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Greater Shepparton Secondary College ‘SPARC program’ to help disengaged youth at school

By Madi Chwasta

Greater Shepparton Secondary College’s program for disengaged students will be rolled out during Term 3.

But a date has not been set for when it will begin at Invergordon Primary School, which closed in 2018, and has been flagged as the most suitable temporary location.

Known as SPARC (Student-Centred, Participation, Active Learning, Re-Engagement, Confidence Building), the program will move to the new Greater Shepparton Secondary College when built in 2022.

GSSC assistant principal Tammy Goyne will be overseeing the 20 students from Years 7 to 10 who are selected for the program.

She hopes it will create positive outcomes for young people in the community.

“It's all about building those relationships, and when you have relationships, it’s paramount to the success,” she said.

“You open up different doors for them, and that's what it's all about.”

Managed by four staff, SPARC will be for students who have been identified as “at risk” or have already disengaged from classroom learning.

“These students don’t want to be at school – they might show disruptive behaviour, or might walk out of class,” she said.

“They’re deflecting what that real concern may be.”

Each student will be given an individual learning plan to build skills around numeracy and literacy, supplemented by “hands-on” activities in the agricultural and horticultural space.

Staff will also develop “behavioural goals” with the students, with the aim to bring them back into the mainstream classroom after six months.

“Upon their reengagement in the classroom, they’re better equipped to self-regulate and have a positive experience,” she said.

“We’re trying to reignite that passion for learning.”

Ms Goyne, who has taught at Shepparton High, has worked with at-risk youth in Shepparton for the past 10 years.

“When you’re working with these kids in an environment that’s supportive of those needs, those concerns (about behaviour) will diminish,” she said.

“They’ll be getting that intense support they require to be successful.”

Ms Goyne said there would only be 20 students involved in the program at any one time, ensuring a high student-to-teacher ratio.

“In an intensive environment where you’re really wanting to address issues, it (programs) needs to remain small so that we can give that undivided attention to those young people,” she said.

Ms Goyne also said students would not be forced to take part.

“We do identity and put forth a suggestion that this program could help your child,” she said.

“But at the end of the day, they’re not forced to go – it’s 100 per cent their choice.”

Ms Goyne said when students were ready, they would be given support to transition back to the mainstream setting.

“That door to mainstream learning is open,” she said.

Ms Goyne also said it was important to help students, particularly those in Years 7 to 10, re-enter the classroom instead of leave school early.

“That option to go into an apprenticeship isn’t on the cards at that point,” she said.

“We need to reengage them in their education.”

She said Invergordon Primary School had been earmarked as an "ideal site" until the new college build is completed.

“We’ve got a great educational facility that isn't being used, plus there's scope to do a lot of different things in the space,” she said.

Ms Goyne said she would be meeting with the Invergordon community to answer their questions.

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