The ACT Government said it will trial a community school model that partners with community agencies and businesses to ensure schools support student and family needs.
The Government released the first phase of its 10-year Future of Education Strategy, stating that it will fund a feasibility mapping and policy design work for a community school next year.
A community school model traditionally emphasises a whole-of-community engagement to provide the necessary tools for children to excel in their education. The school becomes the local hub of the community, and partners with local organisations and businesses to provide support for children and their families so that barriers to education could be lifted.
Education Minister Yvette Berry said the community school could include out-of-hours programs and partnerships with agencies to support young people and their families, particularly those who are marginalized or experiencing disadvantage.
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“We don’t have a school in mind at this stage but that work is still progressing,” Ms Berry said on Friday afternoon (2 August).
The first phase of the strategy will see an expansion of systemic support for schools to implement the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) model, hiring four PBL experts and one school psychologist.
The plan said it will also conduct scoping work for a “complex student needs team” to increase participation by kids with diverse learning needs as well as a parent engagement officer at the Education Directorate.
“We want to make sure that our schools are inclusive places for every child, regardless of their background, needs, disability, or any of the other complications that any child might come to school with,” Ms Berry said.
“The different programs that are happening right now in our schools are about making sure that we meet individual child’s needs regardless and that is what that complex team is about.
“It is about understanding what is going on in a child’s life before they even come to school and then be able to put the support and education in place that best suits their needs.”
The first phase of the Future of Education Strategy will also see the expansion of Franklin Early Childhood School to a P-6 school this year, an expanded Gold Creek High School in 2020, as well a feasibility and design study for another college facility in 2020.
Ms Berry said the demand for public school enrolments is projected to continue to grow at around an average 3.5 per cent per annum over the next decade, adding the equivalent of about one to two schools’ worth of new students to the system every year.
Ms Berry said it was imperative for the ACT Government to conduct the planning and delivery of additional school infrastructure and the workforce requirements to accommodate this growth.
The Education Directorate will also implement an occupational violence policy and management plan for schools to review the Directorate’s mandatory work health and safety training package and provide role-specific work health and safety training to teachers and LSAs (learning support assistants).
The Government will also provide support for 50 LSAs at public schools to obtain a Certificate 1V Education Support and will also seek advice from expert services about initiating safer learning environments.
As part of the management plan, the Education Directorate will also run two wellbeing expositions and three community workshops, in partnership with the P&C, to focus on staff health, safety and wellbeing.
Ms Berry said the management plan will make all employees, students and their families feel welcome and safe at school as well as providing a consistent approach towards workplace health and safety, including regular reporting, monitoring and targeted support.
However, the opposition believes the new Strategy has failed to address critical issues within Canberra’s education system, with Shadow Minister for Higher Education and Training Andrew Wall criticising its lack of attention to violence in schools, slipping academic outcomes and overcrowded classrooms.
“There are critical failings in our schools that Ms Berry seems blind to,” Mr Wall said. “ACT schools have the worst rate of violence against students, teachers and principals in the nation.
“Too many students are too scared to go to school because they don’t feel safe. Our academic results continue to fall.
“We have too many overcrowded schools and many others in desperate need of urgent maintenance.”