Relaxed and comfortable sitting in the beautiful surroundings of one of Catholic Education’s newest schools, Brandon looks around and admits if he wasn’t here right now there is every chance he “might be struggling a lot”.
At his previous school he said he had gone off the rails; missing lots of days until he eventually dropped out completely. Some of the obstacles with mainstream education were just too hard to overcome and while Brandon hadn’t given up hope of continuing his education in some form, he was concerned about what the future would hold for him.
On a suggestion from his support worker he decided to check out the new Compass Catholic Community school being built at Davoren Park and it has proved to be a game changer.
Speaking with The Southern Cross after completing the 11-week first term, Brandon, who will turn 18 next month, was pleased to report a 100 per cent attendance record. He is learning and is inspired and has found his niche. He hopes that by building his skills and confidence he may be able to tackle an apprenticeship in the future.
“I got into the wrong crowd and my attendance was really bad at my last school and I never went back,” he explained.
“Now I haven’t missed a day here so far.
“I like the one-on-one support, my previous schools hadn’t had that. If I hadn’t found Compass I think I might be struggling a lot.”
A fee-free secondary school for 17 to 24 year olds, Compass offers SACE and VET, but in a flexible and project-based learning setting. Learning takes place in small groups with a teacher mentor who constructs the curriculum based on the young person’s interests and goals from learning.
For Brandon, this term saw him pursuing art projects as well as learning how to make garden boxes, which involved visits to local community gardens to undertake research.
“We are looking at getting a grant for a community garden here so Brandon has been researching the garden box component,” said Compass’ Partnerships lead Scott Hockenhull.
“We’re very proud of how well he is going and how far he has come from day one, and we can’t wait to see what he does in the next year or two.”
At 24, Becca is one of the oldest students at the school and has thrown herself into art projects such as screen printing.
“I finished high school, got my SACE but it was still kind of rough for me,” she said. “I definitely was very anxious in high school and so I haven’t studied since.”
Hearing about Compass through one of her Mum’s friends, Becca decided this might be her best shot at increasing her skillset and fulfilling a dream to work in the creative arts.
“It sounded like a nice way to get back into study, a bit more comfortable and not as heavily structured. I was trying to find some direction and this has really helped, having people to guide me in different areas.
“It is giving me somewhere to be every day of the week, having some routine.
“I would love to have a small business one day with my own products and I am working towards having a portfolio.”
Becca added she welcomed the friendships she had formed with other students and getting together for the free breakfast provided each morning was a bonus.
“I never used to be a breakfast person, but I am now,” she laughed.
Mother of two, Amber, 22, admits she thought it was too good to be true when she attended an interview at Compass with her partner Kyle.
“When I left the interview … I thought it must be a scam because they were offering a free childminding which is amazing,” she said.
“Compass has given me the chance to do what I actually want to do, which with two kids I didn’t think would be possible.”
Having finished Year 12 on the FLO (Flexible Learning Options) program, Amber is now continuing her studies, undertaking SACE subjects at Compass and working toward completion of a Foundation Studies course at Flinders University, with hopes of eventually studying midwifery.
She currently works nights as a disability care support worker so is grateful that Compass is flexible and understanding of her needs.
“We set our own goals here and Compass just helps us achieve them,” she said.
Amber, Becca and Brandon are three of the 46 young people currently enrolled at Compass, with a couple of new students from the local area joining every week.
For principal Kelly Bunyon it has been an “amazing” start for her team who are “deeply involved” in all aspects of the student’s life. They understand that removing the barriers that often prevent young people from completing mainstream schooling – such as social, emotional or behavioural difficulties – is fundamental in allowing the student to thrive.
“That holistic approach is really what sets us apart,” she said.
“Education is important but it is very hard to focus on education if you are hungry or you don’t have anywhere to sleep tonight, or if you’re living in a domestic violence situation.
“We have a high ratio of staff to students here so we can provide that really individualised, personalised support.
“We’re really invested in these young people, we care about them.”
Some of the offerings at the new school include a purpose-built childminding facility for pre-kindy aged children that will open in Term 2. Also opening this term is a commercial kitchen so students can undertake a Certificate 1 in hospitality, and the completion of landscaping will provide a beautiful outside space.
Ms Bunyon said the Special Assistance School differed from others in that there were no set subjects, no bells and no uniforms and if a student needed time away due to illness or caring duties they “are always welcome to re-engage and come back again”.
A free breakfast is provided every morning and there are full time social workers on site.
Mooted more than five years ago by the Adelaide Archdiocese and Catholic Education, the school is the first stage of a community services ‘village’ that will be developed in coming years at the site.
Ms Bunyon said she felt honoured to be involved in such a worthwhile project.
“It is a privilege to work side by side with a group of staff and young people towards a common goal of making the northern suburbs and our community a better place,” she said.
“Not everyone gets that much purpose in their daily life, so that’s why I get out of bed.”Jump to next article