Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Progress to date
Fourteen young people who were previously not attending school, work or any other form of training are enrolled in the Pathways Project. The aim of the project is to reconnect these young people with a successful learning pathway that may lead back to formal schooling, a traineeship or apprenticeship, employment, or university.
To enrol, each young person had to meet with the project’s full time teacher, Caterina di Girolamo, accompanied by a member of their family or a carer.
The day begins with breakfast around 9.30 am and concludes when the GYS Drop-in opens at 3pm.
The attic studio in the Youthie that functions as our learning space has had a new coat of paint and it’s been re-carpeted. There are ten computers connected to the Internet and, before too long, the Department of Housing has promised to line the roof with insulation.
The curriculum development team meets every week, and the community engagement team is also continuing to meet regularly.

Supporting one student at a time to explore their interests
A key element of the Big Picture design that underpins the project is supporting one student at a time to discover and explore what interests them. The plan for this term is to establish a clearer sense of each young person’s interests. Visual diaries, blogs, and zines are just some of the ways each learner is being assisted to tell and develop their story.
It’s hard to be interested in something if you don’t know about it: Does the interest come first or the exploring the world? The learning program is designed to help students ‘see’ and ‘explore’ the world in order that they might find their interests. We are doing this by getting them out and about, and observing them in different settings while interacting with different people.
A group project is also being planned that will allow the students to work together and get to know each other. A number of options are being explored including making a film and making items to sell at a market stall.
We are exploring opportunities for each young person to experience success by connecting them to enjoyable and rewarding experiences. With time, we see a critical role for mentors to connect with and support individual students.

Volunteers and advisors
Talented and generous individuals continue to offer their support to the project. For example, Dr Romaine Moreton, an artist and an academic whose work promotes Indigenous knowledge, philosophy and cultural practices, has agreed to work with us to embed the project in an Indigenous cultural framework. Romaine will assist us to recognise and connect with culturally relevant knowledge and practices.
We are also seeking experienced educators who would be willing to spend about 2-3 hours assisting the teaching team on a regular basis. This might involve one-on-one work with an individual learner, or simply the supportive presence of another adult in the informal setting of the classroom.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

High expectations - part of the Stronger Smarter philosophy

The Indigenous Education Leadership Institute based at Queensland University of Technology is lead by Dr Chris Sarra and underpinned by the Stronger Smarter Philosophy:

1. Acknowledging, embracing and developing a positive sense of Aboriginal identity in schools;
2. Acknowledging and embracing Aboriginal leadership in schools and school communities;
3. ‘High expectations’ leadership to ensure ‘high expectations’ classrooms, with ‘high expectations’ teacher / student relationships;
4. Innovative and dynamic school models in complex social and cultural contexts; and
5. Innovative and dynamic school staffing models, especially for community schools.

The Pathways Project draws upon good ideas in education to provide learning opportunities for kids not currently in school, training or work. It is a work in progress and we are exploring ways of working with this philosophy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaching team appointed.

In September, the teaching team was appointed to the new learning program which will commence operating at the Glebe Youth Service from October 19.
Caterina di Girolamo is the full time teacher, Paul Drury will be working as a part time teacher (2 days/week), and Jan Flanagan will be assisting Caterina and Paul on a full time basis.
All are experienced educators who bring a wide range of skills to the new learning program.
In recent weeks the team has attended a three-day workshop run by Big Picture Education, Australia in Shepparton, Victoria. They also met with John Hogan (Big Picture) for three days in Sydney.
Ann King and Margaret Wheeler (both former principals) are working with the team as advisors.
In the coming weeks, the teaching team will contribute to this blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

INVITATION: Briefing session on new learning program

Interested educators and community members are invited to attend a briefing session where the features of the non-school based program commencing at the Glebe Youth Service in Term 4 (October) will be outlined.

Date: Wednesday Aug 26 from 8.30am to 11.00am
Venue: Glebe Youth Service, 84 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

A brief history of the GYS learning program by Roelof Smilde

In 2003 the Glebe Youth Service started a year 10 program designed to attract the many young adolescents who had dropped off their schooling. The great majority of those who became students were from the Glebe Estate. Initially the course was staffed by volunteers and then for two years was funded by TAFE under a start-up program.

Funding trouble started in the financial year 2007-8. A private foundation helped out to the end of 2007 and in second term 2008 DET provided two teachers and a teacher’s aide from Edgeware Special School. This program was named Re-Engage, the focus was not on year 10 and the School Certificate, but aimed to have the students re-engaged in main stream high school by the end of term 4. The program was not a success and was discontinued.

Late in 2008 the GYS co-ordinator and a board member who had been involved with the year 10 program from the beginning approached the recently appointed Minister for Education Verity Firth, the local member for the area.
The plan put forward was for a pilot program of three years, funded by DET, under the auspices of the Sydney Secondary College, and guided by the principles that had evolved during the running of the course over the previous five years.

The Minister’s response was very positive (she had been a strong supporter of the GYS for some time) and the proposal was put through the system. During this process a Sydney University Education group and the Glebe Development Project became involved and were able to add a lot of strength to the push behind this ambitious project. Two of the initiatives were an evaluation of the GYS program up to the end of 2008 and a very large meeting of interested parties from many different corners of education in this country. This meeting of 28 people unanimously endorsed the proposal put before the Minister and emphasised the need for a personalised approach outside of main stream high schooling.

Despite the difficulties presented by a very tight State budget and some bureaucratic resistance Ms Firth was able to secure the passage of the proposal in May. The program is basically as envisaged, is to run as a pilot for three years, is funded to supply a full-time teacher, a part-time teacher and a teacher’s aide, and is to be ready to commence at the beginning of term 4 this year.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Questions & Answers: two months and counting

It's almost two months since our first meeting on May 15. In that time, the number of people involved in the Pathways Project has expanded and we have established three teams: Strategic Planning, Community Engagement and Curriculum Design.

In a project like ours, it’s important to keep everyone informed and involved. This blog is one means of sharing information, and we will continue to circulate meeting notes. Below, I’ve also attempted to answer some recurring questions.

What do we want?
To engage young people in Glebe who are not currently attending school or involved in work or training in an intellectually rigorous educational pathway

Who are 'we'?
A broad-based collaboration of partners originally composed of members of the Glebe Community Development Program Steering Group that has now expanded to include other organisations and community members (see partners list and links in right hand margin of this blog).

How do we work together?
Process is an important feature of this partnership. As the members are located in different institutional settings, and bring a range of experiences and knowledge, we value transparency and recognise the need to communicate regularly and effectively across the project. Decisions are made in collaboration after consultation.

What will the new learning program look like?
In the briefing paper that was prepared by the University of Sydney and used to support the application for funding, it was recommended that the new Glebe learning program be ongoing and connect with young people's interests, meet young people's needs and provide access to educational credentials.

Why can't we just reinstate the old program that used to run at the Glebe Youth Service?
There was more than one program that ran at Glebe. The first was more focused on providing educational credentials (2004-7), the second was more focused on reengaging young people in school (2008). Both were unstable because they did not have secure funding sources, and the program did not continue in 2009.

How can we create a learning program before we know what the interests are of the young people who will participate?
Building the new learning program around the interests of young people is a learning design principle. The real challenge is putting this design principle to work through practice. It's a bit like saying I want an environmentally sustainable house. The real challenge is building the house to suit the location with the available materials. The principle guides the construction but there is a well developed blueprint before any work begins. Similarly, the principle of starting with the interests of young people guides the development of the new learning program but we need a well developed curriculum (purpose, pedagogy and practice) before we take in any students.

What models are available that we can learn from and apply at Glebe?
There are a number of school improvement programs that have solid evidence of success in improving test scores (see May 24 blog). There are also a number of highly regarded curriculum designs that have guided educational programs attempting to meet the needs of students are generally not well served by school (see right margin list and links).

What are common features of innovative curriculum designs?
The following features are common to the NSW Priority Action School (PAS), The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), the Stanford School Redesign Network (SRN) and Big Picture Education (BP)
  • Small be design - CES, SRN, BP
  • Rigour - CES, SRN, PAS, BP
  • Relationships - CES, SRN, PAS, BP
  • Relevance - SRN, PAS, BP
  • Multicultural & anti-racist teaching - SRN, PAS, BP
  • Personalised learning - CES, SRN, BP
  • Pursuing passions & interests - BP
  • Family involvement - CES, SRN, PAS, BP
  • Learning through internships - BP
  • Authentic assessment - CES, SRN, BP
  • Strong community involvement - SRN, PAS, BP
  • Secure connections to further learning, training or work- BP
How do we put these principles to work in Glebe?
There is good evidence to suggest that the availability of materials and training is a critical factor when attempting to implement a set of learning design principles that have been shown to work elsewhere.

Why has the Pathways Project started to engage with Big Picture Education?
Big Picture Education can support us with materials and training. Big Picture design principles are comprehensive and resonate with the goals of our project, and those of other well respected learning principles. Big Picture people are known to and respected by many of the educators involved in the Pathways Project.

What happens now?
We need continue to work together in and across the three teams we have established to seek other funding sources, improve the facilities at the Glebe Youth Service, engage with the community and construct the learning program informed by the design principles that we value.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What works?: what the research says

In the US, Congress and other educational policymakers have made some funding sources available only to schools that implement educational reforms with high-quality evidence of effectiveness. In an extensive meta-analysis, Borman et al (2003) reviewed research on the achievement effects of externally developed school improvement programs in the US known as whole-school or comprehensive school reforms (CSR). They also synthesised research on the effects of the 29 most widely implemented CSR. Borman et al identified three CSR models that met the highest standard of evidence to show that across varying contexts and varying study designs, their effects are relatively robust and, in general, can be expected to improve students’ test scores: Direct Instruction, School Development Program and Success for all.

Direct Instruction
Developer: Siegfried Engelmann (University of Oregon). Primary goal: Improve academic performance so that by fifth grade, students are at least a year and a half beyond grade level.
Main features:
1. Field-tested reading, language arts, and math curricula.
2. Highly scripted lesson strategies.
3. Extensive writing.
4. Highly interactive lessons presented to small groups of students, flexible grouping students by performance level, frequent assessment of student progress, no pull-out programs.

For Grades K-6. Detailed materials provide by publisher.

School Development Program

Developer: James Comer, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
Primary goal: Mobilize entire community of adult caretakers to support students' holistic development to bring about academic success.
Main features:
1. Three teams (school planning and management team, student and staff support team, parent team).
2. Three operations (comprehensive school plan, staff development plan, monitoring and assessment).
3. Three guiding principles (no-fault, consensus, collaboration).

For Grades K-12. Training and manual provided with teaching materials.

Success for All

Developer: Robert Slavin, Nancy Madden, and a team of developers from Johns Hopkins University. Now based at the Success for All Foundation in Baltimore.
Primary goal: Guarantee that every child will learn to read.
Main features:
1. Research-based, prescribed curriculum in the areas of reading, writing, and language arts.
2. One-to-one tutoring, family support team, cooperative learning, on-site facilitator, and building advisory team.

For Grades Pre-K-8. Usually, all materials are provided. Training required.
A number of schools in Australia belong to the National Schools Network which has strong links to the work of the Coalition of Essential Schools:
Developer: Ted Sizer, Brown University, Providence,RI. Now based in Oakland, CA.
Primary goal: Help create schools where students learn to use their minds well.
Main features:
1. Set of Ten Common Principles on which schools base their practice.
2. Personalized learning.
3. Mastery of a few essential subjects and skills.
4. Graduationb y exhibition.
5. Sense of community.
6. Instruction and organization depend on how each school interprets the Common Principles (may involve interdisciplinaryin struction, authentic projects, etc.).

For Grades K-12. No materials. Range of training options mostly provided by regional centers.


Comprehensive School Reform and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis Author(s): Geoffrey D. Borman, Gina M. Hewes, Laura T. Overman, Shelly Brown Source: Review of Educational Research, Vol. 73, No. 2 (Summer, 2003), pp. 125-230 Published by: American Educational Research Association

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Working Group forms three teams

Curriculum Design Team: The purpose of this team is to draw upon current research and best practice approaches to develop a curriculum that engages young people who are not well served by traditional educational pathways. It will draw upon Big Picture Education Australia Design Principles, small and urban schools research in the US, whole school change research and creative pathways projects in the UK, and research within the tradition of making a difference in Australia.

Community Engagement Team: The purpose of this team is to provide tangible and correct information about the Project to young people, their families and interested community members. The team will consult frequently with these groups, and work to ensure that their concerns, hopes and opinions are incorporated into the Pathways Project.

Strategic Planning Team: The purpose of this team is to liaise with key individuals and organisations external to the project. This team will consider matters such as funding, infrastructure, human resources, OH&S, etc

Members of the Pathways Project gathered at the University of Sydney on May 15

We acknowledged the importance of a personalised, localised response to young people that listens closely to their needs. We agreed to work together in the following ways:
  • Build a partnership with purpose
  • Recognise the importance of innovators and instigators with big ideas
  • Do what needs to be done to make it work
  • Turn failure into success
  • Commit to engaging young people and families
  • Bring together different perspectives
  • Involve community members and organisations
  • Build relationships of trust
  • Reject one-size-fits-all
  • Secure commitment and funding
  • Build consensus among partners
  • Support a two-way process
  • Sustainably

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How young people are faring 2008

One of the purposes of this blog is to make available a range of resources to participants in the Pathways Project. The Dusseldorp Skills Forum provides an important source of information about young people in Australia through its regular report titled How young people are faring, the 2008 report states that:

Low SES school leavers are far less likely to undertake study and training in their first year (45 per cent as against 68 per cent for high SES school leavers). University entry sharply divides school leavers along SES lines — 13.3 per cent for low SES school leavers compared to 52.6 per cent for high SES leavers. Marginal attachment to the labour force (unemployment, part-time work and not in the labour force) is also much higher among low SES students and falls as SES rises. That such striking disparities remain despite continuous economic growth over the past decade suggests that in terms of accessing education and training, Australia remains socially divided. (p.20)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Two concerns about schooling

'Across the world, policymakers, teachers and education scholars express two concerns about schooling:

(1) Too many children and young people fail in school, leave early, or are bored and disengaged. Schools could do more to successfully educate all children and young people.

(2) Schools are a 19th century invention and the modifications made to its basic form are still inadequate to prepare children and young people for citizenship, family life and work in the 21st century.'

This is a quote from Pat Thomson's introduction to her review of the literature on whole school change. The review was written for Creative Partnerships (Arts Council, England) which fosters innovative, long-term partnerships between schools and creative professionals, to inspire young people, teachers and creative professionals to challenge how they work and experiment with new ideas.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Welcome to the Pathways Project blog

Since 2003, the Glebe Youth Service has responded to requests from young people not in school to provide a means by which they could complete Year 10. For a range of complex reasons, traditional pathways have not worked for these young people. Difficulties associated with securing ongoing funding to meet their needs have provided the impetus for members of the education steering group of the Glebe Community Development Program to create the Pathways Project.

This blog has been created to facilitate communication between organisations willing to support the long-term goals of the Project.

The first meeting of the Pathways Project will be held on May 15. Details can be obtained by contacting glebecdp@bigpond.net.au

Participants will have the opportunity to hear from community-based workers, and to learn about existing local programs, as well as related programs operating elsewhere in Australia and overseas that have been established to meet the needs of young people not well served by traditional educational pathways.

There have been numerous changes to funding at the federal and state level, and possible new and established sources of support will be explored. A goal of the meeting will be to prepare a plan of action to address the unmet educational and training needs of local youth.