Waranara School, in Australia

Personalised teaching and learning support

Context

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand opened Waranara School, formerly known as The Waranara Centre, in February 2015. Initially catering to Years 9 and 10, the school has now expanded to include a senior campus for Years 11 and 12.

Waranara School assists students to achieve the Record of School Achievement (RoSA), Higher School Certificate (HSC) and pursue careers through access to work experience, vocational courses and certificate courses at TAFE (Technical and Further Education).

In particular, Waranara School assists young people experiencing anxiety or mental health challenges to stay connected to their education. Since educational outcomes are intrinsically linked to wellbeing, Waranara offers support to students across different aspects of their life.  This includes personalised teaching and learning support, specialised wellbeing support, and access to specialist adolescent and family counsellors on-site.

Personal approach

Waranara School is characterised by its personalised teaching and learning support. Young people benefit from small class sizes and a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach. Teachers work closely with students to identify their unique characteristics and skills, and develop learning strategies based on these strengths.

Staff work alongside Good Shepherd’s counselling team to support students to address issues that may affect their education or wellbeing. Counsellors may also invite parents to take part in sessions if it will benefit the young person. Young people and their families also have the opportunity to access other Good Shepherd programs and services. These include ParentWise, a parenting program for parents and carers of adolescents, and financial counselling.

Characteristics of the student body

A recent evaluation of Waranara School (Stockman, 2017) found close to three quarters of young people (72 per cent) surveyed experience at least one significant life challenge such as a diagnosed mental health issue, unstable housing or family violence. Forty per cent of all students experience more than one challenge.

In 2016, 60 per cent of the young people enrolled at Waranara School were young women. This could be attributed to the higher prevalence of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety among women, compared to men (Beyond Blue, 2017). 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people comprised nine per cent of the student body in 2017.

Philosophy

Waranara School believes all young people have the right to access education in an environment that responds to their personal needs and circumstances. Its educational philosophy is underpinned by six key principles: 

1     Holistic support

Students receive “wrap around” support services to help them increase their wellbeing and engage with education.

2     "One person is as important as the whole world" 

The school offers students tailored learning and wellbeing support based on their unique needs and circumstances.

3    Social Justice  

The school supports young people experiencing mental illness or significant life challenges to re-engage in education through specialised education and wellbeing support.

4     Student collaboration  

The school encourages students to identify goals and develop tailored, practical learning strategies in collaboration with their teachers. This empowers students to become the change-makers in their own lives.

5      Positive connections   

Teachers and staff focus on developing strong, positive relationships with young people so they can become more comfortable, confident and responsive to the education and wellbeing support provided to them.

6      Strength-based development 

The school is characterised by its strengths-based, student-centred approach. Teachers and staff work closely with students to identify and build on their strengths, inside and outside the classroom.

2017 Annual Report

The school published the 2017 Annual Report on the GSANZ website on 30 June 2018

https://www.goodshep.org.au/media/2082/2017-waranara-school-annual-report.pdf

2016 Evaluation

An evaluation of the school was undertaken by the WRAP team in 2016

https://www.goodshep.org.au/publications/evaluation-reports/