Improving the Literacy of Aboriginal Students in NSW Public Schools

No improvement in the literacy of aboriginal students

The Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, today called on the Department of Education and Communities to do more to improve the literacy of Aboriginal students in NSW Government schools.

“By Year Three around 40 per cent of Aboriginal students are at or below minimum standard for reading.

Unfortunately, this is almost triple the rate of non-Aboriginal students,” said Mr Achterstraat.

“By Year Five around 50 per cent of Aboriginal students are at or below the minimum standard,” he added.

Notwithstanding gains at individual schools, NSW test results over the last decade show no discernible signs of improvement in the overall performance of Aboriginal students.

“Unless there is a change in approach, the government’s goal to halve the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students by 2018 looks unattainable,” said Mr Achterstraat.

“The Department has an extensive range of programs that can be utilised to assist Aboriginal students to improve literacy, but lacks the systems to identify and track those students at risk and support their needs,” said Mr Achterstraat.

Schools use a variety of means to increase the involvement of Aboriginal parents and the Aboriginal community including programs that promote cultural awareness, language, and the development of personalised learning plans.

“I would like to see a greater focus on Aboriginal community members being used as inclass tutors, Aboriginal learning processes such as story-telling, and a stronger emphasis on literacy in students’ learning plans,” said Mr Achterstraat.

While the Department of Education and Communities has an important role to play, all government agencies and the community need to work together to improve educational outcomes of Aboriginal students.

Mr Achterstraat concluded: “Goals can be aspirational, but school targets need to be realistic and achievable.

Those individuals most in need should be pinpointed and their progress closely monitored.

All Aboriginal students who perform at or below National standards in literacy should be provided with the additional support they need.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664; email: