Last week, the 12th annual Closing the Gap report was presented to the Federal parliament in Canberra. Sadly, the results for literacy were again disappointing, with the target to halve the gap in national minimum reading levels for Indigenous children within a decade (that is, by 2018) not being met.
There were some positive results, however. Nationally, the percentage of Indigenous students at or above minimum standards in reading has improved over the past 10 years, and the literacy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students overall has narrowed.
The largest improvement in the gap was for reading among Indigenous students in Years 3 and 5. Even so, about one in four Indigenous children in Years 5, 7 and 9 still have literacy skills below the national minimum standards, while one in five Indigenous Year 3 students remain below the national minimum standard.
The effects of remote living were also noted in Closing the Gap, with reading levels being relatively low for Year 3 Indigenous students living in both remote and very remote parts of the country. According to the report, in 2019 these areas also had the lowest levels of primary school attendance.
We know how important regular school attendance is for improving a child’s chances at equity of educational opportunity. As the Closing the Gap report states, “Successfully progressing through and transitioning from school is important for children to improve social mobility and intergenerational outcomes.”
But we also recognise how valuable it is for very young children, including babies and toddlers, to have the chance to develop those essential pre-literacy skills which will stand them in good stead and give them the boost they need when they begin “big school”.
Our Foundation remains as committed as ever to doing all we can to ensure equity of opportunity for Indigenous children, no matter where they live. This year, we will continue to work closely with remote Indigenous communities across Australia, and with the many and diverse organisations that service them.
As part of our ongoing commitment to helping to improve the statistics cited in Closing the Gap, we will continue to roll out quality, culturally appropriate literacy resources to Indigenous children by way of our three core programs — Book Buzz, Book Supply and Community Literacy Projects. In so doing, we hope to maintain our efforts at making a real difference.