Real-world outlook from the pages of the Gonski report

LOOKING AHEAD: Principal Roger Nottage and his team of teachers and students at John Pirie Secondary School have a vision for the future.

LOOKING AHEAD: Principal Roger Nottage and his team of teachers and students at John Pirie Secondary School have a vision for the future.

A local school is aspiring to be the best for quality and equity.

To borrow from a political slogan of a few years back relating to government education consultant David Gonski, high school principal Mr Roger Nottage cares about educational outcomes for all students, but is concerned about equity in Australian schools.

Mr Gonski's research found that the income and education levels of parents are a strong predictor of their children's educational achievement. There is a generational cycle of under-achievement linked to low socio-economic status, sometimes unemployment and other life challenges that we struggle to overcome nationally.

Mr Nottage is principal of John Pirie Secondary School, a public education campus for hundreds of students in Port Pirie.

The school played a leading role in putting our secondary education successes on the national map earlier this year when Port Pirie had the third-biggest increase in school completion in Australia in 2011-16.

Bolstering those figures were John Pirie's record South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) completion rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, young people with learning difficulties and those who face very challenging life circumstances.

"Every student matters and deserves the support needed to be successful in schooling," Mr Nottage said.

John Pirie enrols 45 students from Year 10-12 in the Flexible Learning Options (FLO) program. Each student works with a case manager developing a personalised course that helps them navigate the maze of options available, the learning requirements of work and senior school completion along with the life challenges they may face. They would struggle with long-term engagement in learning without this support.

FLO Coordinator Tracey Pepe leads the program and is described by Mr Nottage as a "fantastic" educator.

The FLO program has strong community links. Ms Pepe has built an amazing partnership with yourtown, Uniting Country SA and Employment Directions. It can make a difference for young people and their futures.

Last year, the Aboriginal Education team delivered the highest-ever senior school completion for indigenous students, something that was also achieved by staff who support programs for students with learning difficulties.

The initial Gonski report recommended that increased funding should be provided to students with the greatest need. It is not necessarily about more funding in the system, but ensuring it goes to areas of greatest need that concerns Mr Nottage.

"At John Pirie, our core purpose is Building Better Futures for all young people," he said. "Every child matters and most are parents of the future".

Every child matters and most are parents of the future.

John Pirie's Roger Nottage

He believes success at school through higher educational achievement is fundamental to addressing the equity issue that is growing in our nation.

If you can break the cycle of challenge and disadvantage for a young person, the research shows, when they are parents, their education level will have a significant effect on the success of their children. It means there is a good chance we can influence generations. If that can be replicated enough, you can build a stronger and more prosperous Port Pirie, state and nation.

"I believe schools like ours do the heavy lifting in educational achievement. I am proud of the high academic achievement we are seeing and the staggering improvement in equity outcomes," Mr Nottage said.

"We are a high-achievement, high-equity school. We are getting the results, the data we are seeing is rare and we are talking about generational change."

It seems that with every graduating year of students, the words of David Gonski are becoming more and more relevant and such principals as Mr Nottage are speaking up more loudly than ever on the need for a greater focus on quality and equity in education.

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