Positive marks for at-risk youth

The initial report card on Latrobe Valley’s recently opened ‘safety net’ school for struggling teenagers is in, and attendance levels are up.

Celebrating its official opening today, enrolments at the ‘Flexible Learning Option’ have grown to 38 since classes began in term three.

Providing customised learning programs for indigenous and non-indigenous secondary students who are struggling with, or have fallen out of mainstream high school, Principal Brett Pedlow said attendance levels were at an average of 80 per cent.

“Considering some of the challenging backgrounds these kids have come from, that attendance is terrific,” Mr Pedlow said.

“The students have taken to the program pretty well, and are engaging through personalised learning programs which give the students a sense of ownership, and they have really taken it on board.”

A former teacher at the Woolum Bellum College, closed by the State Government at the end of the 2012 school year, Mr Pedlow said the school’s opening was “well overdue”.

“Among the cohort of kids we’ve got here, 10 of them are indigenous who had on average fallen out of mainstream education five months before they came here, we’ve got another 11 kids who are in out-of-home care, so this place is pretty crucial for them,” Mr Pedlow said.

Run in partnership with Traralgon, Lowanna and Kurnai colleges, and in coordination with youth support services, the FLO is currently equipped to boost its enrolment levels to 60.

“We’ve been getting some terrific support from the other schools; we just need to keep linking in with support services and identifying tangible and achievable pathways for these kids, whether it’s getting them back into the mainstream schools, or into other education or training,” Mr Pedlow said.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe, who will represent Minister for Education Martin Dixon at today’s official opening, said the FLO’s strong links with existing government and community programs would lead to better life opportunities for the Valley’s disengaged young people.