Cultural safety helps exceptional students shine

A report developed by CESE has found cultural safety to be one of four key themes which contribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ success.

Image: Briar Road students perform at the school's annual NAIDOC awards ceremony

It’s well known that schools are central to the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students, and a new report by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation has revealed how schools can make this happen.

Bringing together evidence on ways that schools can contribute to the educational success of Aboriginal students, the report, Strong strides together, aims to support teachers and school leaders by identifying four evidence-based themes to create high-quality learning environments, noting sustained positive change is a key factor.

The starting point is creating a culturally safe school, a task that Briar Road Public School has undertaken with great success.

Cultural safety recognises that individual students have distinct cultural identities that shape their school experience, and use whole-of-school practices to make students feel welcome and supported, and families and communities feel connected to the school.

By embedding a Reconciliation Action Plan in their school processes, creating a Cultural Centre led by Aboriginal staff and maintaining positive relationships with the local Aboriginal community, Briar Road Public School has seen Aboriginal students perform above average in reading and have fostered a strong sense of belonging for students, giving them strong footing in the classroom.

“Culture is valued knowledge for all children, and I see our students as the next generation of people changing the narrative for Aboriginal students.”

“We run a Cultural Competency Program, embed cultural competency into professional development and we’ve set an incredibly high bar for cultural inclusion,” Briar Road Public School Principal, Tammy Anderson, said.

As a result of the work put into prioritising cultural safety, Briar Road has seen an uplift in attendance, academic results and wellbeing in the past two years, and they are committed to sustaining the uplift.

“I’m incredibly proud of the strides we are making at Briar Road, and I look forward to seeing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students continue to shine,” Ms Anderson said.

The Department is committed to upholding the inherent right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to fair, equitable, culturally inclusive and significant educational opportunities, and this new report will further help increase the proportion of Aboriginal students attaining their HSC while maintaining their cultural identity; as well as meeting Department goals around increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student achievement in NAPLAN in all years of schooling.

Alongside cultural safety, the three other evidence-based themes which support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ success are:

  • Implementing culturally responsive teaching which acknowledges that students’ cultural backgrounds influence their ways of knowing, thinking, and communicating. By understanding and responding to these cultural influences, teachers can promote student learning.
  • Positive relationships between school staff, students, families and communities that are built on shared trust, respect and understanding. They are developed over time, reciprocal, and facilitated by school staff through engagement with students, their families and communities.
  • Personalised learning approaches which aim to increase engagement and achievement by tailoring learning based on individual student strengths, needs, interests, culture, progress and/or goals. These approaches are grounded in providing students with learning environments that support them to succeed.

Read or download the full report, Strong strides together- meeting the educationla goals for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students here.

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