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Inside Teaching : April 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org FEATURE 9 Here’s the scene: a Monday in mid- December, a group of nine students stand side by side on a makeshift stage at Key College, an independently-run secondary school with three campuses across Sydney. With a scattering of friends, family and supporters proudly looking on, some with tears in their eyes, each student is presented with their New South Wales School Certificate to mark the completion of their Year 10 studies. It’s a scene repeated at schools all over NSW at the end of each and every school year, but this ceremony in recognition of a major learning milestone for these students at Key College was far from unremarkable. Each of them came from a background of disadvantage, including being housed each night in refuges or other temporary or short-term accommodation, and experienced a range of behavioural and emotional issues. Key College is run by Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets, a community organisation aimed at helping young people between the ages of 12 and 21 who are facing challenges from homelessness and drug dependency to disconnection from school, neglect and abuse. Youth Off The Streets, as its mission statement puts it, aims to help ‘disconnected young people to discover greatness within, by engaging, supporting and providing opportunities to encourage and facilitate positive life choices.’ A key part of the strategy lies within Key College’s campuses at Merrylands, Macquarie Fields and now at Redfern, the result of moving from the Surry Hills campus for the beginning of this year. The learning environment at Key College is markedly different from that of a mainstream school. For starters, there’s only one classroom, with students of all ages working alongside one another. The students are all equipped with highly individualised and integrated programs, designed to boost literacy and numeracy skills while at the same time taking into account the difficulties that saw them disengage from the mainstream education system to begin with. Offering education for students in Years 7 through to 12, the flexible curriculum and extensive support programs for life away from education have seen Key College regularly achieve outstanding results since it was founded by Father Riley back in 1997. In 2009, those nine school certificate recipients from the Surry Hills campus were joined by another 14 from Macquarie Fields and Merrylands, making it a record year for Youth Off The Streets. The 23 students who successfully completed Year 10 represent a significant jump from the year before, when nine students across all three campuses gained their school certificates. In total, 98 students aged between 13 and 17 years were enrolled across The key to learning Low teacher-to-student ratios, individualised learning and a stable environment are helping disadvantaged students overcome the barriers they face. ross sMart reports.