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Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Page: 11580


Mr BUTLER (7:35 PM) —Last week, I had the privilege of visiting three schools in my electorate that are all doing a great job educating young South Australians: Pennington Junior Primary School, Pennington Primary School and the Adelaide Secondary School of English. Apart from being generally great schools, the notable thing about these three is their important work with the New Arrivals Program, or NAP. NAP is particularly important in my electorate, which is a common place of settlement for new arrivals to Australia.

The New Arrivals Program provides students with intensive English lessons as well as integration assistance and support for transition into mainstream schools. Humanitarian entrants attract double funding from the Commonwealth in recognition of the fact that they have often experienced limited, interrupted or simply no schooling before arriving in Australia. These students are also often suffering the effects of trauma and persecution and require extra support to adjust to formalised schooling.

Pennington Junior Primary School was South Australia’s first United Nations ‘peace school’, meaning that it fulfilled the UN’s requirements to support learning about children’s rights with a particular focus on the right to feel safe from violence, on conflict resolution and on a review of school policies to promote a more peaceful community. Touring the different classes, I saw that the students and teachers at Pennington genuinely practise those values.

More than 50 per cent of students at Pennington come from non-English speaking backgrounds, with a significant number arriving in Australia through the humanitarian program, particularly from Africa. Over 24 different languages are represented in Pennington’s NAP, meaning that all staff have specific ESL training. Classes are restricted to 10 to 13 students. Bilingual school services officers provide important support to teachers in their work. Importantly, students in the NAP spend part of each week mixing with English speaking kids in other classes. When kids graduate from the NAP—usually after 12 or 24 months—they move to mainstream classes at Pennington or to a school nearer their home.

The Pennington Primary School works closely with its junior primary partner a few streets away. It too has a NAP that caters for children arriving in Australia at middle and upper primary ages. I was given a wonderful tour of the school by three grade 7 students in their last few weeks of primary school; Erin Davis, Hai Oan and Ben Russell. I wish them all the best for their high school studies. These are both proud schools doing immensely important work. In a growing part of Port Adelaide, they have an exciting future ahead of them.

I also had the privilege last week to visit the Adelaide Secondary School of English, the only government school in SA that caters for newly arrived ESL students of high school age. They have been doing this important work for 25 years with a diverse and continually changing student body, working together across a range of cultural, religious, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many students have little or no schooling history, posing unique challenges to these high school teachers, such as teaching students at that age how to hold a pen and basic literacy and numeracy, while acclimatising them to Australian customs and the English language. Given some of the traumas experienced by these students, these schools provide ready access to student counsellors and, if more specialised support is required, to groups like Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Services—STTARS.

One of the most fulfilling parts of being a member of parliament is visiting the different schools in our electorates. All of them are filled with inspirational young people in the most exciting period of their lives, being taught by some of the most dedicated people in our community. The schools I visited last week are that and more. They also help young people who have been brought to Australia by their families—often from war-torn, impoverished countries—to learn English, to adjust to our school system, and, most importantly, to begin to feel a comfortable and valued part of our community. I pay tribute to the principals: Pina Fitzharris at Pennington JPS; Catherine Cox-Wallis at Pennington Primary; and Maria Iadanza at the Adelaide Secondary School of English as leaders of their school but also as representatives of the students, teachers and parents who make their schools such a beacon.