Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A brief history of the GYS learning program by Roelof Smilde

In 2003 the Glebe Youth Service started a year 10 program designed to attract the many young adolescents who had dropped off their schooling. The great majority of those who became students were from the Glebe Estate. Initially the course was staffed by volunteers and then for two years was funded by TAFE under a start-up program.

Funding trouble started in the financial year 2007-8. A private foundation helped out to the end of 2007 and in second term 2008 DET provided two teachers and a teacher’s aide from Edgeware Special School. This program was named Re-Engage, the focus was not on year 10 and the School Certificate, but aimed to have the students re-engaged in main stream high school by the end of term 4. The program was not a success and was discontinued.

Late in 2008 the GYS co-ordinator and a board member who had been involved with the year 10 program from the beginning approached the recently appointed Minister for Education Verity Firth, the local member for the area.
The plan put forward was for a pilot program of three years, funded by DET, under the auspices of the Sydney Secondary College, and guided by the principles that had evolved during the running of the course over the previous five years.

The Minister’s response was very positive (she had been a strong supporter of the GYS for some time) and the proposal was put through the system. During this process a Sydney University Education group and the Glebe Development Project became involved and were able to add a lot of strength to the push behind this ambitious project. Two of the initiatives were an evaluation of the GYS program up to the end of 2008 and a very large meeting of interested parties from many different corners of education in this country. This meeting of 28 people unanimously endorsed the proposal put before the Minister and emphasised the need for a personalised approach outside of main stream high schooling.

Despite the difficulties presented by a very tight State budget and some bureaucratic resistance Ms Firth was able to secure the passage of the proposal in May. The program is basically as envisaged, is to run as a pilot for three years, is funded to supply a full-time teacher, a part-time teacher and a teacher’s aide, and is to be ready to commence at the beginning of term 4 this year.

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