Roma Mitchell Secondary College in Adelaide, South Australia has used its Gonski funding to lift results for its diverse student body.
The school opened in 2011 and has three campuses co-located on one site: Girls’ Education, Co-Education and Special Education.
It has a diverse range of students with specific needs and challenges. Students with disabilities make up 13 per cent of its enrolment, 8 per cent are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and 41 per cent have English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD).
In 2015, Roma Mitchell Secondary College received $218,242 in additional Gonski funding and developed a plan to use these extra resources to enhance the literacy and numeracy skills of its students, as to lift student attendance, engagement and achievement.
Help for all who need it
Principal Sandy Richardson said the school had to use its Gonski funding in several different ways to tackle a wide range of barriers that were stopping students from achieving.
This included a focus on increasing engagement for students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, improving the communication skills of students with a language or speech difficulty and ensuring that students with poor English skills could access the SA Certificate of Education curriculum.
Gonski resources meant the school could employ mentors and tutors to support Indigenous and other students who needed extra specialised help to stayed engaged with school. A new Aboriginal Education Learning Centre has been developed which offers one-on- one and small group tutoring for Roma Mitchell’s Indigenous students.
It was also able to employ extra staff to work with EALD students to assist them with assessment tasks.
Of 84 students who were targeted due to low English skills, and given extra support, 40 percent had improved one or more levels by August 2015, with 20 percent achieving a 2 to 3 level improvement. 89 percent of the students in the Year 10 New Arrivals Transition Class have moved into mainstream classes after just one term of intensive language development.
Ms Richardson said these figures included a lot of individual success stories – including one student who had missed two years of school is currently on track to get his SACE Stage 2.
“This is what is possible if students get the intensive support they need.”
The school also wanted to improve the gains in reading, writing, grammar and spelling between Year 7 and Year 9.
It appointed a Literacy Coach to work with teachers to improve their teaching. The Coach works with leaders and teachers to use student data to enable teachers to develop individual strategies for improving students.
In the 2015 NAPLAN tests an increased percentage of students showed improvement in the upper level in Reading along with a decrease in the percentage of students showing low progress.
Full six years can assist more students to achieve
Ms Richardson says the data shows many of the objectives and targets set by the school for use of their Gonski funding are being met, and that students are getting the targeted support they need to lift their results.
But she says the school needs the full six years of Gonski to provide certainty for current programs and help the school meet further goals for students.
The full six years of Gonski would also allow employment of a Speech Pathologist for two days per week rather than the current one, more teacher tutors to work with ATSI and EALD students in Literacy, Numeracy and the compulsory SACE subjects, and the appointment of a Numeracy Coach to work with Maths teachers to improve pedagogy.
Ms Richardson says the school has shown what it can do, and needs increased resources to make sure all students can get the support they need.
“When you have students like ours who have language or other barriers to learning, the only way to successfully deal with that is through intensive support, and that takes resources.”
“But the payoff for those students, and the community, will be huge.”