Approach to learning: Pedagogy

All elements of the Gawura programme have been carefully developed to ensure students are engaged in learning and have pride in their heritage.

Small class sizes

One of the keys to Gawura’s success is having small class sizes, usually between 5–10 students to one teacher, in every classroom. Our main entry point in Kindergarten usually enrols just 4-5 students but when these students advance to Year 1 onwards, they come into a Stage class (composite Year 1 and 2 class, composite Year 3 and 4 class and a composite Year 5 and 6 class, which explains why these combined classes have larger numbers).

Key to the success of the Gawura programme is the individual attention students receive from their teachers, which is afforded by small class sizes.

Academic curriculum and Wiradjuri language

Gawura is very proud to teach a First Nations language. Although our students come from many nations around NSW, Queensland and Victoria, the most common nation connecting our community is the Wiradjuri Nation and so it was Wiradjuri language that was chosen to be taught to students.

Mrs Leanna Carr-Smith is a proud Wiradjuri woman and teaches Wiradjuri not just to our 36 Gawura students K-6, but also teaches Wiradjuri to over 400 students in the St Andrew’s Cathedral Junior School.

A second Wiradjuri teacher Mrs Tanya McEwen, from Gomeroi Nation, joined our First Nations Language staff in 2021. Our non-Indigenous students truly love learning Wiradjuri language, which includes embedded First Nations culture and customs, as Mrs Carr-Smith proudly states that she also teaches the back story to the language.

Reading programme

The Gawura reading programme runs every day from 8am to 8.25am. Students are asked to read for 10 to 15 minutes with a volunteer when they arrive at school, before they go to the roof to play. The programme is run with the support of volunteers from local companies and St Andrew’s Cathedral School parents who give up their time to help our students with their literacy.

Gawura’s reading programme is one of the reasons for our students’ strong academic results, especially in writing and comprehension. 

Individual and personalised learning plans

Student progress is assessed through both qualitative and quantitative measures and monitored through Individual Learning Plans (ILPs), Personalised Learning Plans (PLPs) and ongoing tracking procedures. The assessment of students’ progress towards the achievement of the NSW Board of Studies requirements, content and skill acquisition, along with the development of values and attitudes, is ongoing.

Cultural excursions and On Country tours 

Each term, our K-12 First Nations students participate in a cultural excursion.

One example of this is when La Perouse Indigenous Elder, Uncle Vic Simms, led our students on a bushwalk and bush medicine/food tour around Yarra Bay and spoke to our students about the mission that was located at La Perouse. Our students have also been on the Tribal Warrior cruise around Sydney Harbour and Clark Island, where a traditional ceremony was held, and students heard stories of how our Gadigal and Cammeraygal ancestors lived around the foreshore of Sydney Harbour. The Living Language Exhibition at the State Library of NSW saw two of our students witness their Aunty and Elder speak about the Wiradjuri Nation.

Our On Country tours see First Nations students from Years 5 to 12 travel to another region and connect with another First Nation over several days.

All of the activities are conducted by the traditional owners and Elders of the regions. In 2018, we went to Dubbo and Bathurst on the Wiradjuri On Country excursion and in 2019 we visited Nowra, Orient Point and Huskisson on the Wandi Wandian (Yuin) Nation On Country tour.

In 2022, we have the amazing opportunity to visit the Indigenous homelands of Kuku Yulanji Nation in the Cape York region of Far North Queensland, around the town of Wujal Wujal.

Visual Arts

Gawura students have weekly Visual Arts classes, taught by a dedicated Visual Arts teacher. Students also learn the style and practice of First Nations painting. 

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