Every student who has completed a Gonski-funded vocational education skills and training program (inVEST) at Vincentia High School has gained an apprenticeship/traineeship and is in full-time study or full-time work. This is welcome news for the Shoalhaven region, which has the third highest youth unemployment in the country.
Vincentia HS students participating in the inVEST program work towards achieving a non-ATAR vocational-acceleration Higher School Certificate plus four Certificate II qualifications and more than 100 days of work experience in two years.
On different days during the week they attend: classes at school; a workplace, or work in the school café or on school building/maintenance or landscaping projects; a vocational education course; and a community college for a Certificate II.
Foty Loupos, a Vincentia HS teacher currently on leave from the school to serve as NSW Gonski seat coordinator for Gilmore, said that students are more motivated and increasingly engaged in their learning.
Attendance among the program’s students is higher than for the general school population and suspensions among the program’s cohorts have dropped dramatically.
Gonski dollars also fund the school’s Flexible Learning Centre, an alternate learning environment for school refusers and disengaged students. Teenage mothers also access the centre to assist with completing their HSC.
Mr Loupos said the centre’s program seeks to either re-integrate students into mainstream education sources or transition them to life after school.
The centre is located off-site at the local primary school and offers students the opportunity to redress missing core academic skills and learn in a quieter environment.
The students’ self-esteem and resilience are increasing.
“For some students it’s the first time they’ve achieved success at school,” Mr Loupos said.
“There have also been positive flow-on effects back to the family and younger siblings.”
The school’s homework centre, which previously catered for years 10-12, is now open to all years, thanks to Gonski funds providing extra staff and resources. Attendance at the homework centre has subsequently increased from 15-20 students to over 50 per week.
Mr Loupos said for some students, the homework centre is the only place they can study.
“Help is now available for all students wanting to get help and they have become more engaged in their learning,” he said.
All HSC ATAR students who attended the homework centre last year were accepted into university.
Additional funds from the Gonski Aboriginal student loading have continued to fund the Ganya Garindja Unit, which focuses on closing the gap in educational outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. The school has a large Indigenous population, about 18 per cent.
The unit conducts Dhurga language lessons for all year 7 and 8 students and specifically targets the welfare and education of the school’s 180 Indigenous students, providing mentors and homework assistance. It is also a meeting place for parents and carers where they feel comfortable discussing issues that arise during the course of their children’s education.
Mr Loupos said the Ganya Garindja Unit increases awareness of Indigenous culture and creates more empathy among the school community for the difficulties Indigenous students face.
“Indigenous students feel there’s a place for them to belong within the school. This helps them with overcoming the anxiety and psychological barrier they face coming from a small rural community and primary school of 80 students, to a large high school of more than 1100 students,” Mr Loupos said.