School attendance success
At Illaroo Road Public School in North Nowra huge strides are being made to engage Aboriginal students.
With a focus on achieving high attendance rates by all students, the school achieved a record in attendance for its 46 Aboriginal students, with 41 per cent having perfect attendance in Term 1, 2012.
The success has been placed at the feet of deputy principal Bob Lowe who has dedicated the past 11 years to improving attendance at the school as well as developing regional strategies.
The region's quality teaching Indigenous engagement co-ordinator, Michelle Brook, said Mr Lowe's work at the school reflected the region's hardline attitude toward raising the bar for Aboriginal students.
"Forget closing the gap," she says, "we say; no gap, no excuse."
Mr Lowe said what the school did for Aboriginal students to ensure good attendance was, with some significant differences, what the school did for all students.
He stressed attendance could not be separated from everything else that happened at school.
"Close monitoring of attendance is one variable, (but other impacts) are knowing the students, knowing their learning profile, building relationships with them, raising their self-esteem in positive ways and good communication with families," he said.
Mr Lowe said this approach was underpinned by a culture of high expectations within the school.
To promote family and community engagement cultural inclusiveness, a Koori newsletter was produced for parents each term, personalised learning plans were reviewed each year and honed in consultation with families and a Koori club ran once a week.
Ms Brook said Illaroo Road had successfully used positive reinforcement techniques.
"This has been fantastic for getting kids on a positive cycle and once they're there, they stay on it," she said. "These kids are getting up in the morning and saying, 'Unreal, I want to go to school'."
Ms Brook said at its heart the approach was "about engagement ... if they can see a purpose or connection to their life they want to come".
"We also let parents know that they are valued. If they can then see the positives in education their whole attitude towards it changes and the message they are giving their children changes," she said.