Aboriginal graduation rates reach all-time high in Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Wed. Feb. 25/15

The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district has reached an alltime high for its six-year aboriginal graduation rate, which has now passed the provincial rate.

A total of 63.9 per cent of First Nations students enrolled in the school district from Grade 8 onwards graduated in the 2013-14 school year, compared to the province-wide aboriginal rate of 61.6. Nanaimo-Ladysmith superintendent John Blain said graduation rates for First Nations students jumped eight per cent from the previous school year. Compared to the 2009-10 school year, the rate has gone up by 21 per cent. B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender wrote to the district this week to offer his congratulations.

"I think we're starting to see the results of the work we're doing," said Blain. He credited school programs, including student support teams aimed specifically at First Nation students, and also a "collective ownership" within the district of students' educational needs.

Nancy Seward, education co-ordinator for Snuneymuxw First Nation, said "more open communication" between First Nations communities and the school district has resulted in better outcomes for students.

"There's more communication, more support, more services for the students," she said.

Nanaimo Coun. Bill Yoachim, a former Snuneymuxw councillor and executive director of Kwumut Lelum Child and Family Services, said there is still a gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal graduation rates, but said the trend at Nanaimo-Ladysmith was good news.

"I believe we're going in the right direction. . ." he said.