Willetton Primary School WA
Willetton Primary School is situated in Perth's southern suburbs with an enrolment of more than 500 students comprised of 25 nationalities. Approximately 60 percent of the students have an Asian background, with the majority being Chinese, Indian or Sri Lankan. The school currently employs a German language teacher and is just starting out on its journey towards Asia capability. Willetton Primary School is making use of the Australian Curriculum's focus on the cross-curriculum priorities to build staff awareness of the importance of including studies of Asia into the delivered curriculum.
This school has come a long way in just 12 months and would be the first to admit that it still has a long way to go in terms of embedding the six indicators of an Asia literate school into policy, planning and practice. Just 12 months ago, Moira Long, English as an Additional Language/Dialect teacher, joined the Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia Programme. She brought her knowledge and enthusiasm back to the staff. Studies of Asia in the school's curriculum only included some fun learning activities from time to time. The school perceived itself as a real beginner on this journey at that stage.
Staff members at Willetton are now very aware of the importance of including studies of Asia in the curriculum. They are building their knowledge of how to seamlessly infuse new learning opportunities into their teaching programmes and are actively seeking quality, relevant learning resources to add depth and colour to these activities. The school now ensures that the cross-curriculum priority of Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia remains a year-long focus when planning and delivering the Australian Curriculum. In addition, the Intercultural understanding general capability has received a great deal of attention.
Willetton's overarching strategy has been to provide a whole-school approach to curriculum planning and is focusing on the learning areas of History, Geography and English during 2014. The availability of relevant and engaging resources has remained a priority, with Moira demonstrating their use during professional learning events and staff meetings. This approach has been successful, as demonstrated by the fact that teachers from other schools are now requesting similar professional development opportunities, indicating that they have 'no idea where to start'.
The school has also found the AEF website to be very valuable, particularly in terms of accessing quality learning resources. Other factors contributing to the school's initial successes include a high degree of leadership support for the changes being considered, combined with the enthusiasm of teaching staff to build their knowledge in this area.
One factor that may have restricted progress was the view expressed by some at the start of the project that their world 'is already full and they can't fit any more time into the teaching day.' The project leaders were able to alleviate this fear by ensuring that the work in studies of Asia was built into the curriculum and not 'bolted on to it.' Teachers were encouraged and supported to build this work into their planning rather than add an additional area of learning. The restrictions in the school's professional learning budget also increased the urgency to include the professional learning in existing structures and schedules, rather than add to staff members' workloads. The school also responded to this tension by taking the change initiative slowly.
To ensure that the changes made over the past 12 months are sustainable, the school will continue to refine its planning processes. It will take steps to ensure that the success and momentum of the initiative will not rely on the will and enthusiasm of a small number of key personnel. It will commence the process of building assessment into the curriculum planning and delivery, seek strategic partnerships from the community, and explore the availability of support from parents.