ABC TV’s 7.30 Report has featured a story on independent Australian high schools hosted by not-for-profit organisations. Entitled Schools Helping Children Who Don’t Fit In, ABC TV broadcast the 7’13” story on Monday 16 October.
Reporter Michael Atkin visited two Queensland independent high schools that focus on the needs of teenagers “who don’t fit in”: Noosa Flexible Learning Centre and Carinity Education Southside.
Paul Flanders, Principal of the Noosa Flexible Learning Centre (part of the Edmund Rice system), says: “We have no rules. We have principles that we operate on and those principles are key to all our practice…. We have no fees. We don’t charge fees, so it is completely inclusive. We have no religious qualifications. We have no uniforms.”
The story also features Professor Martin Mills, University of Queensland, who recently co-authored a new study which examined eight flexible schools across Queensland, finding that “students with high needs are more engaged in small classes, run by specialist staff.” Professor Mills commented that, “These are kids who didn’t go to school – were constantly in trouble for low attendance – now being there every day, turning up for class. So there is something happening in these schools that I think we really need to concentrate on and look at.”
“Independent not-for-profit schools for disadvantaged young people are an increasing phenomenon in the Community Colleges Australia membership,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA).
“Led by WEA Hunter’s Alesco schools in New South Wales – with parallel experiences in Victoria, the adult and community education sector is showing that it can host these independent high schools and provide appropriate environments for young people who simply ‘don’t fit in’ elsewhere,” Dr Perlgut said.
In addition to WEA Hunter, current CCA NSW members with independent high schools include WEA Illawarra, Western College (Dubbo), Albury Wodonga Community College, Port Macquarie Community College, Coffs Coast Community College, and Tuggerah Lakes Community College.
Other not-for-profit non-religious community organisations hosting similar schools include Advance College (Victoria), Skillset (Bathurst) and MTC Australia’s Warrakirri College campuses in western Sydney.
“This is a growing movement that deserves further study in a time when youth unemployment and under-employment rates – especially in regional and rural areas – remain persistently high. CCA believes that important innovative answers to the challenges facing Australia’s young people lie in our sector’s ability to treat disengaged young people with sensitivity and care. Adult and community education organisations are specialists in promoting inclusiveness; increasingly this extends to Australia’s young people, and not just the adult population,” said Dr Perlgut.