Plans for special assistance school to support vulnerable kids

By Sage Swinton
SCHOOL: Allambi Cares Learning Without Walls program.

Plans have been lodged for a new education establishment to help children not engaged in mainstream education transition into schooling.

Allambi Care has applied to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) to change the use of its Clyde Inn premises at West Wallsend from a community facility to a secondary special assistance school. It is also seeking accreditation from the NSW Education Standards Authority for the space. DPIE has placed plans for the school on public exhibition.

The school will be used to continue a current program Allambi runs called Learning Without Walls, which helps disadvantaged children transition back into school.

Documents lodged with DPIE say the school is in response to the "increasing number of young people in out-of-home care, who are disengaged or excluded from both mainstream and alternative school options" and will specialise in educating kids experiencing disadvantage and/or trauma.

"Many of the individuals we care for are waiting for specialised classes within mainstream settings... whether that's due to their disability or background, there is options for them but many of them at times are waiting for those opportunities," Allambi Care CEO Simon Walsh said.

"Sometimes we're caring for kids that have come from out of area, and it's about making sure they feel safe and can integrate into a school setting so they can succeed."

"The work we do is not funded," Allambi Care director organisational development Mark Said added.

"Part of the purpose of going down the formal registration and accreditation process is to get some kind of funding to continue what we are doing which is to support some of the most vulnerable young people in the community.

Allambi Care CEO Simon Walsh.

"It will ensure longevity and sustainability of the program.""

Mr Walsh said the program came about after Allambi recognised a "gap".

"We didn't employ teachers at that stage but we found ourselves being in a position of supporting kids' learning experience," he said.

"We invested in some teachers and we saw some amazing improvements in the kids' confidence and willingness to engage and their grades."

While the West Wallsend site will become the operational base of the program, a satellite school will continue to operate throughout Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.

Operating during school hours, it is anticipated there will be up an enrolment capacity of 20 with about five to 10 kids onsite at any one time. The students are typically in the care of Allambi and will attend the school with their support worker.

"We still have a way to go before we achieve the accreditation for the Learning Without Walls program, however by applying to the DPIE for the change of usage to the premises, it does get us one step closer to having a fully accredited educational program," Mr Walsh said.

"We're not after reinventing what already exists in the community, this is about not leaving any kids behind."

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