A special report prepared for State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed into the city’s education and youth sectors has highlighted a deep-seated disengagement among students.
The 48-page ‘Parliamentary Intern Report’, compiled by Monash University student Samantha McClelland, explored the social, government and educational tiers that have been major drivers behind disengagement, leading to unemployment and academic outcomes well below the state average.
The report found there were a number of significant barriers for many students who face under-engagement and disengagement from education, including parental issues, mental health and poor attendance.
According to 2011 Census data published in the report, an average of 22 per cent of school-aged youths across Shepparton, Mooroopna and Numurkah were disengaged from work or study.
Ms Sheed said the report highlighted the concerns that already existed across the community, that there should be more support services and facilities put in place to identify at-risk students earlier.
Ms Sheed said further support at a government level, as well as strong connections between schools and community groups, should be capitalised upon with the impending Shepparton Education Plan.
‘‘We know that it’s not a new school building alone that will answer the problem, it’s the services and the support for teachers, as well as students, that will make a difference,’’ she said.
‘‘We want our students to have outcomes that lead them to further education and ultimately better jobs and it’s quite clear that jobs of the future will require high levels of education.’’
Information published in the report was compiled via public data, existing research and through interviews with schools, researchers and community organisations.
The report provided an overview of how community organisations and schools had worked to combat disengagement from education in Shepparton, but found the district’s mainstream secondary colleges had struggled to utilise opportunities to connect disengaged students to the community.
The root cause of these issues was attributed to inadequate resource allocation and leadership to drive formal partnerships.
‘‘Youth services aimed at preventing disengagement from school are not formally embedded to schools and support for schools to deliver such programs is lacking,’’ Ms McClelland wrote.
‘‘Barriers are compounded if students face multiple barriers or lack accessible transport and a lack of funding severely affects the continuity of youth services in the Shepparton district.’’
Offering feedback for the report was Lighthouse Project manager Lisa McKenzie, who shared her frustration with pilot programs and short-term funding.
She said the funding models acted as a barrier to achieving long-term goals that engaged young people.
‘‘We would say that the services at the moment are largely crisis-driven,’’ Ms McKenzie said.
‘‘They are waiting for them (young people) to fail or to have a crisis around about when they’re 15 or 16 and then they’re sent off to headspace.’’
In addressing the issue, Ms Sheed said securing funding for the education plan would allow for further planning, and eventually address issues around primary and early childhood education.
According to the report, those most at risk of disengagement lie in the 12 to 15-year-old age bracket.
‘‘What we do need to focus on is the community and the schools being much more interactive with each other, and if schools need more resourcing to enable that, then they should have it,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘I think, at every level, to have the school as an open-door place where the community can access a range of services, as well as have their children educated, would be a great thing.’’