Twenty years since it opened to a cohort of 20 students, [email protected] Galilee School is expanding to help vulnerable students attain a Year 12 certificate, offering places to senior secondary college students for the first time this week.
When mainstream school environments struggle to deliver positive learning outcomes for disengaged and vulnerable young people, the Galilee School offers an alternative.
The original Kambah campus sits on a 200-hectare piece of bushland, previously occupied by an old dairy farm, and the school provides bus transport to students who need a lift there and back.
Galilee School principal Tim McNevin said the rural location was “tremendously therapeutic and calming” for students, which was valuable given the nature of the school cohort, and their social and emotional needs.
Galilee School students may be dealing with issues such as homelessness, trauma, mental health and domestic and family violence.
One of the school’s first Year 11 students, Oliver O’Shea, said he believed he wouldn’t have graduated Year 10 without the help of the alternative high school.
“The support here is amazing,” he said.
“It’s a much quieter learning environment and everyone’s pretty good friends with each other.”
Mr O’Shea is looking forward to being part of the school’s first Year 12 class in 2022.
In recent years, the Galilee School observed a trend: many graduating Year 10 students were not thriving when forced to move back to mainstream schools or on to further training opportunities.
Mr McNevin said the school expansion will provide a positive pathway to academic success and significantly improve students’ chances of achieving their Year 12 certificate.
“We focus on the social and emotional wellbeing of students first and their education needs second, and I think this is the key to enabling these students to rediscover themselves as learners and grow into confident, capable young people with hope for the future.”
The close-knit environment at Galilee School is much smaller than mainstream colleges in the ACT, with fewer than 40 students enrolled across Years 7-10 this year, and 19 enrolled to begin Year 11.
Students complete their schooling at the Kambah campus until Year 10, when they shift to a campus in Holder, and Mr McNevin said this accelerated teenagers’ maturity and confidence.
“What we want to do is build our young peoples’ capacity to function as effective members of society, we don’t want them to have too much dependency on us.
“Year 10s have a bit more autonomy, more empowerment, by moving out to Holder.”
The first group of Year 11s will study in Holder, while the construction of a dedicated senior secondary college building takes place in Kambah.
Building will commence in Term 1 this year and is scheduled for completion by the beginning of the 2022 school year.
Mr McNevin said a “boutique” range of accredited subjects for college students were chosen strategically, to meet ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies requirements without overwhelming students.
Morning classes will run from 9am to 12pm followed by an afternoon block from 12.30pm to 3.30pm, with breaks built in around the needs of the young people.
Students must attend four blocks per week, usually completed over two full days.
A third day each week is a supported study day, and Mr McNevin said this is where the Galilee School’s approach differs from mainstream schools.
Students who opt to attend use the time to catch up on work, ask questions, seek additional support with their schoolwork, and get started on assessment.
The remaining one or two school days will occur off-campus, with work experience, volunteering, or pursuing a vocational opportunity.
“We’re in a very exciting stage of our school’s history,” said Mr McNevin, “there’s a lot of good, strong positive momentum.
“It’s a real privilege to be part of their life journeys and know we’ve made a positive impact.”
Galilee School is open to receiving referrals throughout the year, and school staff work with a young person’s family to find the best time for them to make the transition.
At this stage, the school is not accepting further enrolments for students entering Year 11 in Term 1 2021.