Building Better Schools: Northern Territory
“We want to make sure that we’ve got quality infrastructure to be able to support the learning, teaching, growing and success for our students.” The four year, $56.4 million Building Better Schools Initiative allows school communities to prioritise their
THE 2018 Northern Territory Budget includes $14.1 million for the Building Better Schools Initiative, which Education minister Selena Uibo said was a chance for schools to prioritise for their individual needs – no strings attached.
“It’s not dictated by the Government at all. It’s an opportunity to be able to focus and prioritise those infrastructure spends for [individual] schools to support their students and their teachers in providing quality education for our Territory kids,” Ms Uibo said.
54 schools received funding in Round 1, with Round 2 seeing a further 36 Territory Government Schools and 9 non-government schools receiving $300,000 funding to undertake projects including new playgrounds, shade structures, Families as First Teachers facility upgrades, and classroom refurbishments.
“Every school over the 4 years is entitled to
$300,000 and that’s regardless of Government status; if they’re a non-government school they’re also entitled to apply for that infrastructure spend,” she said.
While the money is a fraction of the $135 million budgeted for school and education infrastructure upgrades, Ms Uibo said the flexibility and adaptability the initiative was a godsend to a lot of schools.
“Schools are able to determine what they want to do on their school grounds, to be able to support quality education and learning for their students,” she said.
Schools might choose to upgrade ablution blocks, kitchens and canteen facilities, updating learning spaces such as science labs or outdoor classrooms or even playgrounds, shade structures or fencing around school grounds.
Ms Uibo said that improving school infrastructure was a start in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous children’s education in the Territory.
“We want to make sure that we’ve got quality infrastructure to be able to support the learning, teaching, growing and success for our students; and for our staff and teachers that are working in the schools,” she said.
“We’ve got some really fantastic programs that are better supported when we have quality infrastructure.”
The minister emphasised that while infrastructure is an important element to support learning, nothing can replace quality teachers and exceptional school leaders.
“We want to have great teachers in our classrooms [and] excellent principals leading our schools. We want community engagement, so the wider community connects and engages with schools, and for our schools and our learning precincts to support and to direct what they want their kids to be learning,” Ms Uibo said.
“In terms of closing the gap in the Territory we are really focused on the early learning years - we have the Families as First Teachers (FAFT) program which has been extremely successful and will definitely contribute to closing the gap in the long term,” she said.
Another key element to improving educational outcomes is community connection and engagement, with the Northern Territory Department of Education focusing on the engagement of remote schools with their communities.
“There’s always some way that we can improve our schools,” Ms Uibo said.
“To be able to improve our learning outcomes for our kids – to invest in kids and to make kids the forefront of our decision making – that’s absolutely what we’re doing, particularly with a focus on education.”
Round 3 of the Building Better Schools Initiative opens in October and all schools, Government or non-government, are invited to submit an Expression of Interest.
“Schools are really biting at the bit to make sure that they’re get into the next round because every school really needs this funding,” Ms Uibo said.
“We want to make sure that we’ve got quality infrastructure to be able to support the learning, teaching, growing and success for our students.”
Bakewell Primary School.
Nemarluk School playground was built through BBS funding combined with community support.
Education Minister Selena Uibo with students from Casuarina Secondary College.