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A new model of learning

25 May 2021, Impact of Our Work

Save the Children’s investment in a new school that’s changing the rules

It’s a new school with a new way of doing things. Ngutu College in Adelaide’s north-west is making learners out of children by integrating Aboriginal knowledges.

Save the Children Australia has invested in the college through its Impact Investment Fund – our fund that provides loans and equity investments to help startups and social enterprises grow.
Head of College, Andrew Plastow (Kamilaroi Nation), who founded the college, says the ethos is based upon a true notion of reconciliation. “Everything we do is trying to be an act of reconciliation, which we see as including two people, or two groups being willing to listen to each other’s different perspectives.”

The curriculum takes from Aboriginal ways of doing things, as well as embedding Aboriginal knowledge and learning into the formal Australian curriculum. Andrew calls it ‘just good practice’. “It's based on tens of thousands of years of experience. Things like providing leadership opportunities for older children to look after the younger ones, which is a very natural part of Aboriginal way. The value that is placed in simple things like feeling Country beneath you, by allowing the children to go barefoot.”
Children are also asked to look at Aboriginal culture through the curriculum, he adds. Earlier this year the children studied the book ‘Finding Our Heart’, a book about the Uluru Statement. “We are using that as a provocation to have the children look at who are they, what is their heart? What is the heart of this new college? And what is that going to look like?
"And then working towards the more complex view of looking at the Uluru Statement, why it's incredibly important to some, and completely feared by others. We make sure that the perspectives of Aboriginal people are included in that. But also that the perspectives of non-Aboriginal people, who might be worried by the Uluru Statement, are incorporated."

Everything we do is trying to be an act of reconciliation, which we see as two people…being willing to listen to each other’s different perspectives.

Andrew Plastow, Head of College

Ngutu College caters for children from R-7 (becoming K-12) in a holistic, experiential learning environment.
Photo: Ngutu College.

A holistic learning environment for Aboriginal children

All children are welcome at Ngutu College, but a key focus will be growing the enrolments of Aboriginal children and supporting their learning through ongoing work with Aboriginal organisations and support from Elders. “A number of Aboriginal organisations are becoming particularly interested in what we're doing,” explains Andrew. “And how we might be able to support some of the children and families that they work with. One of the ways that we're engaging them is through our cultural governance model, where we're incorporating the wisdom of Aboriginal leaders into informing how we develop the college.”

Children learn from books that focus on Aboriginal culture and ways of knowing.
Photo: Ngutu College.

Although the school has a focus on learning from Aboriginal culture, Andrew says, non-Aboriginal children are thriving in the school environment too. “We, quite intentionally, set up to not be Aboriginal only, because there's a benefit of reconciliation and everybody learning together. We've got many non-Aboriginal families enrolling with an understanding about what our intention is. They want their children to be exposed to understanding about our First Nations and the kids are just absolutely thriving because they are given the opportunity to thrive. They are able to take their learning and take their thinking into new and creative places. It really is opportunity for all.”

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