Story: Salisbury North Primary School ASSPA
There are approximately 3,800 Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness (ASSPA) Committees operating throughout Australia. An ASSPA Committee is a group of parents of Indigenous students who get together with their school to plan activities to improve their children’s. ASSPA committees have been around for 10 years and approximately 96% of all schools with Indigenous students now have one. Salisbury North Primary School in South Australia has a nine-strong ASSPA Committee representing some 60 Indigenous students. They are producing wonderful results in raising literacy levels within the school, as well as providing culturally appropriate materials and activities to their already culturally diverse school. That means great benefits for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, as the work of the committee impacts on the whole culture of the school. The most successful program to date is the Deadly Writin’ Readin’ and Talkin’ (DWRAT) Project that won a national award for ‘Leadership in Indigenous Literacy’ last year, which was presented to the school by Federal Minister for Education, Dr Kemp. The DWRAT Project has been running since 1998 and uses a method known as ‘scaffolded literacy’, whereby each class studies one text in great detail for a whole term, and then uses what they have learnt to produce their own great pieces of writing. As part of the DWRAT Project the school conducts parent-teacher workshops to teach parents how to provide literacy support to their children. There are four parents employed by the school and others who help children at the school’s homework centre or at home. The DWRAT Project’s aim is to significantly improve the literacy of Aboriginal students in a short space of time. This has proven to be highly successful, with some students improving in 18 weeks what can often take up to 18 months! This program, along with the rest of the work the ASSPA committee does, has led to a marked improvement in students’ performance. They are more confident and active in their school life, and accept challenges rather than avoid them. Salisbury North’s ASSPA committee has also run budgeting workshops for parents, produced school information booklets for new parents and provided appropriate reading material for classrooms. They hold regular sporting clinics, host cooking demonstrations and invite guest speakers and artists to the school during Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week and Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Week. ASSPA committees provide an opportunity for parents to become involved in the decision- making processes that affects their child’s education. They a part of a support structure at the school and provide a clear communication channel between the school and parents. And they do a lot of deadly work.