The journey so far
About the strategy
The Connected Communities strategy is a whole of government reform to drive improved education outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people in some of the state's most complex and disadvantaged communities.
The strategy was launched in May 2012 by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello.
The 15 schools, in rural and remote NSW, have been selected to work in partnership with their communities to create the generational change required for students to achieve better outcomes at school and access pathways from school into further learning and employment.
The schools act as community hubs to co-ordinate a range of services from government and non-government agencies and tailor education to the needs of their students.
Mr O'Farrell said the new approach recognised that "we have to do things differently" to address the key issues that positively influence Aboriginal students' educational and life opportunities.
"Connected Communities will allow individual schools to work in partnership with Aboriginal leaders in the local community to help improve education outcomes for young Aboriginal people," he said.
The strategy became operational at the start of the 2013 school year and is being implemented in the following schools:
- Boggabilla Central School
- Bourke High School
- Bourke Public school
- Brewarrina Central School
- Coonamble High School
- Coonamble Public School
- Hillvue Public School
- Menindee Central School
- Moree East public School
- Moree Secondary College
- Taree High School
- Taree Public School
- Toomelah Public School
- Walgett Community School
- Wilcannia Central School
An informed partnership
The strategy was developed in collaboration with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc (AECG) and was informed by research. It was the first major initiative endorsed by the Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs, which included leaders of peak Aboriginal organisations.
Mr Piccoli said the strategy would be rigorously monitored and measured. Engaging the Aboriginal community is a key focus and will be achieved by employing Elders and Aboriginal staff in schools, embedding and celebrating Aboriginal language and culture, building cultural understanding among teachers and working closely with parents.
"This will include Aboriginal children's readiness for school, family and community active engagement in schools, attendance rates, and improvements in literacy and numeracy measured against national minimum standards," he said.
"Ultimately, the benefits of the Connected Communities strategy depend on effective leadership, good governance and genuine community partnerships."
There is a strong focus on supporting every student to achieve their very best and to fulfil their aspirations, while embedding a strong vision of high expectations and achievement in all aspects of teaching and learning.
The strategy is led by Michele Hall, Executive Director, Aboriginal Education and Communities.
A new classification of principal – Executive Principal – has been established to lead the strategy in the schools. The Executive Principals are appointed for five years and are responsible for managing their schools and reporting to their community and to the Executive Director on the progress and achievement of the key deliverables of the Connected Communities strategy.
A local school reference group chaired by the local AECG has been established in each school community to work alongside the Executive Principal to guide the planning for the strategy in each school.
This governance model is unique in that the local community, in partnership with the Executive Principal, collaborate in a co-leadership role that is locally responsive to determine the students' needs and aspirations.
Each school has a Senior Leader, Community Engagement or Leader, Community Engagement to assist the Executive Principal connect directly with parents, the local community and key stakeholders.
The importance of recognising and valuing a student's culture and identity and their sense of belonging starts at birth. The Connected Communities strategy recognises the critical importance of early years' education as the foundation for a child's future success in learning and the schools are working in partnership with their communities to develop early years' transition programs.
The Connected Communities strategy is designed to complement the work of the Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs.
The schools will teach Aboriginal languages and culture, a key recommendation of the Government's OCHREplan – opportunity, choice, healing, responsibility, empowerment.
The Department of Education and Communities is committed to providing world-class public education and Connected Communities is an important strategy to meet the needs of students through integrated, flexible and responsive services.