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Re-engaging students in regional Australia

3 December 2019

Gunnedah Public School students in their garden

Gunnedah Public School students working on their garden beds

The desire to tackle big challenges is in the DNA of Seventh Street Ventures. The Sydney-based company operates a diverse range of businesses in property development, early education and music media, based on an entrepreneurial mindset and a desire to make the world a better place.

As such, it was only natural for Seventh Street Ventures to want to tackle some big challenges for schools through its partnership with Schools Plus. Over the past year, it has supported three schools in regional and remote Australia. Each of them has high Indigenous populations, a community characterised by issues such as trauma and financial disadvantage, and a need to re-engage students who do not respond to traditional teaching methods.

With Seventh Street Ventures’ support, Gunnedah Public School in north-eastern NSW has created a nature-based learning program. Students, staff and families have built and planted 20 vegetable garden beds and resurrected some neglected fruit trees. A chook house designed by students has been built, and the school’s 10 happy hens are laying up to a dozen eggs every day. And the local Men’s Shed has helped build a yarning circle made of wooden logs, which is used as a daily outdoor learning area. The benefits are many:

  • the garden is used as part of a learning program across different curriculum areas. Teachers are building Indigenous perspectives into these lessons, re-engaging students who need physical exercise, connections with nature and culture and a more hands-on approach to learning. Behavioural incidents have dropped dramatically.
  • fresh produce is used in the kitchen to create healthy meals, which are improving students’ nutrition, teaching them cooking skills and encouraging families to create better eating habits. The next step is to start a pop-up restaurant for the community!
  • parents and community members are more engaged – this leads to better attendance as families place a higher value on education.

“It has been absolutely amazing and even in this short amount of time has changed the mindset of a number of our older students,” Gunnedah Principal Cathie McMaster says.

At Lincoln Gardens Primary School in Port Lincoln, SA, the new principal saw the need to support students’ wellbeing, resilience and social and emotional learning. For instance, students found it hard to re-engage in learning quickly after recess and lunch because of frequent conflicts in the schoolyard. Funding from Seventh Street Ventures is supporting professional learning for teachers and teacher aides so they can better help students develop social and emotional skills. The school is also creating spaces for students to play safely and creatively, including an outdoor nature play and learning area.

And at Derby District High School in the Kimberley region of WA, teachers and long-serving Indigenous teacher aides are being trained in an evidence-based, culturally appropriate literacy program. The project will target students with low literacy levels, giving them explicit instruction to improve their spelling, reading and writing.

A Schools Plus coach is supporting each of these schools to ensure the projects are well-designed and measures are in place to track their progress.

Gunnedah Public School student letter


You can read the full 2019 Annual Review here

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