PORT SCHOOL in Hamilton Hill has moved closer to opening a groundbreaking parenting centre on site after scoring a $69,000 grant from the Abbott government.
Project manager Mike Gilbert told the Herald the school started looking into the project after realising too many young students were dropping out after getting pregnant. Port is a CARE school, meaning it takes on students who struggle in mainstream education.
He started investigating what services were offering around the region and said while there was support for young mums and dads available, there was no one-stop venue where they could get parenting advice, childcare and an education.
That meant lots of young mums just gave up on their education and hopes of having a fulfilling career.
So the school purchased two Homeswest units behind its Carrington Street property (thankfully waving goodbye to some pretty hardcore tenants) and is in the process of converting them.
Mr Gilbert hopes the centre will be up and running by early next year, catering for up to 40 children aged up to four years old.
He says there’s no shortage of demand.
“We rang around some of the service organisations and [child protection] got straight back to us and said they have 34 young mums who they could refer immediately,” he said.
The school aims to make the centre self-sustainable, as it can get funding of up to $100 a day for each baby from government departments. That’ll help to provide youth workers, child health professionals and support agencies.
He says the first step is to engage the parents with the centre before trying to steer them into the school’s education programs.
“You have to go softly because the research shows you have to do a lot of work just to get them out of the home,” he said.
Getting kids out of their home and into the class is Port’s specialty, although Mr Gilbert says that’s not always easy and classes are often less than half full. But he says their students are usually from such tough backgrounds and have had so little success in the mainstream that even showing their face is considered a success.
The school entices them in with outreach programs such as a recently-acquired bus that’s used as an outside classroom. There’s also a program which gets the students an overseas trip to volunteer at a third-world school, though that’s been cancelled this year as part of a tough penalty for some misbehaviour.
They also link in with trade organisations and the beauty school at Challenger. One of the beneficiaries of that approach is Shaun Brebner, who’s 12-month trade placement is going towards building the parenting centre.
Mr Gilbert says there are seven CARE schools throughout the state, and the model is so successful that there’s been talk of dismantling the education department’s ‘behaviour schools’ and converting them to the CARE model.
Last week newly minted WA Liberal senator Linda Reynolds visited the school to congratulate it on the federal grant.
“The Australian government believes that students come first and a quality education gives our young people the opportunity to achieve personal success and contribute to our nation,” Sen Reynolds said.
by STEVE GRANT