Bridging the education gap

November 14, 2017

Melinda Lawley and Alex Buinier, from The Bridge Youth Service, and Linda Culpan, from Berry St.

In the lead-up to its annual meeting this month, The Bridge Youth Service has reflected on delivering its Navigator program during the past 12 months.

A Victorian Government initiative, the program supports young people aged 12 to 17 to re-engage with their education.

The Bridge Youth Service’s Julie Batey said it was the lead agency co-ordinating and delivering the program across the Goulburn area in conjunction with the Department of Education and Training and Berry Street.

‘‘The Navigator program operates in the shires of Moira, Strathbogie, Mitchell and Murrindindi and the City of Greater Shepparton,” she said.

‘‘Just over 12 months into the pilot, the Bridge Youth Service have received 164 referrals and, along with Berry Street, have supported 75 young people to return to education in some capacity.’’

Ms Batey said there were a number of reasons or barriers that made it difficult for some young people to attend school regularly.

‘‘A statewide audit of young people referred to Navigator found that students were more likely to have been disengaged from education for up to one year; however one-fifth of Navigator students had been disengaged for more than two years.

‘‘Around 80percent of young people in the program experience some kind of mental health issue, with anxiety being the most prevalent.

‘‘More than half of referrals to Navigator experience four or more barriers.’’

Ms Batey referred to the journey of an anonymous student who had not attended school for nine months, and prior to that her attendance had been sporadic.

‘‘Jasmine (not her real name) had many barriers preventing her engaging with her schoolwork,’’ Ms Batey said.

‘‘These included family conflict, drug and alcohol issues, anxiety and many gaps in her literacy and numeracy due to her non-attendance at school.

‘‘The Navigator worker, DET, Jasmine and the school worked together to create a re-engagement plan to assist Jasmine to return to school after her absence.

‘‘The Bridge Youth Service continued to support Jasmine and link her with supports and services to stabilise her home environment and provide a more supported pathway to return to education.

‘‘Jasmine has now been attending her school full-time, completing all her work and looking at pathways for her future.’’

Ms Batey said information regarding Navigator and other programs the service provided would be available at its annual general meeting this month.

The meeting is on Thursday from 4.15pm at The Vault, 164R Maude St, Shepparton.

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