Kempsey Adventist School has noted the successful achievements of its students after it took part in a pilot program aimed at improving literacy and numeracy outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
The local school was one of four independent schools which took part in the state-wide program.
The two-year program was implemented in 2016 and designed by the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNSW).
Its aim was to encourage independent schools, with a high percentage of Indigenous enrolments, to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous learning outcomes.
Kempsey Adventist School principal Leanne Lesic said out of the four schools, the school was the only one with a low socioeconomic status.
"We chose a 'whole school change' and the school has welcomed the opportunities created for our young people as a result of this project," she said.
While the project initially focused on improving academic outcomes through teaching techniques, the focus shifted to high expectation relationships, authentic connections and partnerships with the community.
School staff maintained regular communication with each student's family. Focus groups were hosted to discuss how to overcome the most significant barriers experienced by Indigenous students.
Teachers learnt about Dunghutti culture and traditions, favouring project-based learning over traditional teaching methods.
Mrs Lesic said too often decisions about and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are made without their voices being the strongest ones.
"We ensure our students are heard and believe that true empowerment is created through forming authentic relationships established on trust," she said.
The school was required to document strategies and process. The results showed impressive outcomes.
One student at the school said the teachers don't dump expectations on them but guide them to help students achieve their best.
Another student said the school feels like home.
Mrs Lesic said she is grateful for the community's support in helping to close the gap on achievement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
To read the full report, "Improving Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students", visit the AISNSW website.
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