The NSW Government gave approval for the NSW Department of Education to run the strategy for 5 years, up until 2018. In 2018, the existing 16 schools were extended until 2023 and in late 2019, the Government gave approval for the department to explore options of expanding the Connected Communities Strategy across a new selection of schools.
The key reason the Connected Communities Strategy is expanding is because there is more work to do in supporting Aboriginal students and all students in many locations in NSW. Disadvantage exists in many communities and a focussed plan is needed to help support schools and their communities to work collaboratively in realising greater gains.
Work has been done to create a list of possible locations where the strategy could be implemented. To do this, the department looked at the following:
- Social circumstances that determine disadvantage – as defined by the World Health Organisation – as these have an effect on how students can learn and engage. These included health status, affordability and availability of fresh food and vegetables and basic household products, access to housing and transport, social exclusion and levels of unemployment.
- Educational outcomes over time – drawn from the department’s own data, which included attendance, NAPLAN, and HSC data.
- Local knowledge – which included input from the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG).
Other NSW Government agencies provided data to help shape this work. This included the Department of Communities and Justice, the Ministry of Health, the Aboriginal Housing Office, Transport for NSW, and Police NSW.
Taking into account the parts mentioned above, all the data was analysed to dertermine where locations the strategy could be located. Following consultation with the NSW AECG Inc., the Primary Principals Association, the Secondary Principals Council, the Parent and Citizens Association and the NSW Teachers Federation, a list of possible schools was presented to the NSW Government Cabinet (via its Delivery and Performance Committee) in late 2019 for consideration. Cabinet agreed for the department to talk with identified schools and communities about the strategy and then report back during 2020, with recommendations.
The department will provide information sessions for each possible school. These will be either face to face or virtual. This has become necessary because of COVID-19 and the social distancing rules applied by health authorities.
These content of these sessions have been shared with the key stakeholders such as the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) Inc., The Primary Principals Association and The Secondary Principals Council, the NSW Teachers Federation and the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW.
The Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, the Honourable Sarah Mitchell MLC, returns to Cabinet in November 2020 to provide an update on the information sessions gleaned from tranche one schools that have been identified as potential sites for implementing phase two of the Connected Communities Strategy.
The next step towards bringing the strategy into a new school is dependent on the decisions and recommendations endorsed by Cabinet.