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Heading in the right direction


The unique educational offerings of Compass Catholic Community have been embraced by young people in the northern suburbs, with enrolments hitting nearly 100 after only one year of operation.

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The fee-free secondary school for 17 to 24 year olds, many of whom have become disengaged from mainstream education, opened its doors at the start of 2022 with 30 students on its books. As word of the new school spread numbers have continued to increase, with enrolments now around 100 and views to expansion as it nears capacity.

Reflecting on the first year, principal Kelly Bunyon said the school’s unique model had been welcomed and they were receiving more referrals from the wider ‘helping’ community of service providers and social workers.

“Our students are also starting to bring their friends along – they are saying this place has really helped me and it might be good for you,” she said.

“We’re also finding more students who are not experiencing the success they wanted in Year 12 and are looking for a different experience to achieve all those goals that they had.

“We’re very fortunate as we have really great community support and good support from within Catholic Education and our fellow colleges around us. We get referrals for students from other colleges and the Department of Education too. In general, we don’t get a lot of negativity.”

The Early Years Hub

Last year also saw the completion of the impressive facilities at the Davoren Park site. The main building is the centrepiece of learning, with an outlying Kitchen Hub providing the opportunity for students to gain a Certificate I and II in Hospitality. A dedicated Early Years Hub offers care for pre-kindergarten aged children of students at the school.

Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan officially blessed the school last month, heralding the completion of stage one of a community services ‘village’ being developed by the Adelaide Archdiocese and Catholic Education SA.

Recognised as a Special Assistance School, Compass provides students the space and support to achieve their SACE and obtain VET certifications in a flexible and project-based setting with the assistance of 20 staff, including Learning facilitators (teachers), and Learning supporters (social workers). There are no set subjects, no bells and no uniforms and the good ratio of staff to students means there is individualised support.

“We take that long view…that longer game of how you can bring an education together with the student at the centre,” Ms Bunyon explained.

“Our young people have been to a lot of different schools and we like talking about a constellation of educational options for them here.

“We are not for everyone and that’s OK, but if it hasn’t worked for you somewhere else then maybe this can.

Students undertake prep work for making apple crumble in the Kitchen Hub.

“It’s about providing high support, and wellbeing is embedded in everything.

“What we offer here is unique.”

Compass’ Partnerships lead, Scott Hockenhull, said one of the highlights of 2022 was the Celebration Day held at the end of Term 4, where every student was presented a pin to recognise their efforts during the year.

“For some young people their goal is finishing something, seeing something through and being successful,” he said.

“Graduating is often seen as the be all and end all but those little bite-size chunks of success on the way, we make sure we always celebrate them.”

Celebration Day also acknowledged four students who graduated and left the school during the year. One is now an apprentice chef and the others have gone onto further studies at university and TAFE. And with 90 per cent of students attending Compass coming from the City of Playford, five awards – celebrating bravery, faith, perseverance, community and academic achievement – were presented by Playford mayor Glenn Docherty.

Ms Bunyon said the metaphor of a compass epitomised the purpose of the school.

“A compass is not a map, it doesn’t tell you where to go,” she said. “Instead, it is a tool that helps you get where you want to go. And if you get where you were going and you don’t like it there, it’s okay, you can go somewhere else.

“Here at Compass it is all about dignity…it’s about living a life that is meaningful to you.”


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