Making a difference with Australian Schools Plus


Australian Schools Plus


Three projects providing high-impact support for three regional school communities.



Year of grant:

2021- 2023

Compared with their city peers, country Queensland children face greater challenges receiving an education.

That’s why JVT has supported Australian Schools Plus to help improve the learning outcomes of students in rural, regional and remote schools.

November 2023

At The John Villiers Trust (JVT) we are passionate about working with local organisations to help improve the learning outcomes of students in rural, regional and remote schools.

Disadvantage is the most significant factor affecting educational opportunity and achievement in Australia. At the age of 15, students at the lowest socio-economic schools are on average three years behind their peers at the most affluent schools¹.

In 2021, JVT partnered with Australian Schools Plus on three projects designed to:

  • develop capacity in school leaders through teacher and leadership support
  • create sustainable local partnerships
  • increase attendance and engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and grow connection to language and culture, and equip students with literacy, numeracy and work-focused skills, including through vocational training.

The three-year grant enabled much-needed support to be provided to clusters of schools in regional Queensland, in the communities of Chinchilla, Eidsvold, and Normanton.

The initiative aligns with the factors that amplify our impact. Schools Plus is:

  • creating partnerships with participating schools, and between the schools within each cluster, who now work together to support each other and share resources
  • building student capability, but also developing the capacity of the leadership and teaching staff. Schools receive coaching and mentoring, giving them someone to reach out to for advice and support. They are also supported with their evaluation and measurement processes
  • providing early intervention for children and young people in danger of disengaging from the education system
  • achieving multiple and deep impacts, benefiting students and teachers and ultimately the communities surrounding the schools and
  • delivering initiatives that are community-led. Schools identify what they need to address and are then supported by Schools Plus to make that happen.

JVT CEO, Lea-Anne Bradley, is pleased the grant is making a difference where it is needed.

“By working with Schools Plus, we were able to deliver funding and other support to public schools in rural, regional and remote Queensland,” Ms Bradley said.

“This is important to us, as we know that schools in country Queensland need additional support. They face the unique challenges of outback communities, where resourcing is difficult and teacher turnover is high. That’s why working in clusters is so beneficial – it creates a support network and natural sharing of resources like specialist teachers.

“Schools Plus are committed to making a difference for the staff and students in these areas. They are helping schools establish plans and coaching that builds resilience, confidence and capability in both children and staff”.


More than 1,400 students and 42 teachers across the three clusters have benefited from these Schools Plus initiatives so far.

Building greater connection to language and culture has resulted in improved attendance, engagement and achievement, and higher levels of confidence among the students. Language lessons, along with cultural activities, have helped Indigenous children and young people develop a stronger sense of individual and cultural identity, and helped non-Indigenous students to have better cultural understanding.

Teachers have also developed their skills, understanding, and cultural awareness. Most importantly though, staff have received coaching, which helps schools deal with high turnover and ensure the sustainability of their work.

Teachers within the clusters now have a support network to call on and learn from, to collaborate with and share resources.

Lessons learned

The Schools Plus experience highlights the unique issues faced by rural, regional and remote Queensland communities.

Decentralised populations, vast geographies, and high travel costs impact access to vital services. It means country Queenslanders are less likely to participate in higher education, have lower literacy levels, and be more likely to need to leave their communities in search of work.

For the Schools Plus project, some of the schools faced challenges finding and keeping registered teachers with the knowledge and skills to teach Indigenous language and culture, as well as frequent changes in school leadership. 

For the Normanton cluster, long-term illness of the Kurtjar language teacher and the inability to recruit a permanent replacement meant that the project has come to an end one year early. There were still wins though, with lessons on local culture, a culturally relevant curriculum and excursions, and on-country visits building engagement.

What’s next

The Eidsvold cluster’s success means that this program will be expanded to benefit more children and teachers at additional schools.

In the Chinchilla cluster, the focus is on parent information and engagement. 

And although the Normanton cluster language program will not continue in 2023, they will still liaise with the local Indigenous advisory group and continue cultural activities with the goal of resuming the program in the future. 

For JVT, supporting children and youth in rural, regional and remote Queensland is a way to achieve transformative impact for communities today and into the future.

“We’re delighted that Schools Plus has been able to support so many country Queensland schools to make a difference for their students and staff,” Ms Bradley said. 

“Children and young people in these areas especially need our help. They are key to the future of vibrant, thriving rural, regional and remote Queensland communities, and of course they deserve the best start in life”.

¹ Stats from Educational Opportunity in Australia 2015 (Mitchell Institute, 2015) and PISA in Brief 2018 (Australian Council for Educational Research, 2019).

Corey's story

Corey Appo broke new ground this year, gaining well-deserved recognition for his work reviving and teaching Wakka Wakka – the language of the region – to students at Eidsvold State School.

Corey’s teaching qualification is one of Queensland’s first, where his cultural background and experience mean he has been given permission to teach without a university degree.

Teaching and building a connection to language and culture is helping improve the attendance, confidence and engagement of Indigenous students. It is also supporting teacher capability and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and culture.

With Eidsvold working as part of a school cluster –sharing support, teachers and resources – schools and children across the region will benefit from Corey’s experience, knowledge, and language lessons.

About Schools Plus

Schools Plus believes that every child has the right to the same opportunities. Through its place based approach it empowers schools in less advantaged communities with funding, coaching and resources to create lasting change for educators and children and young people. 

Schools eligible for Schools Plus’ support must have an ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage) value below 1,000. ICSEA is a scale that provides an indication of the socio-educational backgrounds of students. Nearly half of Queensland’s schools have a value less than 1000, largely due to the state’s high number of rural, regional and remote communities.