Northern Territory Learning Commission

Northern Territory Learning Commission: Meeting with Henbury Special School

Written by: Amanda Bickerstaff


Today was one of those special days. I am in Darwin this week meeting with schools across the Northern Territory in anticipation of the launch of this year’s Northern Territory Learning Commission (NTLC).


The NTLC is a multi-year initiative supported by the NT Education Department, Pivot Professional Learning, Eventful Learning Co. and Evidence for Learning. The goal of the NTLC is to bring students and teachers together to improve their schools based on data and evidence. Tomorrow we are working with more than 200 Student Commissioners on how they can shape their learning environment and school culture through feedback and data. 


Today I met with Henbury School, a government school that works with students from Year 7 to Year 12 with mild to severe intellectual disabilities. This year there are 12 elected Student Commissioners ready to take the lead on student voice and agency in their school community.


One of the (many) things I love about Henbury School is that they aim to create a safe learning environment for all students. Over the previous two years, Henbury Student Commissioners have focused on providing a voice to every student, which is not always possible because approximately 30% of students have difficulty communicating effectively in a ‘traditional’ sense. As a result of the NTLC work, the school has designed and implemented a communication board that helps ALL students communicate with others about their experiences, feelings, needs, wants and learning. 


To help these students prepare for tomorrow’s larger session, I gave each of the Student Commissioners a challenge – to talk to two people they have never met before. This small exercise aims to help students gain confidence in speaking to new people while providing Student Commissioners from other schools some insight into the experiences of students with special needs. To make it fair, I’ll be finding out what they have selected for my challenge tomorrow (wish me luck that it’s not 100 pushups)!


I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s larger session and can’t wait to share the experience with you all. This event is one of the biggest highlights of my year – seeing students gain a valued voice within their classroom and school environment.  


Very excited to see what the Henbury Learning Commission has in store for 2021! 


Henbury School

Image: Henbury School Communication Board designed and implemented by the Henbury School Learning Commissioners. 


Henbury School

Image: Henbury School diagram of how their Learning Commissioners came up with the Communication Board idea.