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State government's $12.9m plan to target 'hidden kids'

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News Release

Major new help for hundreds of ‘hidden kids’ most at risk of dropping out of school will be delivered through a $12.9 million ‘engage with education’ plan, announced today.

The plan will target ‘high risk’ children aged from 5 to 18 who are most likely to drop out of school because they are caught up in poverty, abuse, crime and other complex family and social problems.

It is a major part of the Rann Government’s $28.4 million Social Inclusion retention action plan and will target young people at risk including:

• Students with severe behaviour problems that lead to school suspension and exclusion.

• Young people caught up in the juvenile justice system, including those in secure care and community residential care.

• Teenage mothers at high risk of leaving school early.

• Children suffering as a result of family or drug abuse and other severe social problems.

• Aboriginal children most at risk of leaving school early.

“Every one of these young people can make a change for the better if we give them a step up so that they can help themselves,” says Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith.

“Rather than take a big bureaucratic stick to getting these kids on track, this plan will take a personal approach to help children as individuals.

“We are working across government agencies and with local communities to make sure all young people are in school, training or work - there is no other option.

“These young people are at risk because they have some of the toughest problems anybody should deal with, and there are no quick fix solutions.

“They might have been abused or abandoned or they might have mental health issues. They might be teenage mothers or juvenile offenders.

“That is why teachers, social workers, health workers, school counsellors and others who work face to face with young people at risk will tailor programs to make a difference to individual children and their families.”

Monsignor David Cappo, Chair of the Social Inclusion Initiative, which has drawn the plan together, says: “We know that kids who drop out of school early are more likely to be over represented in the juvenile justice system.

“We know that some agencies who support these kids believe that just suspending children at high risk from school can make them even more likely to be disconnected from the community.

“This plan is designed to help children who are often living on the edge of society to engage them in some form of learning so they gain skills and stay connected.

“The alternative is that they are shut off from contributing as skilled workers, as effective parents and as people who give something back to the community.”

The ‘engage with education’ plan is part of the State Government’s $28.4 million strategy to keep all young people in school, training or work and help young people most at risk of dropping out.

It fits with the State Strategic Plan goal to increase the leaving age to 17 by 2010 to ensure that young people are either in school, work or structured training.

The plan includes 14 projects linking health, welfare, education and the juvenile justice system to target 1125 children a year at high risk of dropping out. Projects include:

Learning Centres The role of the State’s four Learning Centres for high school students excluded from school will be expanded in a $1.53 million project. Four extra teachers will be employed and new programs will be introduced to cater for 15 year-olds who have been excluded from school. The project will link them with different forms of learning, such as TAFE courses or, for example, a forklift driver’s course, and help cover their expenses to get there.

Youth Education Centre Education programs offered at the State’s Youth Education Centre, for young people in detention, will be expanded in a $1.98 million project. It includes the ‘virtual school’ which takes school to wherever it’s needed - from the local mechanics to the local TAFE. The programs will cater for 200 13 to 19 year-olds at risk of becoming young offenders.

Community Mentors Program A Community Mentors Program is being established to match up to 200 individuals aged 12 to 18 with mentors. The mentors will be sportspeople, young professionals and others in the community with an interest in guiding our young people in the right direction. Funding of $1.3 million will support screening and training for mentors.

Community-based Projects The Twilight School at Windsor Gardens Vocational College and other community-based programs for young people disengaged from school will share in $1.89 million over four years to support and expand their services. Other programs include the School Community Intervention Project (Hackham West), Families Empowered to Act Together (5108 schools cluster), Robertstown/Eudunda Early and School Years Program, Gilles Plains Community Campus, and Care, Health, Education and Community at Woodville Gardens and Ridley Grove.

Case Management Young people under the Guardianship of the Minister who are not attending school, are suspended, excluded and have below-average literacy and numeracy skills will receive intensive case management under a $1.53 million project. Current research has found that, for a small number of young people, intensive case management is cost effective, has better results and can relieve pressure on schools and other government and non-government agencies.