Closing the Gap

Teaching indigenous education will be one of your requirements here at Sandy Plains, as seen in Standard 1.4 Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. At a graduate level, you will need to demonstrate broad knowledge and understanding of the impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background on the education of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. (AISTL, 2014)

It has been well documented that Indigenous students continue to be the most educationally disadvantaged student group in Australia, exhibiting consistently lower levels of academic achievement and higher rates of absenteeism than non-Indigenous students. High absenteeism among Indigenous students is particularly concerning given that school attendance is considered to be essential for educational success (Collins, 1999; Rothman, 2001).

Education has long been considered a critical factor to closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. Closing the gap is a strategy that aims to reduce Indigenous disadvantage with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement, and employment outcomes (Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, 2015).

As approximately 35% of the students at Sandy Plains identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage, this is a significant area of need for our school. As a teacher at our school there is a lot you can do to support these students in their education by exhibiting a positive school culture. A school culture and leadership that acknowledges and supports Indigenous students and families is most important. This includes the provision of professional development to staff to raise awareness of Indigenous culture, involvement of the Indigenous community in education planning and provision, and increasing respect in the broader school community for Indigenous languages and culture. Strategies for the whole school, such as providing a broad curriculum, attendance programs and quality careers education, help maintain student engagement, improve learning outcomes and lift school completion rates. These strategies also enable schools to identify students at risk. Finally, student-focused strategies, such as mentoring, engagement programs, targeted skill development, intensive case management and welfare support, target the needs of individual students at risk of low achievement or early leaving.

One of the biggest priority areas that have been proven to have a positive effect on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is getting children to school to provide the best chance of enjoying success in school and later in life. You as their teacher play an important role in maintaining children’s engagement, participation, attendance and belonging in a supportive classroom environment. To create a more engaging learning environment, schools need to adopt a curriculum and teaching approach that is relevant to Indigenous students’ prior knowledge, experiences, interests and aspirations. It must also be relevant to their local environment, culture and language (Bourke et al. 2000). The learning content, therefore, needs to be meaningful, important and culturally responsible (MCEETYA AESOC 2006)

An effective strategy to use in the classroom to include indigenous students is by incorporating the 8 Ways framework. 8 ways is an Aboriginal pedagogical framework which is


“expressed as eight interconnected pedagogies involving narrative-driven learning, visualised learning processes, hands-on/reflective techniques, use of symbols/metaphors, land-based learning, indirect/synergistic logic, modelled/scaffolded genre mastery, and connectedness to community” (NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2015).

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More information on the 8 Ways Framework can be found at –

Including Indigenous perspectives across the curriculum has been identified as a key component to engaging Indigenous students in learning, and it has been associated with better results (SCRGSP 2011)


Engagement in learning is critical to academic achievement

There is a lot of work being done around the country on improving Indigenous literacy rates. For example, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation run a range of community literacy projects and supply thousands of books to kids in remote communities. By including some indigenous stories in your literacy time with the students may help to make a big difference in their engagement. The mission of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation is to make a positive difference in the lives of Australian Indigenous children by focusing on ways to improve their literacy levels.


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Early literacy development in a child’s life is an important time for enjoying the world of story-telling and instilling a lifelong love of books