Students at Armidale’s Minimbah Aboriginal Primary School and at the University of New England are benefiting from a collaborative project involving UNE, Minimbah, and the Association of Independent Schools (NSW).
Nine UNE students, who are all studying to be primary school teachers, are helping 28 Minimbah students develop their literacy skills.
Using a program called Multilit (“Making Up Lost Time In Literacy”), the UNE students have been visiting the school three times a week to work with pairs of the 28 Minimbah students nominated for the project. Their use of the Multilit program is being coordinated by Lee Roxborough, a teacher at Minimbah, with the guidance of education consultants Sue Stacey and Lisa Ridings from the Association of Independent Schools (AIS).
Minimbah is one of four schools in NSW in which the AIS is being funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Closing the Gap program to support the literacy development of under-achieving Indigenous students.
The nine volunteers from UNE have been working with the Minimbah students for the past two terms, and the collaboration will continue through some new developments next year. Ms Stacey and Ms Ridings, who have visited Minimbah regularly throughout the project, said that all the Minimbah students had made progress – some of them “amazing” progress. “We’ve observed that progress, and it’s been wonderful,” Ms Stacey said.
Carolyn Briggs, the Principal at Minimbah, reported that, as well as its positive impact on her students’ literacy development, the project had caused a big improvement in their levels of attendance “The kids really want to be here,” she said.
Dr Jeanette Berman, the lecturer from UNE’s School of Education who has facilitated the project at Minimbah, said that it was providing “a wonderful basis” for the UNE students’ professional training both through working with the primary students and through the professional learning that accompanies the use of the Multilit program, which is widely used throughout Australia.
“This collaboration is not only meeting the needs of the children at Minimbah, but is providing a rich learning experience (and specific training) for our future teachers, most of whom go out into rural communities,” Dr Berman said. “Another real benefit is the development of closer links between UNE’s School of Education and the AIS.”