Austins Ferry Primary School TAS
Austins Ferry Primary School was established two years ago and has rapidly grown to an enrolment of 444 students. While it now has a small Indian community, the school predominantly services a mono-cultural community. Austins Ferry Primary School has been attempting to make Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia a curriculum priority for its students as they become active and informed citizens. The school has focused on establishing sound and authentic curriculum links, commencing with Geography, History and Science as the major vehicles for this change.
This school, which has participated in the Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia Programme, has progressed significantly in its Asia capability journey over the past 12 months. Prior to this there was very little evidence of any of the indicators of an Asia literate school in place. The exception was that the school offers a Japanese language programme by a trained teacher who provides lessons once a week in years 5 and 6. Principal Ann Douglas has been at the school for 12 months and is spreading her passion for Asia capability across the school.
Ann's initial goal was to ensure that a keen interest in learning about Asia was built into the culture of the school. She ensured that it became a priority in the school's improvement plan and she observed that the relevant cross-curriculum priority was the vehicle to affect change. While ensuring that the learning areas of literacy and numeracy were included in the integrated approach to curriculum planning and delivery, the school focused on units of work around Geography, Science and History. She ensured that a teacher leader, Carolyn Murray, was nominated to drive this change. Ann's previous connections with the Indian culture and the fact that a number of students shared that background were the catalysts for the school focusing its 2014 curriculum planning on India. The school has established a relationship with Bah Baharti Public School in India and is looking to carry out a series of school exchanges.
The establishment of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) across the school provided a ready-made platform to build teachers' awareness of the importance of studies of Asia, broaden the resources available to them and enable planning in teams so that a culture of sharing was maintained. The project leader, Carolyn Murray, addressed PLCs on a regular basis, not by way of an extra meeting, but as a normal part of their professional learning experience. Carolyn engaged with each PLC in planning for the integrated nature of the curriculum, exposing teachers to a range of learning resources and providing information that reinforced the moral imperative of this work.
A further catalyst for teachers' engagement in ongoing professional learning was the involvement of Professor Yong Zhao, who addressed all staff (and those in other schools in Tasmania) via Skype during 2013. Yong was instrumental in establishing the moral imperative for change and will continue to work with the schools in 2014.
Austins Ferry's improvement agenda has been supported by the principal's willingness to share her passion and the way that she has distributed the leadership responsibilities throughout the school. The enthusiasm demonstrated by the staff members to share their learning has also been paramount. While the majority of the professional learning occurs on-site, when teachers go out of the school to access learning opportunities, they are quick to share their new learning with colleagues. The availability of quality resources accessed through the Asia Education Foundation website and the principal's own resource collection have also made it easier for the staff to engage in new curriculum practices.
The school is keen to regularly monitor ongoing improvement in its planning and delivery and is determined to leave nothing to chance as they further progress their journey towards Asia capability. They aim to achieve this through the use of a reflection and action approach, and are keen to ascertain parental expectations in terms of what they want for their own children.