Alternative education program promotes reintegration into school

A pilot program designed to reintegrate disengaged students into schools has plans to expand its service delivery after recording significant success.

The Avon Community Services (ACS) pilot alternative education program sees students who have been suspended or have low school attendance visit the centre to do two hours of supplied work from the school and two hours of life skills a day.

ACS operations manager Darren Warland said the program addressed a need in the Northam community that had been present for a long period of time.

"The idea came from looking at the young people we have come through our centre, looking at the sign-in registers and the numeracy and literacy skills they didn't have," Mr Warland said.

"We had a trial student come through in term 2 and we had some great success.

"We've had three young people participate last term and we have two that are currently still attending.

"These kids have been disengaged for quite some time - their attendance would be well below 50 per cent.

"Even when they were showing up to school they weren't going to class, they were just getting suspended every second day.

"If they have been suspended why give them a holiday?

"Instead of having them get up to mischief, send them here and we can get them involved.

"We have broken the circuit and have had them engaged every day since."

Life skills learnt by the students include cooking and woodwork.

The manager said although the program focused on Northam Senior High students in years 7 to 10, he could see a demand to provide the services to local primary school students.

Mr Warland said at-risk home situations played a role in students not attending school.

"An unstable home life creates disruptive behaviours at school either because they are tired or hungry, or have lots on their mind," he said.

"They continually get in trouble at school and then don't bother attending.

"It's the idea that 'I know I can't answer that question so instead of being perceived as dumb I'm going to create this commotion to get kicked out'.

"A lot of them are very intelligent and use it for the wrong things."

Mr Warland said the program's success had been seen in the students' increased self esteem, engagement, positive behaviours and attendance.

The program has been delivered in collaboration with government providers, a trait the Department of Education has praised.

Department of Education Wheatbelt regional executive director Neil Darby said the work of ACS had been made possible with the support of local police, the Department of Communities and Northam Senior High.

"This program gives us the chance to support these students to transition back into school," he said.

"We are doing that by providing a very targeted level of support in collaboration with these organisations.

"The outcomes are delivering tailored programs meeting the student's needs with an aim of re-entry into school once the students are fairly confident and feel that they have the skill set to re-enter school and be successful.

"Certainly this year we've looked at alternative pathways to assist students and their families to get the best out of their schooling.

"We were able to do this alternative approach this year because of the higher level of collaboration with other government departments.

"Out of that came higher levels of cooperation and more discussions around individual needs of students."

Mr Darby said initial discussions indicated that a similar model could be used in other Wheatbelt towns.

"In affect we are looking at the needs across all major towns in the Wheatbelt," he said.

"What's working in Northam is very effective but we are looking at place based initiatives in Narrogin, Katanning and Merredin.

"Each of those initiatives is slightly different depending on the resources available.

"We need to cater to each town's unique needs."

For more information on the alternative education program contact Avon Community Services on 9622 2612.