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Inside Teaching : June 2010
Inside Teaching | June 2010 FEATURE 10 because I want to leave room for the younger ones to take over, and we'll support them in that.' The school has lifted student attendance -- 92 per cent in 2009 and higher than the regional average. Students monitor their attendance on a weekly basis, filling in a form showing the days they've attended and been away. The school's biggest push has been towards explained absences. 'We have an attendance reward excursion at the end of each term,' says Mills. 'To go on that, the kids need all of their absences to be explained absences, and have five or fewer days away. Some excursions have included 10-pin bowling in Lismore, canoeing on the river and movies in Kyogle.' There's also better than 90 per cent attendance by parents or carers at personalised learning plan meetings, but the aim, explains Mills, is to make sure everything is equitable. 'Anything we do for one group of students is of benefit for all,' she says. 'Every child is on a personalised learning plan, but when we do any activities such as hunting, Aboriginal students take a non- Aboriginal friend along. We focus on putting things in a positive light.' School success is built upon a positive start. Together, Tabulam PS and Tabulam Preschool run a transition to primary school program. Now in its fourth year, the transition program this year involves preschool children attending primary school on every Monday for the whole year, working with a dedicated transition teacher and an assistant -- previously, this operated across the last two terms of the year. Children receive a school shirt on their first day, line up with other students in the morning, and eat with the older children. 'The transition program is focused on the needs of the students, developing strategies for them to function in the classroom,' says Mills. 'We've started giving our transition students a personalised learning plan. Since we have a lot of contact with their parents, it seemed the natural thing to do. Over the past three years the students' school readiness has improved remarkably, so when they start Kindergarten now they are settled, engaged and totally into their learning. 'Throughout the school we focus on explicit, quality teaching. Children know what we are teaching, why we are teaching it, and what they can do with it.' The school also emphasises regular, positive reinforcement and feedback about learning and behaviour. Flexible funding means the school can direct resources where they're needed, particularly to provide intensive literacy and numeracy in small groups, the largest group currently having 18 students, and to maximise individualised support, with assistants in every class. A jewel in the Tabulam crown is the Aboriginal Resources Library, a dedicated space with diverse resources built up over more than two decades. 'We had to really fight to get it started,' McGrady recalls. The library houses a collection that would shame many larger schools, the result of a long- term commitment to including Indigenous perspectives in all parts of the primary curriculum. Teachers at the school are required to plan their programs to address Aboriginal perspectives across all key learning areas and to include an overview of those perspectives in their program. 'Some of our recently appointed teachers find it a bit intimidating,' Mills admits. 'They're concerned about what they can teach and their own limited knowledge of Aboriginal culture, but with support from the staff and the community, we find they develop confidence about the content they can cover.' Additionally, the Tabulam PS Aboriginal education resource teacher provides a term-long program of Aboriginal studies for each class each year to ensure all students have a sound knowledge of traditional culture and Aboriginal history. The school also runs the Aboriginal Early Language Development Program, in operation since 1989, to assist teachers to develop appropriate strategies for teaching Aboriginal students with the aim of improving outcomes, developing locally based resources and engaging the community. It has also developed classroom resources around some local