As of 2018, one in four indigenous students remain below Australia’s national reading standards. The gap widens even further in remote areas, with only 36% of indigenous year five students meeting the national minimum standards, compared to 96% of non-indigenous students in major cities. Progress is being made through the Closing the Gap targets. However, significant improvements are needed to meet benchmark outcomes in the years ahead.
Established in 2007 by St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney, Australia, Gawura School is a highly regarded model for First Nations education and was named the 2020 Australian School of the Year. It is the only 100% indigenous school in Australia that offers full tuition scholarships to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Kindergarten to Year 12. Gawura School provides students with a supportive, nurturing space where they feel secure, can learn at their skill level, and are surrounded by culture and language. Administrators recognize that raising these children’s language and literacy levels will alter their life trajectories and open possibilities for further education, job prospects, and a better quality of life.
In 2021, they embarked on a journey with Lindamood-Bell’s Learning Centres in Sydney, Australia, to create a Learning Center on Campus, helping all students learn to their potential, including those with learning difficulties, gaps in reading, and dyslexia. Together, they paved a new path for literacy instruction at the school, believing in the importance of nurturing every child’s learning potential. With a shared desire to make a difference for these students, Lindamood-Bell subsidized a portion of the instruction provided at the school.
The Learning Center on Campus aimed to provide differentiated instruction for struggling readers to accelerate the learning process and close the achievement gap. This comprehensive model included a needs assessment, on-site targeted intervention using evidence-based programs, an individualized student success and engagement plan, progress monitoring, evaluation, and reporting.
As a critical part of the Learning Center on Campus, Lindamood-Bell instructional staff provided targeted, intensive intervention on site, using the evidence-based programs demonstrated to be effective for reading and comprehension. To ensure students’ success in the classroom, the Lindamood-Bell instructional team also provided coaching and support for Gawura teachers during the school day.
“The impact of this project will be long lasting. By increasing their literacy levels, we are giving these students the chance to access so many opportunities moving forward.” said Sinead McIvor, Project Director and Executive Center Director for Lindamood-Bell.
As one educator at Gawura School said, “There is no reason that any one of these students can’t go to university and become lawyers or doctors or whatever they choose. This project is making that possible-it is giving them an incredible gift and opportunity.”
The partnership included 25 students ranging from first grade to ninth grade. They received small group instruction two hours a day, five days a week, for two instructional cycles. Despite a nine-month break from instruction during COVID-19, Gawura School was committed to providing evidence-based, sensory-cognitive instruction to their students. With an additional subsidy of the instruction supplied by Lindamood-Bell, upon their return to school students received more instructional hours, followed by a second instructional cycle. Despite the break, students retained what they had learned upon returning to the classroom, a difference from the alarming trend seen in many students worldwide, who suffered significant learning loss during this time.
When post-tested at the end of instruction, students showed significant improvements in all reading measures, including reading accuracy and fluency. There were large standard score changes across various measures of reading, including reading accuracy and fluency.
One father shared his experience about the positive impact of this partnership: “I can’t believe how much my son’s reading has developed this past term. It’s incredible to see him interested and wanting to read, thank you so much.”
This partnership is helping to close the learning gap for indigenous children, who can now learn to their potential and go on to have many opportunities that impact their futures in a positive way.
For more information about Gawura School, visit https://gawura.nsw.edu.au/
Contact us to explore a Learning Center on Campus and find out more about professional learning for your school:
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