22-26 Ingham Road, West End, Queensland, 4810
Established in 2006, Townsville Flexible Learning Centre (TFLC) is one of 14 sites operated by Youth+, an initiative of Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA). TFLC provides a place and an opportunity for young people to re-engage in education in a suitable, flexible learning environment. Students have usually experienced complex educational, social, developmental, psychological, health, legal or familial situations and have been disenfranchised by mainstream education. TFLC provides for students of diverse backgrounds and both genders, with particular sensitivity to Indigenous culture and socioeconomic disadvantage. In 2012, 107 students were enrolled at TFLC.
How this program works
TFLC aims to provide educational experiences that enable personal and community liberation by developing relationships and skills that meet young people’s needs and empower them to participate fully in the community, in and out of school. TFLC responds to the needs of students by building honest and authentic relationships with young people and their families, supporting and celebrating the uniqueness and dignity of each young person. Young people are encouraged to understand and be guided by four common ground principles that emphasise democratic relationships rather than rules: respect, participation, being safe and legal, and honesty.
All students undertake a Personal Learning Plan that relates to their life experience and responds holistically to their learning needs including: literacy, numeracy and relevant life skills, promoting confidence, enjoyment of healthy, fulfilling lives and responsible citizenship. TFLC Junior curriculum (Year 8-10) is based on the Key Learning Areas of the Queensland curriculum. Senior students (Year 11-12) undertake nationally accredited Certificate I-III vocational courses, the Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) or Queensland Certificate of Individual Achievement (QCIA). Electives and project-based learning include Flexi-Farm, Music, Sport, Fishing, Gym, Woodwork, Fibreglassing, Film and Photography, Cooking, Barista, Art, Outdoor Education and Cultural Activities. All students are encouraged to engage in camps, outdoor activities and work experience as appropriate. The program operates Monday to Friday between 9.30 and 2.30. Each day begins with breakfast made in the school café, followed by a meeting of all staff and students. The courtyard gathering is also used throughout the day for organising activities, sharing lunch, celebrations and reflective problem-solving. Students’ learning and wellbeing are supported through pastoral care, community groups, chaplaincy and interagency work. Staff act as mentors and advocates, providing guidance to resources to support students to achieve their goals, recognise their potential and acquire an optimistic view of their future.
Positive outcomes, indicating the success of this program, include: student re-engagement with and commitment to education, strong relationships, sense of belonging and community engagement:
Individual student achievements: Graduates describe personal success in completing Year 12, obtaining employment, stable housing and relationships and continuing studies at TAFE.
Destinations and pathways: 21% of 2012 graduates went into full-time, part-time or casual employment, 4% went on to further VET Certificate studies, apprenticeships or traineeships and 12.5% returned to school.
Engagement and participation in learning: Average student attendance is 72% (2012). Since 2008 TFLC has provided educational opportunities to hundreds of young people, with an enrolment of around 100 students each year. Since 2010, groups of eight young people have participated in two week-long sea kayak journeys per year and five young people have participated in a week-long Small Dancers-Big Stories program, culminating in group and solo performances for the school community.
Health and well-being: Students access health and wellbeing resources through healthy food, recreation and physical activity programs and support work linking them with partner agencies such as Headspace and Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service.
Civic/community participation: Students march for Mabo Day, conduct an ANZAC ceremony represent the school at the local Remembrance Day event, contribute to Clean Up Australia Day, Townsville schools’ tree-planting, Shave/Colour For A Cure, community fundraisers and arts projects.
Engagement with families: Parents, carers and support workers participate in NAIDOC, Reconciliation Day, Mabo Day, Sorry Day, Health Week, Family BBQ’s and Senior Celebration night.
Productive partnerships: include Breakthru employment service, Castle Hill and Upper Ross PCYC’s, Dance North, Instep Youth Connections, James Cook University, Mundingburra Rotary, Northern Outlook, Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service, Townsville City Council, Queensland Youth Services, QCP plastics and fibreglass training, Youth Justice and Child Safety Services.
External recognition: EREA FLCs are identified in research on ‘best practice’ in alternative education.
Why this program is successful
Graduates identify TFLC as being a fun, safe place, where everyone takes care of each other and student-staff relationships are more equal. Students gain a sense of freedom to learn what they want, at their own pace, with teachers’ help. Staff identify the compassion and care expressed through the four principles as the basis of all activities and a sense of belonging and ownership.
Sources of information
EREA Flexible Learning Centre Network (2013) Website (accessed 12.07.13)
Townsville Flexible Learning Centre (2012) Annual Report
Please note, where possible and appropriate, we have adopted the language and terminology used by the program sources (italic fonts) and referred to the most recent publicly available information.
This vignette was developed in 2013 by The Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning (part of the Australian Government’s Collaborative Research Network) for the project Putting the jigsaw together: innovative learning engagement programs in Australia and supported by the Ian Potter Foundation.