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Schools Plus

In partnership with Australian Schools Plus, Big Dry Friday  is proud to be supporting Tara Shire State College (QLD) and Casterton Primary School (VIC) with a number of programs that are enhancing student engagement. 


Tara Shire State College, QLD

Through strengthening community connections and embracing First Nations culture, Tara Shire State College (TSSC) in Queensland is seeing a boost in student engagement and an increase in student attendance. Students are reporting feeling a deeper sense of community and belonging at school and appreciation for Indigenous culture.  


Brought to life through partnerships with local schools and a range of other agencies such as local Indigenous organisations, QLD Health, QLD Police, the school’s new collaborative community projects are giving children exciting opportunities to connect their classroom learnings with real-world application.  


With 25% of students from a First Nations background, celebrating Indigenous people and culture is highly valued at Tara Shire State College. In a first for the school, their annual reconciliation event was attended by eight other schools and a number of community groups, with students delivering the Acknowledgement to Country and having the opportunity try in weaving, Indigenous games, art, and language. Students are now leading the Acknowledgement to Country for other school events too, giving them a chance to develop new confidence and public speaking skills. 


Adding to the positive shift in the school’s culture, a Community Education Counsellor has been recruited to support student and staff wellbeing and staff have been given professional development opportunities through the Stronger Smarter Institute to support greater community collaborations. 


With the support of Big Dry Friday and Schools Plus, the school’s community partnerships and holistic approach to education has created more opportunities for students to engage and excel in their learning. Funding will allow TSSC to continue their community and cultural initiatives in 2024, including developing First Nations language programs linked to the local Baranggum language. 

“I love working outside in the garden and learning outside. It is the best”, says Candice, a Year 5 student at Casterton Primary School. Thanks to a new kitchen garden program and several wellbeing initiatives, many children are enjoying school and thriving in their learning - a refreshing shift away from the lack of student engagement following the prolonged lockdown in Victoria.

The initial garden set up took some time to complete, but now it is off the ground the school’s kitchen garden program is engaging many students with fun and interactive sessions about growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh wholesome food. The program also enables students to build STEM, project-based, leadership and teamwork skills, and learn about environmental sustainability.


A teacher at the school says, “it has been so valuable to see my students learning and functioning in a different environment. Some of these students are very hesitant and struggle to engage in the classroom, but in the garden, they are thriving, showing natural leadership, and just completely different people.”  To compliment the program, students have opportunities to lead the school canteen and take part in sessions to promote healthy eating, alongside the local Victoria Kids Eat Well Ambassador.


The school is providing further wellbeing support for children, and re-enforcing school values through awards, writing projects and teaching students ways to develop social, emotional and positive relationship skills. A new ‘Play is the Way’ physical education program is also being run, alongside weekly yoga sessions allowing students to learn breathing and meditation skills. 


Casterton Primary is looking forward to fully establishing their kitchen garden space and further developing their wellbeing curriculum to continue to boost student engagement and improve learning outcomes.

Casterton Primary School, VIC


Schools Plus beneficiaries for 2022

The six school projects Big Dry Friday supported in 2022 were:

  • Walcha Central School, NSW – improving student learning outcomes by engaging a paediatric occupational therapy service provider to build staff capacity and deliver school-based early intervention programs

  • Holy Family Catholic School, NT – a literacy intervention project designed to support older readers (Years 5 and 6) who require specific instruction in decoding skills to help them become fluent readers.

  • South Hedland Primary School, WA – introducing InitiaLit, an evidence-based whole-class literacy program to help kids become successful readers and writers

  • Tara Shire State College, Qld – project focused on building cultural understanding among students and staff and enhancing students’ leadership capacity.

  • Casterton Primary School, VIC – addressing low student morale, motivation and engagement in school through practical and hands-on learning activities.

  • Lock Area School, SA - connecting curriculum to the local area to increase student engagement through authentic learning experiences (eg students will connect with local agricultural personnel to explore sustainable farming techniques)


Beneficiaries 2023

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