OzChild has extended its commitment to supporting vulnerable young people to the Gippsland region as part of the School Focused Youth Service initiative.
Team Leader Eamon O’Hare and Coordinator Tahseen Qadeer have established three pilot programs through the Schools Focused Youth Services, with the help of funding from the Department of Education. The first program commenced in 2013 and its funding round finishes at the end of this year. Thanks to Eamon and Tahseen’s dedication, OzChild have received more funding for the next two years, allowing them to continue developing programs.
OzChild do not have an office in Gippsland, but our presence is growing in the region because of Eamon and Tahseen’s work.
As Eamon and Tahseen conducted quantitative surveys and interviews at about 90 primary and secondary schools in the Wellington Shire, Latrobe Valley and Baw Baw Shire, they identified the transition from primary to secondary school as a key issue for troubled young people’s disengagement from school.
“The result of that was kids coming in with history of inappropriate behaviour, issues with home, emotional and mental health problems,” said Eamon.
“They (secondary schools) were starting cold with kids who may have had case workers. The information was not coming across.”
Eamon and Tahseen then developed strategies for the schools to use. Their first pilot program was a preventative measure for school teachers.
“One of the main things was that screening and early identification of kids at risk was not done well,” Eamon said.
“We developed a pilot around that issue by developing a screening tool that was easy to use by primary school teachers to do that early assessment and get community organizations in to minimise the issues.”
The next pilot was developing an online transitional database for secondary schools to use. Primary schools input information about students like emotional issues, social problems, academic difficulties and family circumstances into a cloud-based database for relevant secondary schools to access.
The newest pilot program is designed to bring community organisations into education.
“Schools were saying that interaction with community-based organisations was non-existent, scatty or done reasonably well,” Eamon said.
Eamon and Tahseen set up a student-at-risk professional panel in the Baw Baw area which is made up of school personnel and psychologists, as well as representatives from organisations such as Headspace, Berry St and Quantam Support.
This panel identifies students with problems, assesses their needs and whether they need to be put with an agency, before transitioning from primary to secondary school.
“They are now an integral part of school welfare,” Eamon said.
It’s still early days yet, but Eamon and Tahseen are hoping their pilot programs will ensure disadvantaged young people will be supported in schools.
“The stuff we’re doing up here is really putting a structure in place to minimize the effect of family breakdowns in regards to education,” Eamon said.
What is the School Focused Youth Service?
The School Focused Youth Service is a Victorian Government initiative designed to keep at-risk young people engaged with their education.
Fifteen percent of young people in school face challenging life challenges that force them to disengage from their studies; challenges such as mental illness, disability, homelessness, family dysfunction, being a parent, being a refugee, being in and out of care or being in the justice system.
The School Focused Youth Service implements early targeted interventions and preventative measures help vulnerable young people complete their education and improve their wellbeing. This encompasses a wide range of work such as connecting community support services to young people, educating young people on life coping skills, and social group projects.
The School Focused Youth Service also develops partnerships with schools, community groups and social welfare agencies to ensure a full consultative process and evidence-based strategies.