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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Dare to Lead: new impetus for the national effort in Indigenous education

Susan Boucher
Susan Boucher is Executive Officer, Australian Principals Association Professional Development Council

The four peak principals' associations of Australia, operating through APAPDC, are urging schools and education bodies to join the newly-formed Dare to Lead Coalition, with the aim of improving education outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The Coalition will build on the positive results of the ten Dare to Lead forums held across Australia in 2000 and 2001. In total these forums were attended by more than 1200 school principals.

The first aim of the Coalition is to speed up the process of producing equivalence between outcomes for Indigenous students and those of the rest of the student population. Alongside this specific aim, the Coalition is designed to contribute to the broader Reconciliation process within Australian society.

The Coalition strategy builds on the first phase of the Dare to Lead project. That project focussed on allowing principals to see that improving outcomes for Indigenous students was a responsibility of all principals and school communities, including those without an Indigenous enrolment. Educational improvement is, in fact, a vital element within the national Reconciliation process.

In the new phase, Dare to Lead will focus on a number of key issues including improving retention rates, in particular the proportion of Indigenous students completing the twelfth year of schooling, and improving literacy attainment.

Leadership is the key to change, and therefore principals and other school leaders are crucial to success. The specific strategies and resources employed at school level will vary from case to case, but some common elements include awareness raising and placing emphasis on embedding successful strategies as part of normal school practice. Some of the important yet broad issues for principals and other leaders to consider include: reflection on current curriculum; building awareness of the wide range of available resources; taking stock of current practice in relation to Indigenous students; and enabling access and rich participation in mainstream educational experiences.

In this context, the Dare to Lead Coalition will take on a range of roles. A number of professional development strategies and resource projects will be undertaken. Ensuring the widest possible awareness of resources, and in some cases, of highly useful research, will be a key task. Cultural awareness tours for school leaders will also be a significant initiative.

A successful communication strategy is indispensable, both for sharing information and for building a strong network of school communities. An electronic newsletter will be the core of this strategy, and will provide an effective vehicle for sharing best practice, identifying appropriate resources and developing a strong sense of partnership and moving forward.

Such a public forum will also give schools an opportunity to be recognised for solid achievement by sharing practices and outcomes with other like-minded people and organisations. In the past some schools have lacked opportunities to share their successes.

As the Coalition's work unfolds, the successes and the challenges it encounters will be recorded and documented so that its work can be effective, not only in the short term, but in the most enduring way possible.

The Coalition concept reflects an acceptance of diversity in approach. Commitment to improvement in Indigenous education outcomes is definitely not a 'one size fits all' enterprise. The diversity that exists in the structures and missions of Australian schools, as well as in the character of school communities, should not be a barrier to common effort and participation. The Coalition concept also reflects a coming together of strategies, initiatives and approaches developed at the local level, rather than a centrally devised strategy imposed on schools.

All Australian schools have a role in this process.

It is hoped that by the end of 2003 the Coalition will have considerably exceeded its membership target of 1500 schools. Already more than 300 schools have become members, despite only minimal publicity.

The Dare to Lead Coalition will be formally launched on 9-10 April. The launch will be attended by 250 principals from all States and Territories, many of whom are also leaders within professional associations. The launch will be a celebration of the Coalition's energetic beginning, but also both a professional education opportunity and a purposeful team-building activity. The launch will be followed by a series of State and Territory forums during May and June, beginning in Canberra on 2 May. To express interest in attending one of these forums and for more information about the Dare to Lead Coalition, or to become a member online, visit APAPDC's website at http://www.apapdc.edu.au or contact:

Andrea Harms, Dare to Lead Professional Officer, APAPDC
Phone: (08) 8245 9804
Email: andrea@apapdc.edu.au


Susan Boucher, Executive Officer, APAPDC
Phone: (08) 8245 9810
Email: sboucher@ozemail.com.au


Subject Headings

Aboriginal peoples
Aboriginal students
Torres Strait Islanders