Special assistance secondary schools end 2020 on a high note

Special Assistance Secondary Schools operated by CCA members ended the 2020 year on a high note, with all schools reporting high demand, excellent student attendance and strong community support. A snapshot of some of the schools below:

Western Riverina Community School, Western Riverina Community College

Western Riverina Community School (WRCS), part of Western Riverina Community College (WRCC) in Griffith, currently has 30 students, with many more wishing to enrol – although hampered by lack of space. WRCS (pictured) caters for young people who have fallen through the cracks of an education system not created for their needs. The school employs 16 people in a mix of full-time and part-time roles, all new jobs that did not exist elsewhere before the school started.

Established in 2018, the school is the culmination of many years of work when WRCC recognised a growing need to provide an alternative to mainstream schooling. “In our short time of operating the school, many lives have been changed and the school has provided the framework for the students to generate a personal positive vision of a future previously unimaginable,” says WRCC CEO David Martin. He talks about the importance of reaching out to assist young people, referring to the song "How to Save a Life", by American alternative rock band The Fray, which was composed by lead singer Isaac Slade based on his experience working as a mentor at a camp for troubled teenagers.

“Ultimately WRCS is a success but is only just scratching the surface of need where we need to consider how to save lives develop the untapped potential of the marginalised,” David Martin says.

Alesco Illawarra, WEA Illawarra

Alesco Illawarra has been experiencing rapid growth and increasing demand for our student-centred, flexible learning programs across our four registered school campuses in Wollongong, Bowral, Nowra and Vincentia NSW. Now in entering our eleventh year of operation, we work within a trauma-sensitive, positive education model and self-determination theory drives our professional practice.

“In 2021, we will have a new name that reflects our new direction. Our students will no longer be working towards their Record of School Achievement or HSC. We are re-imagining what our educators can help our students achieve without the constraints of an overly academic curriculum focussed on mandatory hours and content, rigid assessment tasks, HSC band achievement and the ATAR, which all seem to have little relevance to the real-world skills our young people need to learn in order to have a productive future and become positive contributors to their communities. Our new way of doing things puts the student in the driver’s seat of their life. Their goals are central, their needs individually catered for. Students will co-create their unique learning journey through our Architect (Stage 5) and Blueprint (Stage 6) programs, which are accredited by the international body ASDAN. Our staff, students and their caregivers are all looking forward to this new chapter.” - Louisa Raft, Leader of School Operations, Alesco Illawarra

Gateway Community High, Macquarie Community College

Opening its doors for Term 1, 2021, Gateway Community High will offer a better solution for thirty Year 9 and 10 students who would be more likely to thrive outside of the conventional schooling system.

Based in Carlingford in Sydney’s north under the auspices of Macquarie Community College, the school has recruited Roger Ashcroft as its inaugural Head of School. Mr Ashcroft’s previous leadership roles include five years as principal of Yirara College, Alice Springs, where his focus on student engagement resulted in very positive outcomes for the 220 Indigenous students in a boarding school setting. “I have a genuine passion to give every young person the best opportunity to create a better future. I believe this is done by ensuring that a student’s well-being, sense of belonging and personal growth is as important as their educational goals,” Mr Ashcroft says.

The launch of Gateway Community High has received extensive media coverage, including an interview on the James Valentine show on ABC Radio Sydney with Macquarie Community College CEO, Theresa Collignon, and an article in The Sydney Morning Herald. School visitors include Federal Member for Bennelong, John Alexander MP.

Nautilus College, Mid North Coast Community College, Port Macquarie

Nautilus College, part of Mid North Coast Community College (MNCCC) in Port Macquarie, moved into new premises this year, part of a new College education precinct that includes the MakerSpace suite of creative spaces for community use. The college provides an opportunity for students not suited to or disengaged from mainstream education to enter year 10 and complete a Record of School Achievement (RoSA), issued by the New South Wales Education Standards Authority. Nautilus College was recently featured on ABC News and Port Macquarie News.

Through MNCCC, students who have achieved Year 10 or who are 15 years and over are eligible for the College’s transition program as an alternative to years 11 & 12 through one of two pathways: a vocational pathway to improve career options and work placement; and a tertiary education pathway for those wishing to pursue university studies

Watch the stop motion video (YouTube, 58”) of the painting of the new Nautilus sign. Symbolism of the Nautilus shell (pictured):The spiral shape of the Nautilus shell suggests that it can keep growing forever. There is no design for a ‘final’ chamber. The creature must keep building new chambers as long as it lives. It cannot go back to the previous ones; they no longer fit. It cannot stay in its present space or it will die. It has no choice but to move on. And on. The Nautilus has become a metaphor for growth, evolution, expansion and renewal – the stages each individual passes through life.”


Indie School, Albury Wodonga Community College

“COVID-19 has significantly impacted Australia and the world with many feeling like the year 2020 should be written off. The staff and students of Indie School have risen to the occasion by facing challenges head on and embracing different ways of doing things. Students celebrated R U OK day during September by dressing in yellow with a guest speaker discussing the importance of enforcing the notion that it is ok to not be ok, and to check in on each other.” Student numbers continue to grow, with students responding to the alternative learning methods offered at Indie School, which now operates nine campuses in five states: Albury and Wagga Wagga (NSW); Bacchus Marsh, Ringwood and Wodonga (VIC); Devonport and Glenorchy (TAS); Elizabeth (SA); and Midland (WA).

TLK Youth College, Tuggerah Lakes Community College

“As a division of Tuggerah Lakes (TLK) Community College Limited, TLK Alesco School recently changed its name to TLK Youth College to further reflect its role and purpose as a registered and accredited non-denominational, independent (Years 9 to 12) secondary school, specifically designed for the inclusion of young people who may feel isolated or lost in a traditional school setting on the NSW Central Coast. About to enter its eleventh year, the services of the School remain directly aligned to the purpose and values of a community college, and this past year has certainly had its challenges. This has included a period of remote learning due to COVID-19 restrictions. Despite this, our students have again demonstrated their capacity for resilience and growth and we remain proud of their achievements.” – David MacKay, CEO, TLK Community College

Allegra School, Coffs Coast Community College, Coffs Harbour

“In a time of uncertainty and social chaos, students at Allegra School Coffs Harbour really have developed a mantra of ‘consistency is key’. While the transition to remote learning at the end of Term 1 was smooth, students missed the social interaction and personalised support that they have access to in the classroom. All of our students returned to face to face learning earlier than expected and adjusted to the ‘new normal’ of social distancing and reduced external programs with resilience and integrity.

“The pandemic, changing restrictions and a limited option to venture further afield saw us exploring our local area more as we engaged in a range of outdoor learning activities. With the relaxing of restrictions, we partnered with MySkills and TAFE NSW to deliver career-based programs to our students in Term 4 utilising the MoneySmart funding. We are now investigating the potential of fostering, and harnessing, the creativity of our students by committing to the AISNSW ‘Designing for Deep Learning’ program in 2021.” Allegra School is part of Coffs Coast Community College; view the school on Instagram and Facebook.


Shoalhaven River College, Kiama & Shoalhaven Community Colleges

Shoalhaven River College, located in Bomaderry north of Nowra under the auspices of Kiama and Shoalhaven Community Colleges, provides an environment that is respectful, friendly and inclusive, where students and staff feel a sense of belonging.

Alesco Senior College, Atwea College

Alesco Senior College is a secondary school, set within an adult learning environment, run by Atwea College (formerly WEA Hunter), with campuses at Cooks Hill, Raymond Terrace, Tomaree, Tuncurry, Cessnock and Northlakes. It is a school which encourages young people to participate in education and training that leads to a sustainable future.

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