Katherine High School
Interview with Norma Higgins, Assistant Principal, 21st June, 2005
Programs for Students at Risk:
Intensive Learning Unit for students with identified special learning needs, has one
teacher position above establishment, and Inclusion Support Aides (ISA’s). 27 identified
students, 10 of these are high needs, 6 in wheelchairs. Their parents have chosen High
School instead of Special School in Katherine. They spend some time in mainstream, but
do not go into tech studies for OH&S reasons.
Most of the older students in this unit undertake Certificate 1 in Horticulture and do life
skills work. They have a garden with chooks and the students are very proud of their
garden. They grow plants, produce food, cook it and sell it. They undertake some
supported work experience.
Programs for dis-engaged, ‘disinclined’ students (those who do not attend
8 Vocational Education Programs:
2 groups of students do Certificate in Rural Operations, 2 days at school and 3
days at local Rural College (affiliated with Charles Darwin University) which
includes such things as driving and maintaining a 4-wheel drive vehicle, handling
chemicals, basic automotive skills, how to work on a station/property, etc. At school
for 2 days these students do workplace literacy and numeracy.
School based apprenticeships. Approx. 50 students undertake 18-month
apprenticeships. Have to be 15 and work ready to do this. 2 days paid employment
and 3 days per week at school. They do Certificate 2 in Vocational Education,
and hopefully when they finish move into full time employment.
Certificate 2 in Business Administration: some go onto apprenticeships, some go
onto Year 12 studies.
Certificate 1 in Engineering: Leads to school based apprenticeships, or Rural
College, or Year 11 and 12 studies.
Year 12 – VET- SSABSA – Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South
Australia. Some students do this in place of Year 12 studies. Nationally accredited
for University entrance. Certificate 2 in Tourism, Certificate 2 in Hospitality,
and Certificate 2 in Conservation and Land Management.
In 2005 a Year 9 VET course started – Certificate 1 in Preparatory
Education for 14-year-olds. Funded through school but based at Rural College full
time. Full time teacher position from High school. Initially teachers thought it would
suit maybe 10 students, but they were swamped with applications. It involves
practical hands on work, and literacy and numeracy.
An Alternative Education Officer Position (AEPS) has just been created, ready
to start in Term 3. The role involves re-engaging those 10 – 14 year-old students
who have left school. Teacher will be based in town presenting an Alternative
Program, going around the streets to get students back to school.
There is an Attendance Officer in town, who tries hard and visits many of the
families of absent students. Students may return for a day or two. The position now
works in with the AEPS officer.
There is a Home Liaison Officer, who has worked with families for years, and is
respected by indigenous families, but the new AEPS position will pick up the hard-
core disengaged students.
The Accelerated Literacy Program has made an enormous difference to the
numbers of Year 8 & 9 students staying at school. Students identified at operating at
2 years below National Benchmarks were enrolled in the Program. 100 students at
start of 2005 in Program. So far 97% have improved their reading age by 12 months
in 10 weeks. Their success has improved their attendance rates because AP believes
they are experiencing success and feel better about school. Year 8 expected
enrolment was 140, and is now more than 200, probably due to the success of the
Accelerated Literacy Program. (my note: In the Northern Territory Year 8 is the first
year of secondary school. These numbers are also an indication of how many
students and their families see school as optional even at Year 8 level).
Specialised ESL program across all subject areas: (2 teaching positions
above establishment) 40% of the school’s students are indigenous (approx 240
students). At least half of these need ESL teaching – 30% of students would speak
non-standard English or another language at home (eg. Kriol or their own community
School is funded for Indigenous Resource Officers and ITAS tutors
(Indigenous Tutor Assistance Scheme).
2 local hostels house 70 students who would otherwise live from WA border
to Qld (majority of these are indigenous students). There is a waiting list to get into
the hostels, and the students in the hostels are all regular school attendees.
Overall the regular attendance of the Indigenous students has increased
from under 50% to around 70% due to these programs.
At Year 8 level 50% are indigenous students. By Year 12 only 10% of the
students remaining are indigenous. The VET programs have increased the
chance of success for indigenous students to complete school programs.
Norma stated that the key is having appropriate courses. Some VET programs can only
take small numbers. Charles Darwin University provides part of a staff member for VET
programs from the Rural College, and Katherine High School provides venue and backup.
Local Support Services:
1 Guidance Officer
2 Curriculum Positions (one currently not filled, other about to take maternity leave)
– area from Pine Creek to the QLD border. May take 7 hours to drive to some
locations. Stay several nights to make it worthwhile.
No Speech Therapists – they are based in Darwin.
Visual Impairment Specialist comes down from Darwin twice a year to see one clinically
blind student (albinism). Enlargement of materials can take three months.
Two profoundly deaf students – someone comes from Darwin.