Alana Sinnamon from BRYH decribes their collaborative partnership of schools, community organisations and government

This collaboration was initiated by a need for the six regional Bundaberg state high schools to ensure that their students were being supported within the areas of social and emotional wellbeing. The notion was held that if schools work with community organisations to assist a student’s social and emotional needs, then additional collaborative support will be present in a student’s journey through high school. High schools were seeing a higher number of emotional and social issues arising, creating an urgency to develop these partnerships with community.

At the same time the Pursuing Equity Through Rich Accountabilities (PETRA) project had been sanctioned by the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE). PETRA was conducted through a partnership between the University of Queensland, Victoria University and DETE. The region is noted as among the lowest socio-economic (SES) areas in Australia and education is more regionalised than elsewhere in the country. The project aims to benefit by improving education outcomes for students in disadvantaged rural communities by facilitating collaborative work across schools, communities and governments to develop rich and meaningful accounts of projective teaching and learning that enables students in low SES rural areas to be successful at school, and provide a better picture of what makes a difference for these students.

From the start, the partnership has been about raising awareness and being much more effective and efficient by working together in a coordinated, collaborative way. The biggest issue faced in the beginning (and has proven to be ongoing) is the acquiring of data, due to local and state government rules around privacy and confidentiality laws, in using specific collection tools/type of data that are able to be shared.  Individual organisations had similar issues and data gathering focused on generalized, rather than specific, issues. Issues around meeting attendances  were resolved by negotiating times, days and the locations for meetings. Further problems that were identified included: perceived mismatch between areas of need and availability of relevant services; possible over-servicing of clients accessing multiple agencies; feedback to schools on services students were independently accessing; school personnel lacking clarity about what services were available and the best ways to access them. The regular communications between members of the Hub assist in addressing these concerns.

Collaboration of regional and school personnel from DETE, Bundaberg Regional Council and Kepnock State High School Principal as the lead Principal representative, enabled BRYH to grow from concept to a working organisation. In its current form, a management group comprised of the CEOs or general managers of the 30 partner organisations, serves as the reference group and steering committee. This group was responsible for the development of the Partnership Agreement and the Terms of Reference for the Hub.

The day-to-day operations of the Hub are the collaborative work of the assigned front-line staff in each organisation who meet on a regular basis to share information and ideas. The recent injection of funding through Education Queensland’s Collaboration and Innovation Project has enabled the Hub to move into its next phase with the focus on careers and pathways. Many hours have been spent on agenda preparation, communication of minutes, meeting arrangements and the ‘Terms of Reference’ document, with individuals completing this work in addition to their ‘day jobs’.  After  18 months of working with numerous organisations, 20 of these parties  signed the partnership document and 30 were listed within the document.

A number of legislative documents were required to be listed in the partnership document, including:

  • The Queensland Privacy Act 2009
  • Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 s.426
  • Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) Part 6 s. 186
  • Department of Employment and Training’s Code of Conduct Standard of Practice
  • Department of Employment and Training’s  procedure on Student Protection
  • Declaration of the Rights of the Child
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Queensland Information  Privacy Act (2009) governs how BRYH members deal with the collection, security, quality, use and disclosure of each student’s personal information.

We realised by the end of 2014 that for BRYH to be sustainable, we needed people to work for the organisation. We were able to achieve this by the six state schools applying for and receiving, through the Collaborative Innovation Fund Project (state schooling funding for three years), $500 000. This funding was primarily received to enable us to deliver the second aim of BRYH – Transitions and Pathways – through a careers/pathways project as the focus project across the six state high schools.

The subsequent support now available through the Hub as a result has already, after just fourmonths, been invaluable. Our Careers Project focuses on students’ career aspirations from Year 7 to 12 and how these aspirations can change depending on the career programs/focus delivered in our six regional state high schools. The six state high schools have worked closely with the regional Senior Guidance Officer and their own guidance staff to ensure all staff are focused on preparing students for successful post-school engagement. An Industry Reference group, comprised of leaders in key industry/business sectors in the Bundaberg area, Bundaberg Regional Council,  the six state high school principals and DETE and Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) regional personnel, is steering this important phase of the Hub’s work.

The underlying premise is of course that our students must be socially, emotionally and academically prepared for life after school, and the emotional and social collaborative action through school staff and the hub network provides the underpinning essential network intervention that enables the skills component to be delivered by schools in a way that best engages students and allows them to understand the skills needed for contributing to the community.

Through this Collaborative and Innovation funding, the state schools are employing two people for the next two and a half years, primarily to work on the careers project, with one staff member also coordinating the Hub Operations group.  We hope that our focus on intensive support, targeted resources and systematic guidance systems will assist our students to find multi-destination pathways that contribute to their chosen community after school.

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