Let Them Learn: Education and OOHC Project Update

ACWA is continuing to work with our members and stakeholders as part of our Let Them Learn advocacy work to find and implement solutions to address the unmet educational needs of children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC).

Education and OOHC Advisory Committee
The voice and experience of our members, particularly of the practitioners working on the frontline in this area, through our Education and OOHC Advisory Committee remains crucial to ACWA’s ongoing efforts. The group worked in collaboration with the Why Not You Project and the UTS Equity and Diversity Unit on a highly successful University Experience Day for young people in care held in July, and it is hoped further collaborative work will occur in 2019.

Members interested in joining this group can contact Gillian Brannigan: Gillian@acwa.asn.au

ACWA Survey
ACWA conducted a member survey in mid-2018 in order to find out more about what agencies are doing to try and address the educational disadvantage experienced by children and young people in care. We gathered responses from more than half the relevant NGO agencies in NSW.

Some of the key findings of this survey showed that while many agencies and carers are self-funding up to one third of the educational support needs of children and young people in their care, they are unable to establish or sustain stand alone solutions such as accredited schools.

It was reported that one member currently operates two schools in Victoria with great success and another member previously operated its own accredited school in NSW, which was also very successful but unfortunately could not be sustained financially.

Interviews and discussions held around this survey and an earlier one conducted by ACWA in 2016 indicate that many agencies and their practitioners feel children and young people in care often require tailored solutions to meet their educational needs, and almost all require additional educational support which is not always provided through current arrangements.

Quarterly Cross Agency OOHC and Education Committee
In the meantime, the Quarterly Cross Agency OOHC and Education Committee initiated by ACWA earlier this year to share information, discuss and develop responses to factors that contribute to the poor educational outcomes of children and young people in care continues to meet on a quarterly basis. The group comprises representatives from the NSW Department of Education, Catholic and Independent Schools, FACS, Their Futures Matter, CREATE, AbSec and ACWA.

At the latest Committee meeting in September, the Department of Education announced that it is now reviewing its current policy on suspensions and expulsions and will include consideration of unintended consequences for children and young people in care as a result of the existing policy. The Department also reported that it is conducting a review of Distance Education Enrolment Procedures to ensure each student is considered individually in regard to their best educational options, safety and these arrangements will be reviewed annually.

What’s Next?
ACWA will be hosting an Education and OOHC Roundtable later this month to consider priority areas of collaborative work in 2019. It follows the success of our inaugural Roundtable last October, which brought together high level decision makers in a day of presentations and intense discussion.