St Paul's Primary School NT
St Paul's Primary School, located in Nightcliff, Darwin, has a very multi-cultural enrolment of 272 students coming from a diverse mix of Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Chinese and Filipino backgrounds. The school has a well-established Indonesian language programme with all classes receiving instruction on a weekly basis. Over the past year, the school has been trying to develop a greater awareness among teachers of the importance of Asia capability. It is working to enhance the curriculum on offer through the Australian Curriculum's cross-curriculum priority of Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia, to improve the Indonesian language skills of all students and establish key partnerships with schools in Indonesia.
At the beginning of 2013, the Indonesian language programme at St Paul's, similar to other specialist areas in the school, was perceived as a weekly 40-minute addition to the classroom programme. The school's Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator Louise Peyton was keen to break down this sense of isolation being experienced by the specialist teachers. The first step that the school took was to extend the time that all students were engaged in language instruction, from 40-minute to one-hour lessons.
The next step was to connect the languages teacher with a small network of Indonesian language teachers in order to provide collaborative support, share resources and engage in shared professional learning. Funds were received from Catholic Education Northern Territory to support this initiative, with its curriculum coordinator taking an active role in this emerging network. The agenda for this network included the sharing of assessment tools, building teacher knowledge of the emerging Australian Curriculum: Languages and developing teachers' and students' awareness of the importance of Asian languages and cultural studies.
In addition to the push to enhance the Indonesian language programme throughout the school, teachers in the various year level units began to plan their units of work with the Asia priority in mind. The years 3–4 team members have recently designed and implemented an Asia-based inquiry unit with Geography and The Arts as the focus learning areas, and History and English as the secondary learning areas. This provided opportunities for the students to engage in deep learning about India and Japan. Planning for this inquiry unit has made particular use of the experiences and interest of the teaching staff, with two of the team's new staff having spent time working and travelling in India and Japan respectively.
In Term 4, 2013, the years 1–2 team members focused their inquiry unit on world religions and have plans to build on this in 2014. Members of the school's Indian community were particularly delighted at the attention given to the Diwali Festival as the school staged its own version of this celebration. The school has continued to make use of the new Australian Curriculum documents, especially in the Geography core learning area and cross-curriculum priorities. Teachers engaged in a curriculum audit throughout 2013 and have identified a number of gaps that are being addressed in 2014. The goal is to be able to integrate the Asia priority in all subjects at some stage in 2014. Planning meetings are being used to carry out these ongoing monitoring audits.
St Paul's is also taking advantage of those inquiry units that may, at first glance, not appear to be related to the studies of Asia but with a little planning and imagination and with the enhanced knowledge of staff members, the natural links and connections can easily be made. An example of this is the current 'From Little Things Big Things Grow' unit, while being centred on the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders histories and cultures, focuses clearly on diversity and the contributions that all members of a community can make to that community's wellbeing and growth. The school has seen this as a very natural way to assist students in making the links and comparisons with the histories and cultures of countries from the Asia region.
The school has made significant use of the Australia–Indonesia BRIDGE School Partnerships Programme as a means of enhancing teachers' professional learning and has hosted two teachers from Indonesia in Term 1, 2014. This was particularly engaging for the years 3–4 classes. The two teachers were also keen to lead staff meetings where opportunities were provided to further engage the school's teachers in the Asia agenda. The hosting of these teachers through the BRIDGE Project helped to make the imperative of engaging with Asia more authentic and observable.
In order to ensure a degree of sustainability in both the language instruction and inquiry learning, the project team is currently documenting its intentions, strategies and processes so that as others join the school staff or take on leadership roles, they will be able to clearly see what needs to be maintained and improved over time.