New research shows that a flexible learning program is helping motivate students and getting to the root causes behind educational disengagement.
The research, by Mission Australia and University of Adelaide, shows that the Flexible Learning Options (FLO) program in South Australia is not only re-engaging hundreds of high school students with their learning, but having a potentially life-saving impact on young people who are facing a range of complex issues.
FLO was implemented from 2007 onwards by the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) of the South Australian Government as a social inclusion initiative to help address poor school retention rates.
The evaluation report highlights that quality intensive casework support is critical to the program’s success in addressing the multiple and complex barriers that can affect a young person’s ability to stay in school, their social participation and achievement of positive learning and self-development outcomes.
Young participants involved in the evaluation identified the FLO casework support to be the single most important and personally transformative element of the service.
Mission Australia’s regional leader, Adam Sherwood, said feedback showed that students value their meaningful relationship of trust with their FLO caseworker above all other services that they access.
“There are very few programs like FLO that work to address the root causes as to why a young person isn’t engaging with learning, such as mental health concerns, bullying, homelessness, intergenerational poverty or low literacy levels,” Sherwood said.
“FLO offers a flexible, person-centred, practical approach to address the complex issues that stand between a young person and their future aspirations, while also working to immediately ensure stable reconnection of that young person with learning in a way that works best for them.”
Sherwood said the program is vital in helping vulnerable young people to build important life skills, which increases their potential to become “productive, responsible and socially engaged and informed adults.”
“The evidence highlights the importance of tailored casework to help them to take the lead in addressing their individual challenges, boost aspirations, achieve learning goals as well as pursue post-school employment, training and further learning goals,” he said.
“We encourage the South Australian government to continue the FLO program for the long-term and we urge other governments to consider replicating this vital program so that more young people in need can benefit from such a flexible and supportive approach to support and learning.”
Sherwood said there are too many young people in South Australia and across the nation who are “falling through the cracks” which has significant impacts on Australia’s productivity and the life and health outcomes of students.
“This is why we are calling for continued government commitment to this evidence -based program that has clear and positive outcomes,” Sherwood said.