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Standing strong on middle ground - Showcase Middle Phase

07 September 2011

By Rebecca Perry

Three of Queensland's best state school programs are vying for the Department of Education and Training's middle years Showcase Award for Excellence in Schools.

In the running for the Commonwealth Bank Showcase Award for Excellence in the Middle Phase of Learning are:

Gin Gin Alternative Pathways Program

Gin Gin Alternative Pathways Program

Out and about... Courtney Pike from Gin Gin State High School.

Not every student is suited to five days a week in the classroom, which is why Gin Gin State High School's alternative pathways program has been so successful.

What started two years ago as a practical vocational experience for students with a disability has expanded to include mainstream pupils through academic and community-based programs.

Twenty-five students now enjoy individualised timetables, combining literacy and numeracy lessons with two days of work placements leading to apprenticeships, traineeships and addressing local skills shortages in industries including cattle and citrus production.

'Now the only time they don't come to school is when they are sick,' said middle schooling head of department Emelie Gabbert, crediting the program for generating near-perfect results in both behaviour and attendance as well as 40 per cent improvement in academic results.

'We couldn't hope for better outcomes.'

Get into Vocational Education (GIVE)

Hands on... Hineira Dore gets into vocational education at Gladstone Central.

Hands on... Hineira Dore gets into vocational education at Gladstone Central.

Gladstone Central State School students are discovering their dream careers earlier than most.

Now, principal Don McDermid says the hard work is paying off with strong improvements in NAPLAN scores, the Year 2 Net and school benchmark data.

A year-long pilot for underperforming Year 4 students using a hands-on, trades-based curriculum worked so well it is now being taught to all children up to Year 7, with other Queensland schools picking up the program.

With tasks including building toys, racing billycarts and creating market gardens, students are getting better results in literacy, numeracy and science, with marked improvements in other areas such as motivation and engagement.

'They are very focused and so engaged they don't know they are learning,' said principal Leanne Martin.

'Our data tells us they have a deep understanding, retain knowledge for longer and their behaviour has improved out of sight.'

Kids' STEM Convention: Inspiration, Investigation, Celebration

Closer examination... Connor  Rattray examines our chemical world with the Indooroopilly STEM Cluster.

Closer examination... Connor Rattray examines our chemical world with the Indooroopilly STEM Cluster.

Science often means making a spark and in metropolitan Brisbane, there has been an explosion of interest through the Indooroopilly STEM Cluster (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiative.

The annual program begins with a conference at the University of Queensland where students, complete with name tags and delegate satchels, hear keynote speakers and take part in their choice of 15 practical workshops before undertaking mentored research and sharing their findings at a forum.

'Students learn from experts in the field and the whole experience is very inspirational,' said primary science facilitator David Willis. 'We hope they will pursue these subjects at university.'

Tapping into gifted and talented students, the program has grown from 100 participants in 2007 to almost 300 students from 19 schools across Brisbane and Ipswich, with other regions adopting the model.

The Showcase Awards for Excellence in Schools winners will be announced at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 21.

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