Tackling disadvantage with individual support

Paralowie School

Not every class at Paralowie School is a small one - the school can’t afford that . But, in those classes where numbers are lower, the results speak for themselves.

Principal Peter McKay says students thrive on the extra attention from their teachers. In particular, it has meant significant growth in reading and writing. Having extra time to spend oneon-one with each student can make a big difference.

“The teacher is able to get around to work more closely with the students because there are fewer in the class,” says Peter.

“So smaller class sizes coupled with a good collaborative learning program for teachers - where they’ve got time to share practice - brings about better results.”

“Where we’re able to keep the class size at about 22, we see better growth than in classes of up to 30 on average. We’d like to keep every class small but we’re not currently able to,” he says.

Considered one of the most disadvantaged schools in South Australia, Paralowie is in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. Almost 40 per cent of its 1,400 students come from non-English speaking backgrounds. There are high numbers of students with disabilities or learning difficulties, and many parents are dealing with unemployment or low incomes.

Extra schools funding has helped to provide programs that support these students and set them on a path to a better school experience.

The funds have paid for more education support staff to provide support in classrooms, individual learning plans and extra literacy programs.

The school has also invested heavily in programs for its reception and junior primary students. “If we can put the right foundations in place in those early years, then that will lead to more success as the students move through the middle years
and into the senior years,”Peter says.

Increased funding has also allowed the school to provide more programs and facilities for older students. For example, Year 12 completion rates have improved from 38 per cent to more than 90 per cent in recent years, by providing VET pathways and job programs to ensure every student can leave the school with a purpose.

All the extra resources and support for students have seen reading and writing results improve. What’s more, the benefits spread beyond literacy - students who received extra support were also more engaged and successful in other subjects, Peter says.

Despite the obvious and documented success of the additional programs and smaller class sizes, Paralowie will miss out on $1.2 million in funding under the Turnbull Government’s new plan.