Victoria Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge
Victoria Minister for Education Martin Dixon
School’s In At ‘Parkville College’
Victor P Taffa
Young people detained in Victoria’s youth justice system are finally receiving a real education with the establishment of a new school within the Parkville facility, Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge and Education Minister Martin Dixon announced today.
Operating at the Parkville Youth Justice Precinct since the start of the school year in February, ‘Parkville College’ as it is known, is Victoria’s newest school.
Results so far have exceeded expectations, with an attendance rate of 100 % and classes operating in an orderly fashion.
The school is reporting improvements of up to two years in reading and numeracy skills in less than two months, with 34 of the first 52 students having read a novel independently and without assistance for the first time in their life.
Students typically come from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds in Victoria. Routinely more than half are former or current child protection clients with a history of neglect, abuse and trauma.
Most have engaged in significant truancy and experienced long periods of school exclusion or disengagement, with two-thirds having been suspended or expelled from school.
Under the former Labor government, they received virtually no formal education despite being in custody for up to two years. The Ombudsman’s 2010 report into conditions at Parkville was scathing of the failure to provide schooling and condemned it as in breach of the Victorian Children, Youth and Families Act, the United Nations rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“The Coalition Government is providing these young people with the opportunity to literally rewrite their future.” Ms. Wooldridge said.
“Almost universally they come into the facility with extremely poor basic numeracy, oral, literacy and social skills, which reduces their post-release capacity to access employment and education, while vastly increasing their risk of re-offending and entering the adult justice
“Giving them access to a school that has academic rigour, but at the same time is designed to engage young people with a history of disengagement, is creating a real opportunity for them to change their life trajectory.”
“Education and learning are critical to an individual’s life chances.” Mr. Dixon said.
“Education is a pathway out of poverty and intergenerational disadvantage and the high-quality education we are now offering to young people in custody is critical to their rehabilitation.”
“That said, the early results have exceeded all expectations and the school is doing an exceptional job with a model that is already Australian best practice and potentially world’s best practice for incarcerated young people.”
The school is headed by the widely acclaimed Mr. Brendan Murray, co-founder of the Pavilion School and winner of the 2009 Victorian Education Excellence Award for Outstanding Secondary Teacher. The Educational Consultant is Ms. Madeleine Tippens, co-founder of the KIPP Infinity Charter School in the Bronx District of New York.
All students have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have IEPs and Koorie Education Learning Plans (KELPS). All students have been plotted on the Victorian Essential Learning Standards continuum so that work can be tailored to individual needs and progress can be tracked.
An important component of the model is the inclusion of a ‘pathways coordinator’ to liaise with local schools and DEECD Regional Wellbeing Managers to ensure children are not ‘lost’ to the system upon their release, or denied access to appropriate schools.
Parkville is one of two youth justice custodial centres in Victoria. It houses young people up to the age of 18 who have been remanded or sentenced to custody by the Children’s Court.
For the Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct, which houses offenders up to 20 years, an industry, employment and training plan is currently being developed. Options for expanding the Parkville College model to Malmsbury are being considered as part of this plan.