The annual report for Holy Spirit College – Cooktown and Cairns is available on the Catholic Education website.

At Holy Spirit College we recognise that attendance is only one factor in improving outcomes for young people, they must also be engaged and participate in their leaning program. Engagement in education has been defined as involving the three dimensions of:

  • involvement,
  • positive relationships and
  • application to learning.

Engaging learners, and, more importantly, keeping them connected, is the key challenge in establishing a successful learning program. Because disengaged learners can face a range of complex barriers to participation it’s important to look at the specific practical, environmental and interpersonal conditions that will get learners involved and keep them coming back.

In our holistic approach we encourage and work with young people to identify what they want from the college experience. As their goals become clearer an Individual Learning Plan is developed in consultation with the young person and their parents/carers. The ILP development has input from the student, parent/carer, mentor, psychologist, youth worker and other members of the young person’s Care Team.

A daily ‘connection’ session, known as ‘Circle Up’ is held with staff and young people at the beginning of each day; this is to enable communication and connection to occur between staff and young people before the start of the learning day. Other briefings are held after morning tea and lunch; these sessions enable staff to gauge the participation levels of students and make adjustments as required.

A staff briefing meeting is held each day. The aim of this meeting is to review the progress and activities of the young people and staff. The meeting allows for information sharing between teaching staff and counsellors and the establishment of strategies in working with a young person’s level of engagement, behaviour and academic development.

A major part of keeping previously disengaged young people engaged in a learning program is flexibility. Flexibility is the capacity to shift and evolve according to need and changing demands is a vital element of our re-engagement programs. Young people who are dealing with complex life issues including physical and mental health changes, alcohol and drug dependency, housing and financial problems and family issues may find it very hard to make an ongoing commitment to a regular timetable and may also find it difficult to maintain the same level of participation over time. The learning program needs to allow for some cycles of engagement and provide a combination of short term outcomes and ongoing skills building.

Generally, young people who come to Holy Spirit College are or have made adult choices in their lives; we therefore work with the young people in a predominantly adult context, understanding that the young people learn according to need and their own experiences and require clear motivations for engaging and continuing to participate in learning.