NETschool Bendigo

26 Williamson St, Bendigo, VIC, 3550

Established in 2005, NETschool, a campus of Bendigo Senior Secondary College (BSSC) government school, provides a highly personalised alternative educational setting for young people aged 15-19 who are unable to attend mainstream schooling but have a strong desire to gain formal qualifications. Learners are enrolled at BSSC with full access to teachers, staff and resources but their learning takes place via the Centre for Home-based learning. The program is suitable for learners with a history of non-attendance at school due to physical or mental health issues, trauma, ongoing family issues, poor relationships with students and teachers, bullying, and/or who are pregnant or young mothers. Learners represent the full cross-section of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds found across Greater Bendigo. NETschool works with up to 70 students at any one time.

How this program works

NETschool aims to reengage students with learning in a restorative environment that focuses on building positive relationships and resolving conflict and practices based on three core values: trust, honesty and commitment. To be accepted on the program students need to show commitment to improved wellbeing and be supported by a significant other (parent/guardian/caseworker). Learners make an informed choice through attending the small group tasterprogram. On acceptance to the program students are assigned to a mentor and mentor group of 10-12 learners. Mentors are teachers who provide intensive one-to-one support to students, with an individualised and choice basedapproach.Students work with their mentor to develop an individual learning plan (ILP) based on their interests, abilities and goals that is periodically reviewed and renewed. The pastoral care program focuses on student personal development, self-belief, well-being, and community work.

The program runs at The Centre, a three-level facility in Bendigo city centre, 4 days a week, from 8.50am to 3.30pm. Each mentor group has an area that resembles a workplace, with a large central table surrounded by individual computer workstations. The day begins with learners coming together to plan activities and finishes after a group reflection. Every afternoon each learner evaluates her or his progress and responds to issues in a reflective journal they share with their mentor. NETSchool provides literacy and numeracy support and Research Based Learning (where students choose what to study and plan their work around personal interest projects) and commence study for their Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL, Year 12), Victoria Certificate of Education (VCE, Year 12) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications. Learners’ work is self?paced and may include learning support by email with a BSSC teacher or attending classes at BSSC main campus. Young mothers and learners who are not ready to attend The Centre can undertake Home-Based learning. With support from their Home-Based mentor they negotiate ILPs and their level of participation at The Centre. Babies and toddlers are welcomed.

Outcomes

Positive outcomes, indicating the success of this program, include: credentialed attainment, engaging students with education, training or employment, changes in students’ skills, abilities, self-efficacy, well-being, feeling safe and valuedand influencing mainstream schooling practices.

Credentialed attainment:Examples of success: a student with depression and social anxiety starting at NETschool as a home based learner and then becoming a centre-based learner before attending BSCC and completing the VCE (2012); a young mother who, over 4 years, through a combination of home-based learning, on-line units and class-based learning