Support for wellbeing and engagement is fundamental to ensuring children and young people to reach their potential. Support for wellbeing and engagement should encompass both prevention and intervention strategies, at both a group and individual level. Particular areas of focus should include:
Positive approach to behaviour
Behavioural issues are often a major reason for schools referring children and young people to re-engagement programs. Re-engagement programs should have processes in place for responding to behaviour issues when they arise, as well as strategies that foster positive behaviour. A key strategy is the active modelling and reinforcement of positive and respectful behaviour by program staff in interactions with students and other staff.
Indicators of positive approaches to behaviour in re-engagement programs include:
- strategies to promote positive student behaviour, which are documented in a Student Engagement Policy
- clear expectations of student behaviour are established and reviewed with student input and are communicated to all students, families, schools and staff
- where appropriate, individual education plans (IEPs) include specific behaviour-related goals that contribute to the achievement in one or more of the strands of the VELS (the Physical Personal and Social Learning strand is likely to be the most appropriate) or VCAL (Personal Development strand).
- interventions to support and address behaviour issues of individual students, and their effectiveness, are communicated to the student’s enrolling school to support the transition of the student back to school, and to build the capacity of school staff in implementing effective interventions.
Student Engagement and Inclusion Guidance− provides guidance to schools on how to develop a Student Engagement Policy that promotes and supports student engagement, attendance and positive behaviours.
Encouraging student participation
Providing opportunities to maximise student participation is critical in developing children and young people’s sense of belonging and self-worth. Encouraging student participation is of particular importance in re-engagement programs as a high proportion of participants may have had negative experiences in school, and re-engagement may be facilitated by empowering students to participate in decision making.
Re-engagement programs should allow students to become active participants in their education, providing opportunities for student participation in design, delivery and review of the program wherever possible. Depending on the age of students and area of program delivery, different levels of student involvement – from consultation to decision-making – will be appropriate.
Indicators of quality approaches to student participation include:
- students have an opportunity to discuss their interests, needs, goals and expectations with program staff prior to commencement
- individual students are involved in:
- development and review of their IEP
- planning transition from the program, either back to school or to further education, training or employment as appropriate
- meetings with involving key supporters of the student’s education, health and wellbeing
- there are opportunities for students to provide input into:
- development of the program mission and values
- establishing expectations of behaviour in the program (may be developed as ‘group rules’ or “rights and responsibilities’)
- development of other policies and processes for the program
- monitoring and evaluation of the program, including staff performance, via both informal feedback opportunities and structured mechanisms such as surveys of student satisfaction, exit interviews and other appropriate mechanisms.
Holistic individual support
Social and emotional support should be provided to children and young people in re-engagement programs using a holistic approach which seeks to identify and address the range of individual, family, school and/or community-related factors that may underlie their disengagement from education.
Indicators of a holistic approach to supporting individual children and young people include:
- a comprehensive assessment of the child or young person’s support needs is undertaken on entry to the re-engagement program, drawing on referral information, existing assessments and student input.
- a re-engagement program representative participates in the Student Support Group for each student or establishes an SSG where this has not already occurred. See: Student Support Groups
- a plan is developed for each child or young person which articulates strategies to address identified support needs and build on strengths (may be incorporated as part of Individual Education Plan)
- a case management approach to addressing individual support needs where appropriate. See: Case Management
- parents/guardians are consulted in the identification of issues, strengths and strategies where appropriate, in line with a broader program focus on family engagement
- regular communication occurs between teaching and support staff to ensure that learning and wellbeing goals and strategies are mutually supportive where possible
- mentoring is employed as a support strategy for individual young people, where appropriate, to help them build a continuous and caring relationship with a trusted adult. The 2008 Effective Strategies to Increase School Completion report found mentoring is one of the most commonly used strategies in effective programs found to keep students in engaged in education.
Student Support Groups
Student Support Groups (SSG) should involve key people with a role in realising the education and wellbeing goals for an individual child or young person participating in a re-engagement program. Key members include program staff, relevant support services, the student and their family, and a representative of the child or young person’s enrolling school.
An SSG may have been established by the enrolling school for prior to a child or young person’s engagement in the re-engagement program. In this case, the re-engagement program provider should liaise with the school about participation in and coordination of the group while the child or young person is attending the program. If there is no SSG in place, the re-engagement program provider should establish one in consultation with the enrolling school.
Note, all students supported by the Program for Students with Disabilities must have an SSG with the following membership:
- the parent/guardian/carer(s) of the student;
- a parent/guardian/carer(s)’ advocate (where chosen by the parent/guardian/ carer(s));
- a teacher (primary) or teacher(s) nominated as having responsibility for the student (secondary);
- the principal or nominee (to act as chairperson); and
- the student (where appropriate).
The Student Support Group may invite input from any other person with knowledge of the student or with information relevant to the educational or social needs of the student. For more information see 2013 Student Support Group - Guidelines for Schools and Families (PDF - 1 (pdf - 1.02mb)
Children and young people participating in re-engagement programs often have complex and varied needs that require the involvement of a range of services and supports.
The role of a case manager is to coordinate access to services through assessment, planning, facilitation and advocacy for options and responses to meet an individual’s social, behavioural, emotional, learning and transition needs.
In a re-engagement program, case management may be provided by a program staff member or by another support service involved, as appropriate. Where multiple services are involved with an individual child or young person, the program should work with these services to establish clear roles and responsibilities.
Decisions regarding the need for case management, including which service or program may provide this, should be made collaboratively with the child or young person, their parent/guardian and the Student Support Group, and take account of:
- the child or young person’s relationship with each service and likely length of involvement
- the service or program capacity to provide case management.
Support in Schools − information on Student Support Services Officers, Primary Welfare Officers and Student Welfare Coordinators.
Regional Koorie Education Coordinator Contacts − contact details for Koorie workforces that located in each Department regional office to ensure delivery of coordinated, quality support for Koorie students and their families.
Effective Strategies to Help Increase School Completion − useful information on effective intervention strategies to help increase educational engagement that may be in a re-engagement program context.
Australian Youth Mentoring Network − a national hub for youth mentoring research, tools and resources.
Engaging parents and families
Parent support for, and involvement in, their children’s education is a critical factor in student engagement and achievement.
Re-engagement program providers should work in partnership with families to establish shared expectations for all children and young people to ensure they achieve their full potential.
Engaging with families is important to:
- identify strengths in family relationships that may be utilised to support individual student learning
- identify family-related barriers to learning and engagement
- help parents to gain a greater understanding of and ability to support their children’s learning and development.
Indicators of effective engagement with parents and families include:
- communicating regularly with parents and families of students regarding their child’s progress, and any issues concerning attendance, behaviour or wellbeing
- inviting the participation of parents and family members in any meetings regarding their child’s progress, including opportunities to celebrate their child’s achievements
- implementing best-practice strategies for parent engagement outlined the Department's Families as Partners in Learning resource.
Families as Partners in Learning − provides a range best-practice strategies and resources for schools in developing partnerships with parents and families.
The Family-School & Community Partnerships Bureau − provides information and resources such as the Family-School Partnerships Framework: a guide for schools and families, which contains example strategies, case studies and tools to help schools and families to work together effectively.