” Little J, he’s five and Big Cuz, she’s nine. They’re a couple of Indigenous Australian kids living with their Nanna and Old Dog. Little J and Big Cuz are busy with the ups and downs of playground and classroom.
There’s always something surprising going on whether it’s at school, in the backyard… or beyond. The gaps in Nanna’s ramshackle fence lead to Saltwater, Desert and Freshwater Country.
With the help of Nanna and their teacher Ms Chen, Little J and Big Cuz are finding out all about culture, community and country
We hope that by providing children with a window into the often-mysterious world of school we can achieve our aim of successful school transition for Indigenous preschool children, a transition that prepares them for a thrilling, lifelong learning journey.”
Little J and Big Cuz animated series starts Easter 2017
“You will also note the reference to ‘whole child development’ in the model. By this we mean that children need to grow not only academically but emotionally, socially, physiologically, and culturally
Strong relationships between schools, families, and community agencies (in health, children’s services, etc.) are therefore critically important. In order for children to learn, they need to be safe, nourished, stimulated, engaged, and ideally confident.”
Tony Dreise (pronounced ‘drice’) descends from the Guumilroi people of north-west New South Wales and south-west Queensland. He was a Principal Research Fellow and Hub Leader for Indigenous Education at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). See Article Below
Watch the Little J and Big Cuz trailer released just yesterday
When Little J and Big Cuz arrive on our screens in late April they will bring with them a raft of resources to help incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and being in the classroom.
Little J and Big Cuz; a 13 x 13 minute animated series ( see each episode below ) follows the adventures of five-year-old Little J and his older cousin Big Cuz, who live with their Nanna and whose outback life and adventures at home and school form the basis of each episode.
The series was previewed in the Northern Territory 2016 when SBS showcased the series to delegates at the Remote Indigenous Media Festival at Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land.
Little J and Big Cuz is in production for NITV by Ned Lander Media. The ACTF will distribute the series, with production investment from ACER, Screen Australia, Film Victoria and Screen Tasmania.
Much of the story telling will be visual or carried by the narrator, making it easier to re-voice the show into multiple Indigenous languages.
The intention is that community members will be engaged and funded to re-voice the series.
The production will assist in setting up this process. It is also intended that children whose first language is not English will watch it in both English and their own language at home and school.
Episode 1 – Lucky Undies:
Little J’s new undies have special powers – so how can he play basketball without them?
Episode 2 – Wombat Rex:
Big Cuz tricks Little J into believing that the Giant Wombat is not extinct.
Episode 3 – New Tricks:
Little J frets that his dream of being an acrobat is not the RIGHT dream…
Episode 4 – Right Under Your Nose:
On their quest to the beach, Little J, Nanna and Big Cuz struggle to find what they need before sunset.
Episode 5 – Goanna Ate My Homework”
Little J gets confused hunting bush tucker when he follows his own tracks.
Episode 6 – Big Plans:
When the “big kids” won’t play with him, Little J creates a tantalizing adventure – in the back yard.
Episode 7 – Hopalong:
When B Boy comes to stay, Little J is miffed – until they work together caring for an injured baby kangaroo.
Episode 8 – Where’s Aaron?
Aaron the class mascot is missing…and Little J fears he’s lost in the desert.
Episode 9 – Old Monster Dog:
Little J is convinced there’s a real live monster in the backyard.
Episode 10 – Transformation:
Can Big Cuz face dancing in front of the school, and will Little J ever see his caterpillar again?
Episode 11 – Nothing Scares Me:
Little J knows there’s something that scares him but he’s even more scared of being found out.
Episode 12 – Territories:
Big Cuz and Little J must put aside their differences to outwit a territorial magpie.
Episode 13 – Night Owl & Morning Maggie:
Fascinated by an owl in the backyard, Little J turns nocturnal with disastrous results.
School Readiness Initiative: Little J & Big Cuz
ACER and partners have assembled a cast of expert players to meet the exciting challenges posed by the School Readiness Initiative: Little J & Big Cuz
Little J & Big Cuz
The School Readiness Initiative includes a television series that has been developed and is now being realised by experienced producer Ned Lander, with partners NITV, Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen Tasmania, ACER and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.
The TV show is a fun, animated series constructed as a narrative.
The educational foundations are implicit rather than explicit – school is simply a part of life. Episodes depict school life and include activities that occur in this space, such as show-and-tell, lunchtime, school performances and so on. Children viewing the show will follow lead character, Little J, on his adventures as he comes to understand and enjoy the sometimes unfamiliar environment that can be school, and the greater world around him.
The animated nature of the series allows re-voicing in Indigenous languages. A small number of major languages will be re-voiced in the first year with further language versions produced in association with the communities interested in doing this.
In addition, ACER is working with Indigenous Education consultant Priscilla Reid-Loynes to develop innovative educator resources to support the series. The materials being developed integrate with the series around episode themes and stories, and can be used by educators within and outside of the classroom.
These resources will be tailored to work within preschools and schools and will have a foundation in the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Curriculum.
Ready children, ready schools
Being school ready includes the development of foundational literacy and numeracy skills, engagement in learning, and positive attitudes towards education and school.
Of equal importance for students and their families is an understanding of how school works, what is expected of them and what they should expect from school.
The initiative is not just focussed on the child being ready for school, but the school also being ready for the child. ‘Ready schools’ value the skills that Indigenous children bring, they acknowledge families as the first teachers and recognise the role that families and communities play in supporting lifelong development.
Evaluating our effectiveness
The Dusseldorp Forum is providing support for the important task of evaluating the impact of the initiative for children, communities and schools. Results from the evaluation will assist in developing future series and will help to tailor resources in order to maximise the overall effectiveness of the initiative.
We hope that by providing children with a window into the often-mysterious world of school we can achieve our aim of successful school transition for Indigenous preschool children, a transition that prepares them for a thrilling, lifelong learning journey.
ACER is still looking for partners to support the development of resources for educators and outreach materials for families and communities. Please contact Lisa Norris to express your interest +61 3 9277 5520.
School transition made easier with the help of Little J and Big Cuz
- School transition through the eyes of the child
- Improving Indigenous attendance – the role of teachers
- Connecting pre-school students to the community
A new television series seeks to support the successful transition from home to school for Indigenous children and their families.
‘This article first appeared in Teacher, published by ACER. Reproduced with kind permission. Visit www.teachermagazine.com.au for more.’
Improving Indigenous attendance – the role of teachers
Tony Dreise (pronounced ‘drice’) descends from the Guumilroi people of north-west New South Wales and south-west Queensland. He was a Principal Research Fellow and Hub Leader for Indigenous Education at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Tony holds a Bachelor of Teaching degree and a Masters of Public Administration with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government. He is undertaking his PhD at ANU, where he is exploring the relationship between Australian philanthropy and Indigenous education. He has over 20 years professional experience in public policy, research, education, and Indigenous affairs.
Recently I co-authored a paper on Indigenous school attendance. In our paper, we found that school attendance among Indigenous children and young people has been improving over recent decades and years.
There is still a way to go – latest data indicate a 10 per cent attendance gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. In some parts of Australia, it is much larger at near 30 per cent. We found that regular school attendance is particularly challenging for Indigenous students in remote areas and in secondary schooling.
To turn this around, we argue that expectations need to be ‘really high’ and ‘highly real’. By that we mean: ‘…‘really high’ expectations of schools, students and parents and carers, and ‘highly real’ expectations about the social and economic policies and environments that stymie educational success.’
Educational research throughout the world points to the importance of school cultures that are driven by ‘high expectations’ of teachers and students alike. Within these school cultures, principals are leading, teachers are teaching smart and students are working hard.
A ‘catch 22’ dilemma
Our paper also contends that the relationship between education and wellbeing is akin to a ‘catch 22’ dilemma. That is, we know that education is key to turning around current levels of Indigenous socioeconomic disadvantage. In other words, education is an investment not a cost.
In a paper called Education and Indigenous Wellbeing (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011), the ABS presents a compelling relationship between education and social wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In addition to improving employment prospects, ABS data show that Indigenous people with education qualifications are more likely to own a home or be paying off a mortgage, less likely to live in overcrowded housing, less likely to be arrested, less likely to smoke or misuse alcohol, and more likely to enjoy greater overall wellbeing.
We also know that the current state of poverty and dysfunction that communities find themselves in adversely impacts on young people’s academic growth. Children find it hard to learn on empty stomachs for example. Teenagers will find it difficult to attend school if they’re being bullied at school because of their race. Hence the ‘catch 22’ dilemma.
So how do we turn around rates of school attendance in locations where it is poor? And more specifically, what can teachers do?
Demand and supply
In our paper, we present the following diagram which represents the need for balance between ‘demand’ and ‘supply’ factors in education:
[Graphic from ‘Indigenous school attendance: Creating expectations that are ‘really high’ and ‘highly real’]
In fashioning responses to current educational inequities, school systems and policymakers tend to favour ‘supply’ side levers such as spending more on professional development among teachers, or employing more Indigenous education assistants, or allocating more to information technology. These are all important, but we cannot afford to overlook the equally important job of attending to the demand side of the education. That is, investing in communities to foster a love of lifelong learning and demand for quality teaching and learner responsiveness. It also means that teachers and schools are delivering quality teaching through culturally-customised, learner-centred and strengths-based approaches. It also means fostering bonds and affinity between teachers and students. Relationships of trust are of paramount importance.
You will also note the reference to ‘whole child development’ in the model. By this we mean that children need to grow not only academically but emotionally, socially, physiologically, and culturally. Strong relationships between schools, families, and community agencies (in health, children’s services, etc.) are therefore critically important. In order for children to learn, they need to be safe, nourished, stimulated, engaged, and ideally confident.
What can teachers do?
Teachers can do a number of practical things to meet the needs of the ‘whole child’. One is the delivery of a full and rich curriculum, whereby learners are engaging in literacy and numeracy, bi-cultural and social growth, music, arts, science, and physical education. Where the purpose and objectives of lessons are clearly understood by learners, and the methods of teaching are energetic and diverse – from teacher-led, to peer-led, to project-driven, to ICT-based, and community- (excursion) based; depending upon what needs to be learnt.
Second, creating school cultures whereby Indigenous cultures and peoples are respected, by consistently engaging the families of learners, not just during NAIDOC week. Where teachers and school leaders are fostering genuine interest in the child’s life, be it their sporting life, their cultural life, their social and family life. Third, by searching and building upon learners’ strengths. Fourth, by adopting ‘growth mindsets’, so that teaching is constantly oriented toward personal improvement, daily, weekly, yearly – which means assessing for growth that goes beyond mere ‘pass/fail’ thinking.
Teachers can also work with their school and community leaders in bringing about initiatives that actively tackle forces that stymie student flourishing. The little things can make a big difference. For example, Brekkie Clubs can literally provide food for thought. Storing spare stationery and school uniforms in a cupboard can help overcome a sense of shame among students whose family circumstances may be rocky.
School leaders and teachers can foster a culture of ‘school matters’ by data collecting, rewarding regular attendance and building bridges between homes and school. Schools can also think of themselves as ‘hubs’ for child development and growth, by integrating children’s academic growth with their health, wellbeing and safety by working with government and community non-government agencies.
Finally, school and community leaders can work together to ensure that Indigenous learners gain access to the services that they require, be it speech pathology, psychological counselling, literacy and numeracy coaching, or culturally affirming student support services.
To read the full Policy Insights paper – Indigenous school attendance: Creating expectations that are ‘really high’ and ‘highly real’ – by Tony Dreise, Gina Milgate, Bill Perrett and Troy Meston, click on the link.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011). Education and Indigenous Wellbeing (4102.0). Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au