1. The Issue
The OELLEN identified a need to provide a program for newly arrived refugee students in their later teen years transitioning out of the Blackburn English Language Centre Croydon campus. Many of these young people who were keen to undertake VCE or VCAL studies or employment lacked the language skills necessary for a successful Year 12 completion or entry to the workforce. There were language programs such as AMEP available however; the young people felt uncomfortable sharing a learning environment with their parents, grandparents and extended families. They wanted a program where they could interact with their peers and acquire language contextualised to their age group. The only program that catered to their need was delivered by Melbourne Polytech and the distance was prohibitive for most of the students.
The OELLEN broker met with local secondary schools to discuss potential for provision of an EAL VCAL program with an intensive literacy component. The LLEN also met with local TAFEs to discuss the issue. Following this, the LLEN facilitated visits for teachers and TAFE trainers to see a couple of programs being delivered in other regions. The key challenges for TAFE provision were the cost of delivery and therefore the need to meet the requirements of the range of potential funding sources available to the students, and the need for a program that could cater for rolling enrolments.
Box Hill Institute (BHI) had commenced operating their Lilydale community campus and the LLEN approached the community planning officer who was willing to look into how they could provide such a program. The LLEN facilitated a number of meetings between a representative from Centrelink, Box Hill Institute and the language school to discuss development of a program that would address the challenges. From this, the BHI EAL program was developed and ready to be delivered at the Lilydale campus.
However, there was a further challenge that needed to be addressed prior to commencement. Many EAL parents had limited knowledge of Australian education systems, and some showed strong resistance to the TAFE education pathway. Therefore, a number of information sessions were held to enable parents to fully understand the aims and benefits of the proposed program. Interpreters were available to translate information and facilitate questions as it was deemed critical to the success of the program that parents had a clear understanding of the aims and objectives.
2. The Partnership (What was the partnership? Who was in the partnership?)
The partnership, brokered by the LLEN, was between Box Hill Institute, CAE, Blackburn English Language School (Croydon campus) and EAL teachers from local schools transitioning newly arrived refugee students from the Language Centre. A steering committee was established within the partnership to support, monitor and evaluate the program. The partnership grew out of concern that although the English Language Centre was able to develop students’ literacy and numeracy skills to a degree, some students were not able to reach the level required for further study within the timeframe of their enrolment at the language school. Local Secondary colleges did not at the time have the capacity to offer a language intensive program to enable these students to transition directly into a Year 12 course of study.
3. How was it successful – what was the evaluation evidence?
The success of the program and partnership was evidenced through the number of students who transitioned into a VCAL course of study after the first and second semester. The ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the program through the partnership steering committee contributed to the success as it enabled the provider to identify and respond to student needs as they arose. It was clear that some students had little knowledge of potential career pathways which led to the inclusion of TAFE ‘tasters’ into the program. This not only provided insight into a range of career options, but also ensured that the students remained engaged. Regular reports were provided to the language school to enable them to track the progress of students and therefore, success of the program.
Evaluation included anecdotal evidence which demonstrated how much the young people had developed in confidence and self-esteem. This development was also reflected in the formal presentations which students gave at a special graduation ceremony to acknowledge their achievement and mark their transition into the full VCAL program. Evaluation of the partnership highlighted what can be achieved through collaboration and provision of a targeted EAL program taking into account the background, age, life experiences and literacy levels of the students. A language intensive VCAL program has now been established at one of the secondary colleges within the partnership. This demonstrates that there is no longer a gap in provision for these students.
The sustainability and capacity of the partnership to incorporate change to address the current need has been demonstrated in the fact that the steering committee has now expanded to support the CAE Asylum Seeker Language and Literacy Program.
4. What was the value add of the LLEN?
The independent brokerage of the LLEN was critical to the success of the partnership. Without this, the program would not have commenced and a number of EAL students would have become disengaged from education and struggled to find employment. The LLEN was able to identify the possibilities, challenges and potential barriers; and bring relevant stakeholders together to determine how best to address the gap in provision. The brokerage of the LLEN as an independent body ensured that there was no vested, or conflict of interest and that one organisation did not drive the agenda. LLEN facilitation of the steering committee ensured that the partnership remained focused on the aims and objectives, and that the contribution of all partners was valued.