Extra funding would mean individual student case management at Cairns West
Cairns West State School Principal Michael Hansen would invest any extra public school funding to ensure that every single student in his school was individually case-managed to support their academic, social and emotional wellbeing.
Cairns West State School, in the Cairns suburb of Manunda in Queensland, stands to receive an extra $1,280,000 in funding as its share of Labor’s election commitment to invest an additional $3.3 billion into public schools in its first three years of government.
Mr Hansen said that the majority of Gonski funding that his school had previously received under the ‘Investing for Success’ program had been spent to great effect on reducing the academic impact of the socio-economic disadvantage experienced by many of its students. He said that with less than eight per cent of his students speaking English as a first language, this funding had been invaluable.
“The gap that the students arrive with when they get to Cairns West State School is quite significant compared to other schools,” Mr Hansen said. “Quite often students have never seen a book, quite a number of the students don’t know their alphabet. “They can obviously count, but there are very few pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills there. The vocabulary range that students come with again is very limited.”
“However, we do whatever it takes to make sure our students are successful. The extra funds from the Investing for Success program are enabling us to wrap some supports around the families and also some intervention around the students in school to ensure that every child that turns up here is learning and achieving every single day,” Mr Hansen said.
“The challenges are certainly there, so the extra funds allow the school to employ additional staff that work with classroom teachers but also with the students and their families to individually case manage every single child that is at the school to try and close that gap as quickly as possible.”
Cairns West proudly recognises indigenous cultures and traditions and seeks to embed indigenous perspectives across all aspects of the schooling experience. The school currently has about 680 students.
“Seventy per cent of our students identify as Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander, so we are the high school with the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia,” Mr Hansen said. “We also have a lot of refugee students.”
Mr Hansen said that his school’s existing case management program was already producing success stories.
“Last year there was a group of children that came from some pretty challenging home circumstances. Some of those had upwards of 50 behaviour referrals, quite a number of those could have been suspensions, or time outs, or where some intensive support was required,” Mr Hansen said.
“As a result of investing in our improvement agenda implemented across the school this year, focused around student engagement, social and emotional learning and a few other aspects around student welfare, most of those students now don’t show up on the radar when we are talking about behaviour referrals.”
“We do whatever it takes to make sure our students are successful, but for some students it takes a lot of additional resources. We have been able to intervene with those children using these targeted resources, and putting support not just around them but also their families. This means that they are now engaging far better in class and that means that their academic results are far greater as well,” Mr Hansen said.
“One of these girls who was one of the highest behaviour referrals last year will probably be in line for the dux award for grade six this year,” Mr Hansen said.
“What it shows is that with the additional targeted support we are able to provide genuine wrap around services for not only the student but also the family and then provide the coaching for teachers about how they need to work with these kids to enable these kids to be successful in the academic sense.”
Mr Hansen said that his school also uses additional funding to employ a head of student services, a team to assess student engagement, additional teacher aides, a community liaison officer, and laptops for all students to help close the technological gap with other schools. The funding also provides additional professional learning for teachers.
“This year, just having the two people assess student engagement has meant that even our suspension rate has decreased by 57% in the second half of the year because we were able to get better case management around the team,” Mr Hansen said. “A lot of the money is spent case-managing the individual kids in the areas in which they have need.”
Cairns West’s mission statement is ‘Our school is a community in which people are valued and our students are given the opportunity to develop in learning, responsibility and character’.
Mr Hansen said any additional funding as the result of Labor being elected to government would be to expand his school’s already successful wellbeing and case management programs.
“Any additional funds that we might receive after the next election would mean that we would be able to be even more diligent around our case management and we would have even far greater impact on those students and on closing the gap,” Mr Hansen said.
“At Cairns West state school any student in grade six receives additional case management support to ensure that their transition into high school is not left to chance.”
“We would also follow those grade six students that we have this year into high school and continue to connect with them for the first six months, maybe even twelve months, to ensure that they are not dropping out of school,” Mr Hansen said.
“Whilst I acknowledge that we are receiving extra funding now, it is only scratching the surface. The additional funding we would receive if Labor forms government would mean we could do much more to help our students succeed.”