An adjunct professor from the University of New England was recently invited by NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, to accompany him on a tour of the Connected Communities schools in Western NSW.
Dr James White, from UNE’s School of Education, and previous regional Director of Education, was invited to tour with the Minister. The small group included Lila Mularczyk, President of the NSW Secondary Principals Council, Tom Alegounarias, President of the Board of Studies and Peter Goss from the Grattan Institute.
The Connected Communities strategy is a government reform to provide better educational outcomes for Aboriginal students and Prof White has been involved in the initiative since its inception in 2012.
Participating schools are mostly located in low socio-economic communities with the tour visiting schools to discuss education outcomes with students, staff and parents.
“If we want to improve education outcomes for students, it is obvious that we need to attract strong, inspired leadership and quality teachers to regional and rural schools,” Dr White said.
“Government incentives can assist in attraction of such staff while continued high-quality professional development can aid retention.
“Also, increasing funding to the schools is not always the answer; we need to use current funds strategically to provide strong support to schools and staff, and to build capacity.”
The Minister and his entourage visited Menindee Central, Wilcannia Central, Bourke Public, Bourke High, Brewarrina Central, Moree East and Moree Secondary College and held talks with all local principals in the evenings.
The tour highlighted successful initiatives in some of the schools visited as well as areas for improvement, including very low attendance rates in another school.
The group will now consolidate their findings into a report before submitting recommendations for improvement to the Minister.