Football helps kick along academic life
A program tapping into young Aboriginal students' passion for footy is keeping their eye on the main game - their studies at Coonamble High School.
The school last year partnered with the Clontarf Academy, a program that aims to improve the education, self-esteem, life skills and employment prospects of young Aboriginal men, and has since seen great success.
The program uses the students' passion for rugby league to attract them to school where a network of support is provided through activities focusing on education, leadership, employment, healthy lifestyles, life skills and football.
The department's director-general, Michele Bruniges, recently visited the school and tossed around a football with a few of the students and local police officers.
Dr Bruniges heard how boys who had struggled to get to school on time were now ready to learn as soon as the bell went after already arriving at school at the crack of dawn for football training.
Dr Bruniges commended the boys on being so motivated and started each school day "ready to learn".
"I was impressed how the Clontarf Academy aims and objectives had been integrated into the school's daily work with students," Dr Bruniges said.
"The academy program obviously connects with these boys, giving them increased interest in education as a way to improve their life opportunities.
Coonamble High executive principal Margaret Mulcahy said changes reflected in the boys' approach to school included improved attendance, improved outcomes in learning, and a growing long-term vision and commitment to their studies to succeed at school and beyond.
"We've got boys coming to school and stepping up and taking responsibility for their learning," she said.
Coonamble High was one of a number of schools in NSW that had partnered with Clontarf Academies. Others included Bourke High School, Brewarrina Central School, Moree Secondary College, Inverell High School, Armidale High School and Oxley High School in Tamworth.
Find out more about the Clontarf Academy.