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Improving education for disadvantaged children


Brigid Veale
4 March 2008
A ground-breaking seminar at Southern Cross University next week will discuss how to improve the education of thousands of children in out-of-home care throughout NSW.

The free seminar 'Are we Making the Grade?' will bring together experts from a variety of government and non-government agencies and departments for the first time to discuss the issues that limit and encourage learning among children who have been removed from parental care. More than 10,000 children in NSW are in out-of-home care, living with someone other than their parents, including a significant number – more than 2000 – in the Northern Rivers region.

The seminar has grown out of research conducted through Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People by PhD candidate Michelle Townsend. Through interviews with 31 young people preparing to start high school, and 121 allied teaching and community service staff and carers, Michelle is discovering that abused and neglected children generally perform below their peers and leave school earlier than young people living with their families.

“Their learning and development is affected by their personal experiences, and a lack of prioritization, responsibility and resources,” Michelle said. “Achieving stability in their care and schooling is the key to improving the educational outcomes for these children.”

Michelle said the seminar would give stakeholders the opportunity to share their different perspectives, both to raise awareness and devise a range of strategies to help improve learning experiences for children.

“In many cases, children and young people in out-of-home care can benefit from early intervention and programs that address their special needs,” she said.

Personal insights from children in out-of-home care will be a feature of the seminar, along with presentations from professional panellists Anthony O’Brien, from the Far North Coast Network, NSW Department of Community Services; Leonie Parmenter, President of the Lismore Foster Carers Support Group; Clancy Benson from the North Coast Region NSW Department of Education and Training; and Youth Care United Protestant Association Program Manager Jeffrey McDonald.

The seminar aims to support foster and kinship carers and teaching and community service professionals. It will be held at Southern Cross University, Lismore campus, in Room H1.08 on Thursday 13 March from 4.30pm to 6.30pm. For more information and to book, phone 6620 3605.

Photo: Southern Cross University PhD candidate Michelle Townsend, from the Centre for Children and Young People.