Yirara: 100% failure doesn't worry Minister


p2006PeterChandler2COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
The dysfunction of the Giles government is surely terminal: We now have an education minister asserting that a boarding school, funded by his department, does not warrant an investigation although every single one of its students, yes, 100% of them, are in the bottom quartile of achievement.
The minister is Peter Chandler. The school is Yirara College. It is 40 years old. It siphons secondary students from the bush cut loose by the government’s axing of remote secondary education. The ranking is provided by the national My School website produced by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
Mr Chandler chooses to ignore alarming statements made by two former staff, and soon after, by a third, in exclusive reports by the Alice Springs News Online.
He further blithely ignores 35 comments posted by readers, some of them teachers and bush teachers with many decades of experience between them.
Mr Chandler bases his decision not to investigate on this: “The Department of Education met with the principal and business / administration manager at Yirara College.” Mr Chandler did not agree to an interview with the News but texted: “I have been briefed by the Department and I am satisfied with the action and the approach taken.”
Of course, handballing a crucial social function to an NGO – even if it makes a mess of it – assists the government’s obsessive cost cutting, even if only cosmetically.
We don’t know the business manager but the principal rejected, out of hand, a request from the News to visit the college to gather first-hand information (we are now in conversation with the chairman of the college board to arrange a visit – no agreement yet).
Our informants for the two exclusive reports pointed out that Yirara’s comprehensive shortcomings rest – at least in part – in the failure of parents to send their kids to primary schools, and the failure of those schools to prepare kids for residential secondary education far away from their homes.
Given the gravity of the issues we requested the principal of the Yuendumu primary school to facilitate a visit from us. We were prepared to embark on a considerable news gathering effort, given the distance of Yuendumu from Alice Springs. Permission was denied by the department. The principal wouldn’t even ring us back.
All this coincided with the sentencing of Bruce Impu for multiple counts of rape of two European tourists. (Two young co-offenders had been sentenced earlier.) Impu is 20 and has amassed a staggering criminal record. Not only was he not well nurtured by his family, he had no educational attainment whatsoever, according to his lawyer.
Is it not time for Mr Chandler to give some thought to how many more Bruce Impus his broken education system may have a role in producing?


  1. There needs to be an investigation into a number of schools in the Territory for their misrepresentation for funding, and also why children are ending primary school with no literary skills. In most situations they are unable to speak English.
    Sorry, Peter, you are the minister for education, so put children first.

  2. A comprehensive article on the ongoing systemic failure of the hierarchy in the education system to act on Indigenous education. I guess because it is nominally a Lutheran school they can avoid full responsibility.
    In the past some students from Yirara who had some level of literacy and numeracy we went in to highschools in town and boarded at the college.
    Perhaps they should look at this and then work with the students who have never attended regularly in community schools. Gillen School in Alice runs bridging classes for kids who come into town from communities.
    It is surprising how well they do with regular attendance and then they move into mainstream classes.
    Look at the schools in the Cape in Queensland. They have a leader with vision and passion. Education for the indigenous The Centre need such a leader.

  3. Appears the writer has misinterpreted the MySchool data (not hard to do), the ICSEA quartiles are to do with social and educational disadvantage, not achievement. So Yirara is enrolling students from the most disadvantaged sector of our community.
    Try looking at the NAPLAN data under student gain and with comparison to similar schools selected (period 2011-2013 has complete data).
    While not achieving benchmark there is a significant gain from Year 7 to Year 9, and markedly better than similar schools.
    Secondary schools can do little to affect Year 7 results due to the timing of the testing, Year 9 results reflect the impact that a school is having on the cohort.
    [ED – Thank you for this explanation. The details here show that in all of the eight years reported on (2008 to 2014), and in all of the five subjects, both Year 7 and Year 9 were consistently in lowest achievement category (“substantially below”) when compared with the average of all Australian schools. As you point out, when compared with “schools serving students from statistically similar backgrounds” Yirara is making progress over the years. The subjects are reading, persuasive writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation and numeracy.]


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