YULE BROOK COMMUNITY COLLEGE, WA
Yule Brook Community College is a government middle school (Years 8-10) in a low socio-economic outer suburb of Perth. It has 65 Indigenous students from an enrolment of 205.
ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY AGREEMENT
Underpinning everything the school does with regard to Indigenous education is its Aboriginal Community Agreement. In 2001, responding to the results of their annual Dare to Lead School Review, Yule Brook CC formed a working party to begin the process of engaging with the local Aboriginal community. Consequently, the ACA was devised and signed by both the school leadership and the local community.
Since that time the Agreement has been regularly reviewed (see below) and the commitment renewed. "The commitments are for the community to support their students, encourage them to attend school and participate," principal Paul Billing says. "Our commitment is to find effective and appropriate ways to keep students staying and participating.
"We do what we can to align the community's wishes as close as possible to ours. In my day-to-day work my thinking is about the school's commitment and how we adapt the ways we work to make sure we meet our side of the agreement. We have profoundly shifted the way we work to reflect those things. The Agreement frames our work.
"It also has symbolic value in signaling to the community that this place is open, open-minded and approachable. It characterizes a way that we work."
REVIEWING THE AGREEMENT
"The way in which we have engaged the community has varied from year to year as we have tried to keep people connected," Mr Billing says. "We have tried community meetings, meetings led by students to engage with the parents on issues, and made postcards of the agreement. Leading up to NAIDOC week we re-examine the Agreement with the community.
"We have kids ringing parents and getting them to commit to come to school for the Agreement review each year. We have kids as leaders of discussion groups. We take parts of the Agreement, print them of and put them on different tables, talk about what is working, what is not, should there be changes. We get up to 20 people at these reviews, including Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers, the Gosnells Noongar Action Committee, and occasionally people from Maamba Aboriginal Corporation."
CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY
"We tried a program, The ABC of Two-Way Literacy, connecting Aboriginal English and Standard Australian English. We do a lot of simple things: we always fly the Aboriginal flag, always make a point of celebrating NAIDOC, use symbols like building a Meeting Circle outside the school (with a bush tucker garden modeling the six Noongar seasons) to show we see ourselves as part of the community," Mr Billing says.
"We have taken on strongly student-centred learning plans," Mr Billing says. "Our big picture is shaping the curriculum around the kids, not shaping the kids to the syllabus. That is at the heart of what we are trying to do. We are working with kids to discover their interests and passions, then putting in place learning programs and external internships to help them achieve those learning goals in a context where they are engaged."
TRANSITION TO SENIOR SECONDARY
"Our transition to senior school is done over a period of six months with Seven Oaks College (the local government senior secondary school) in particular," Mr Billing says. "We link in with their Follow The Dream program. We have been told that the relationship we have prepares them well, as evidenced by the Year 12 completion figures last year." (All Indigenous Year 10 students from Yule Brook CC in 2005 who went to Seven Oaks Senior Campus graduated from Year 12 in 2007.)
"Our biggest challenge is to do more of the same. Despite the fact that we have had some small improvements in attendance and participation for our Indigenous students, the figures are still not at the levels of the non-Indigenous students. Every year one-third of our cohort changes, so we can never settle and say we have it licked - we restart the work with a new cohort every year. Indigenous kids at this school still don't reflect average achievement levels of non-Indigenous kids, and until that happens we will never be able to say our work is finished."
Aboriginal Student Enrolment
Aboriginal Students Graduating from Yule Brook College
* 100% completion of Indigenous students in Year 10, 2007
"I have been continually impressed by the extent to which the College has worked to meet its obligations under the Aboriginal Parent Community Agreement. The success of Yule Brook Community College's approach to working with its community has had a positive influence on community attitudes to the school, student attendance, student engagement and graduation rates. I am also confident that the growing success of Noongar students at Yule Brook Community College will continue to see larger numbers of Aboriginal students enrolling, attending and graduating from Yule Brook Community College." - Leon Harp, Chair, Aboriginal Parent Advisory Committee, Yule Brook Community College
*YULE BROOK COMMUNITY COLLEGE WAS A HIGH ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNER IN THE 2007 DARE TO LEAD EXCELLENCE IN LEADERSHIP IN INDIGENOUS EDUCATION AWARDS.*
SELECTION PANEL COMMENTS:
"The school's Aboriginal Community Agreement has been a long running initiative that has maintained momentum and purpose over six years. There is clear collaboration between the school and its Aboriginal community. The data shows significant improvements in school enrolments and graduation rates plus a reduction in suspension rates over the past five years. There is evidence that both the student and community voice within the school is strong."
PRINCIPAL: Paul Billing
MORE INFORMATION: firstname.lastname@example.org or 08 9251 8333