Children in Aurukun shouldn’t be compared to other students across Queensland, just like disabled athletes shouldn’t be compared to able-bodied ones, Noel Pearson says.
The Cape York indigenous leader made the comments following a report handed down this week into his school in the troubled far north Queensland community.
The review made 27 recommendations about the Cape York Aboriginal Academy, including watering down the US-based direct instruction model that Mr Pearson introduced to teach alongside the national curriculum.
Mr Pearson insisted the review didn’t take into account the high levels of disability that students in Aurukun suffer, sparked by severe disadvantage in the community.
Direct instruction helped students with low cognitive function achieve better results than they otherwise might have, he said.
“It’s like a disabled child who’s won a bronze medal at the Special Olympics,” Mr Pearson said.
“Is that a legitimate achievement … or are you going to say to that child ‘well that’s all very well, but you can’t keep up with the people in the real Olympics’?
“That is the whole problem in the way in which this school has been assessed.”
Another key recommendation involves offering Year 7 and 8, as well as distance education, in Aurukun instead of forcing students to leave for boarding school to further their education.
The review was sparked by ongoing violence from a group of young, armed offenders in the community which saw the school’s principal Scott Fatnowna’s car stolen twice in as many weeks.
Teachers, who had left to escape the unrest, will return to Aurukun next week to increased security measures, including upgraded fencing, new security lights and personal distress alarms issued to teachers.
Mr Fatnowna will also return, while interim principal Matt O’Hanlon will stay on in a mentoring role for the rest of the year.