year 12 or equivalent or Certificate III attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2020
• halve the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018
• at least halve the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students’ Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020.

Progress towards these targets is discussed in Part 6.3: Senior school and transitions – attainment and Part 7: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.

COAG has also set a target to ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities by 2013.

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 as a commitment under the Melbourne Declaration and as part of the COAG reform agenda to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The plan was approved by Education Ministers in 2010 and endorsed by COAG in 2011.

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 action plan endeavours to bring together existing commitments made through key reforms including the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) and the National Education Agreement and builds on commitments by governments for structural and innovative reforms in early childhood education, schooling and youth engagement.

Funding of the plan is a shared responsibility of participating education providers and the Australian Government, which committed $128.6 million over the period 2010–14 to a range of measures in the action plan.

Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan, Education Ministers agreed to identify a key group of focus schools as sites for specific action. The Investing in Focus Schools project is a $40 million initiative over two years from 2012. Funding was provided as a one-off payment to states and territories under a project agreement. The initiative supports approximately 300 government and non-government schools (selected by states and territories) to complement and accelerate implementation of local actions in the ‘Engagement and connections’, ‘Attendance’ and ‘Literacy and numeracy’ domains of the action plan.

The Next Steps Focus Schools Initiative is an Australian Government commitment of $30 million under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance)Act 2000. The funding, over two years finishing in 2014, aims to directly assist 101 schools (selected by states and territories) in lifting the attendance, engagement and educational achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Annual reports for 2012, 2011 and 2010 on progress against the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014 are available on the SCSEEC website.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have also benefited from the national partnership agreements in Literacy and Numeracy, Low Socio-economic Status School Communities, Improving Teacher Quality and Youth Attainment and Transitions. These agreements are for all Australians, but have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific measures. More information on these partnerships is included in Part 2.1: National initiatives – developing stronger partnerships.

More information on initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth is available in the annual reports on the action plan and the Australian Government’s Indigenous website. Information on schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in 2012, including relevant key performance measures and performance indicators under the action plan is provided in Part 7: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.

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, approximately 1,700 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.

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 national partnerships for Literacy and Numeracy and for Improving Teacher Quality. Further information on these partnerships is included in Part 2.1: National initiatives and achievements – developing stronger partnerships.

The National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions, including the Compact with Young Australians and the National Youth Participation Requirement, works to address outcomes for educationally disadvantaged young Australians. In particular, the Youth Connections program provides an individualised and responsive service to support those most at risk of disengaging from education, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. These initiatives are outlined in Part 2.5: National initiatives and achievements – supporting senior years of schooling and youth transitions.

 


¹The Melbourne Declaration and national 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’.