Respect, relationships, and "just spending time with them": critical elements for engaging Aboriginal students in primary school education

R. D Thackrah, D Bessarab, L Papertalk, S Bentink, S. C Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While disparities in educational outcomes for Aboriginal children have narrowed in early childhood education and for Year 12 completions, these positive trends are not replicated in the intervening years where attendance, reading, writing, and numeracy targets have been missed. Erratic attendance in the primary years has the greatest impact on achievement; literacy and numeracy scores decline as absences increase. Family functioning and health, caregiver expectations, past encounters with the education system and socio-economic disadvantage are all implicated in poorer rates of attendance. In response to community concerns, an Aboriginal/mainstream partnership was forged in 2011 and began work in 2016 to address patterns of attendance and achievement among Aboriginal primary students in a regional city in Western Australia. This paper describes the innovative, community-led “More Than Talk” program and presents findings from teaching and support staff interviews two years after implementation. Qualitative methods were employed to analyse the data, develop themes, and ensure rigour. Findings highlighted the cascading impact of erratic attendance and the role of strong relationships, respect, and investment of time with children as critical elements in student engagement and wellbeing. Community-led, collaborative educational programs have the potential to positively impact Aboriginal students’ engagement and contribute to culturally responsive environments. If sustained, such efforts can enable learning to flourish
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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