Focus on primary school key to closing the gap

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Monday, 8 Aug 2011


For immediate release: Monday 8 August 2011

Understanding why some Indigenous students perform well in primary school and others do not could be the key to improving education for all students, Australian Council for Educational Research research fellow Dr Kate Reid will tell delegates to the ACER Research Conference today.

Dr Reid will be reporting on the Longitudinal Literacy and Numeracy Study for Indigenous Students.

“On average, in the first year of primary school, Indigenous and non-Indigenous students achieve similarly in literacy and numeracy, but by the start of Year 3, there is a gap in average achievement between Indigenous students and their non-Indigenous peers,” Dr Reid said, speaking ahead of the conference.

“From Year 3 on, Indigenous students improve at a similar rate to their non-Indigenous peers, but the gap remains until the end of primary school,” she said.

“For this reason, it is important to focus on the early years of education,” she said.

Dr Reid said that it was also important to note that, while there is a gap overall in average achievement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, there is profound variability between students and schools.

“In some schools, Indigenous students are performing as well as or better than their non-Indigenous peers,” she said.

Some of the underlying factors present in schools in the study which supported growth in achievement for Indigenous students include:

  • a good start, attendance and engagement for students
  • strong leadership and supportive teaching strategies
  • strong links between schools and their communities
  • Indigenous staff members and volunteers in the school, and
    • recognition of Indigenous cultures.

The ACER Research Conference 2011, on the theme Indigenous Education: Pathways to success, takes place in Darwin from 7 to 9 August.

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