Authorities must not wag school

Helen Hughes & Mark Hughes; 16/11/09

The just released National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy results for this year confirm the Northern Territory remains far behind the rest of Australia in educating its children. Failure rates approaching 40 per cent of all Territory students means that, once again, virtually 100 per cent of the Territory’s Aboriginal students did not meet the national minimum standards for reading, writing or arithmetic. A contributing cause to these poor results are shorter school years, school weeks and school days, common in remote schools with mainly Aboriginal students. Homeland Learning Centres lose eight weeks – almost 25 per cent of the school year – while their staff attend courses for the first and last weeks of each term. Despite repeated requests for Homeland Learning Centres to have full-time teachers for the full school day, most still get qualified teachers only a few days a week for a few hours a day. Remote Queensland schools also have shorter school years and weeks than the better performing metropolitan schools.