Pearson Program ‘making a difference in remote Australia’

“The teachers we have now can see we are making a difference. We are having a definite positive impact; it makes a difference to the kids who come every day, and not just the kids but the families and the community. We had staff before who were “You can’t change that. You can’t fix that”, but they can see now you can…” Principal Ben Slocombe, ImpaxSIA Report 2016

A review into the effectiveness of Direct Instruction (DI) and Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) in 39 remote schools in WA, NT and Qld shows improved learning progress, behaviour and attendance.

The promising results in the early stages of implementation of the Good to Great Schools Australia Literacy and Remote Schools program was reported by Principals and teachers.

Co-chair of Good to Great Schools Australia (GGSA) Noel Pearson will address a teacher training event in Darwin today and share the early findings of the program being implemented in State, Catholic and Independent schools between 2014 and 2017.

Independent evaluator Dr Annie Holden, of ImpaxSIA Consulting, conducted the twelve-month milestone survey and interviews of 185 participants, 32 principals, 116 teachers, 19 assistant teachers and 18 Instruction coaches employed by the schools.

The reports states: “In some cases, the schools are reporting benefits that go beyond their expectations, including more students performing at grade level, improved student behaviour, improved school atmosphere, better learning outcomes for children evidencing trauma and improved school attendance”.

Acting Principal of Angurugu School on Groote Eylandt, Stephanie Blitner, confirmed that teachers were seeing more children more regularly attending school and accelerating in their reading towards age level.

Angurugu has 240 Indigenous and highly transient students. Ms Blitner said the teacher turnover had also been a challenge.

“We can’t control the teachers we get because we don’t get enough applicants, but the accountability process of DI ensures a certain quality” she said. “The accountability for the teachers is key, the constant data collection ensures we know where the kids are at and what support the teachers might need.”

St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic School located in Carnarvon, 900 km north of Perth, has 320 students from Kindergarten to Year 10. Principal Steve O’Halloran said a stable teaching staff and good attendance had not been translating into good academic results.

“Our NAPLAN results were not great and we didn’t have behavioural problems, so there was just no reason for poor results.” Steve O’Halloran, Principal.

“We have noticed a jump in student performance.”

The GGSA Literacy in Remote Schools initiative, funded by the Australian Government’s Flexible Literacy for Remote Primary Schools Program, supports 39 schools to introduce two effective, scientifically validated teaching approaches: Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) and Direct Instruction (DI) to improve the exceedingly poor outcomes of remote (particularly Indigenous) education.

The report states that more than 70 percent of teachers with 10 or more years experience are supportive and 65 percent of them want to continue to teach EDI or DI when they move schools.

Since the implementation of EDI or DI, principals and teachers have higher expectations and are less likely to accept that Indigenous children will not or cannot learn, the report found.

This study provides a qualitative focus and is intended to assist GGSA to continue to improve its approach to remote and Indigenous education reform as a more comprehensive and quantitative evaluation is undertaken by the University of Melbourne.

For interviews contact: Kerie Hull 0417 073659

• Principal Star of the Sea, Steve O’Halloran
• Acting Principal Angurugu School, Stephanie Blitner
• GGSA, Julie Grantham