It may seem obvious but the first thing we do before establishing a learning program is to find out about our young people as learners. This is a crucial step as the quality and effectiveness of our program depends on how well it meets their experiences, current life circumstances and goals.
Rather than using a ‘deficit model’ of needs analysis, where the learner needs to be fixed, Holy Spirit College staff use a strength-based approach. The approach bases the learning program on the young person’s skills, experience and strengths; thus fostering a sense of ownership and engagement by the young person. Our approach is often contrasting to the young person’s previous experiences and interactions with other learning institutions and government bodies such as the youth Justice and child protection systems; which can leave young people feeling completely disempowered and without value to the community.
The following are examples of the types of strength based questions used to develop a young person’s Individual Education Plan. The exact questions asked depends on the experiences and context of the young person.
What are you good at?
What are you proud of?
What do you enjoy doing now or did you enjoy in the past?
What are your dreams for the future? (in five years, in ten years etc)
What are the most important priorities for you right now?
What would you like to know more about? • When do you work best?
Do you like working with others or prefer working alone?
Do you like working on a computer?
When you learn something new do you prefer to read instructions, have someone tell you how to do it, have someone show you how to do it or another way?
The Individual Education Plan brings together the goals, challenges and needs of each young person and maps out their learning journey from first engagement to achievement. The IEPs define concrete targets and outcomes and allow the young person to ‘own’ their learning pathway. Also the process of developing an IEP is a meaningful focus for building a relationship between the young person, the mentor and other support people. The IEPs form the foundation of the program design for both the individual young person and the general cohort; it is truly reflective of the needs, abilities and context of the specific group of young people attending Holy Spirit College. The features of the IEPs are, they are:
Collaborative: the young person is directly involved in creating the IEP and understands the purpose of the plan
Holistic: the plan reflects the specific needs and support requirements of the young person and this information is shared with relevant support staff
Active: the IEP is a working document and is regularly updated according to progress reviews and changes in circumstances
Recognises previous experience: the plan takes account of previous experience and learning
SMART goals: the plan includes the five elements of SMART goal setting
Challenge: Learning targets and time frames are realistic but also challenge young people and keep them focused on achieving milestones
Pathways: The plan maps the entire pathway from the starting point to the achievement of short and long term goals
Scheduling: appropriate time is allocated to complete the plan
Cross-referenced: the course plans and IEPs reflect each other
While the learning programs include a diverse range of skills such as art, music, cooking, textiles, outdoor education and integrated projects such as garden development, the dominant focus is on the foundations of language, literacy, numeracy, technology and life skills as these skills are particularly significant in promoting independence, empowerment and community connections.
Initially, foundation skills such as literacy and numeracy aren’t made explicit but rather are embedded within an ‘interest’ based topic. An example of this would be a cooking class which requires the learner to use weights and measures, set temperatures and times, take notes and possibly research further cooking ideas. The educators design the initial learning stages by “stealth”, with the young people’s interest at the forefront and the learning outcomes seemingly occurring by default.
The educational focus of Holy Spirit College is to engage young people in a journey of returning to learning and transitioning to better outcomes in health, well-being, academic education, training and employment. Each young person will have a different journey and transition pathway which may include transitioning:
From disengagement towards achieving a level of qualification,
To engagement through TAFE and vocational training, school-based traineeships, apprenticeships or other employment
From remote communities towards a successful introduction to boarding school [Cooktown Campus] or
Back to other styles of schooling.
Each young person has different needs and aspirations; outcomes are developed specific to the individual.
The foundation on which the educational purpose is built is the total development of each individual young person, according to a specifically Catholic Christian vision. Here, values, including the value of the human person, are conveyed in a life-context, encouraging young people to exercise their intellect and support them to discern true and positive cultural factors from false and destructive ones, using the teachings of Christ as our touchstone.
There are four critical elements of effective service delivery:
Outreach,
Wellbeing,
Learning,
And pathways.
The model to which Holy Spirit College subscribes and continues to develop is a learner centred, wrap-around service delivery model. We provide an education rich in life-skills for disengaged young people.
Right Relationships underpin the learning at HSC, it is one of engagement through the mentors building positive relationships with young people and having a curriculum focus to assist young people to gain skills in the fundamental areas of English and Mathematics as well as a range of elective topics. Right Relationships are essential in maintaining an environment which is both physically and psychologically safe for all.
While attendance is important it is recognised it is only one factor in improving outcomes for young people, they must also be engaged and participate in their learning program.
Each young person has an Individual Learning Plan which is developed in conjunction with the student, parent/carer, mentor, and other members of the young person’s Care Team.
Holy Spirit College staff use a strength-based approach. The approach bases the learning program on the young person’s skills, experience and strengths and is based on the Australian Curriculum, the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Framework and pre-vocational courses.
During the units of study the evaluation methods are integrated and make the learner feel valued and supported. The learning achievements of each young person are communicated to parents/carers through a variety of means, which are appropriate to the individual and their learning.
Our behaviour focus is on the relationships in our school community. We disapprove of inconsiderate behaviour and want to assist young people to understand that what they do impacts on others. Poor behaviour is not tolerated at Holy Spirit College (HSC) and procedures are developed to ensure that young people can learn and participate free from harassment and disturbance. Our system is grounded in applied behaviour analysis, and is the basis of our behaviour expectations. “Traditional” approaches to behaviour usually focus on young people’s problem behaviour, whereas HSC staff focus on the needs that students are trying to meet by using any inappropriate behaviour. “Traditional” approaches focus on stopping problem behaviour through the use of punishment – often consequences that are undesirable to the young person – whereas at HSC we focus on actively teaching the young person replacement behaviours that allow them to get their needs met in more efficient and socially acceptable ways. “Traditional” approaches often leave alterations to the teaching and learning environment out of the equation, assuming that the young person must change in order to accommodate the environment. In contrast, at HSC we also focus on changing the behaviour of adults, and on building environments that make the learning of replacement behaviours more effective and durable.
The focus is to encourage students to feel safe, included and to attend school.
The school does not have a prescriptive list of rules with associated consequences as it is not possible to cover every situation. We focus on equity, meaning that each individual situation is treated in an individual way. “What I do will depend on the special person and the special situation” and within the spirit of the College’s working principles of ‘Relationship, Respect, Responsibilities’.
Holy Spirit College, exists to uphold the fundamental belief that ’The Catholic school sets out to be a school for the human person and of human persons.
“The person of each individual human being, in his or her material and spiritual needs, is at the heart of Christ’s teaching: this is why the promotion of the human person is the goal of the Catholic school”.
While being cognisant of and responsive to local culture and the ecumenical and multi-faith realities, Holy Spirit College draws deeply from its Christian foundation and Catholic traditions.