• Save the Children’s Out-Teach Mobile Education program in Tasmania is helping young offenders get their lives back on track.

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    Save the Children’s Mobile Education program literally operates from the back of a van.

    It’s a one-on-one outreach teaching initiative that aims to re-connect students who are disengaged or at risk of disengaging from education.

    Dane Paulsen’s students are aged between 10 and 18 and have all had some level of involvement in the criminal justice system.

    The back-stories of his students vary greatly but often include trauma, abuse and neglect. By the time these kids reach high school their confidence is often low, they lack self-belief and struggle to form productive relationships with their teachers and peers.

    “I’m not interested in what they’ve done or why they got into trouble,” Dane explains.

    “For me that doesn’t define them – what’s really important is where they want to go and them being in control of that. I think sometimes them getting into trouble with the law, that’s really them losing control, and I’d like to help them regain that.”

    The Out-Teach program helps young people start believing in a positive future again.

    Holly* joined the Out-Teach program in 2015 after coming through the Supporting Young People Through Bail program.

    She had a history of being suspended through primary school and her behavioural issues continued into High School. By the time she met Dane she was failing all her subjects and not coping well with the classroom dynamics.

    “I find it hard to concentrate when everyone’s talking,” says Holly.

    “And I find it hard to do things without having one-on-one work. Like being shown actually how to do the work. Otherwise I don’t understand it. Then in the classroom, I’m just left sitting there thinking ‘what do I do, how am I supposed to understand it’”.

    When she began the Out-Teach program with Dane, Holly’s main aim was to improve her grades.

    The mobile education van provided the opportunity to work in different settings outside of the classroom. It also gave Holly the exclusive attention she needed and the flexibility to approach learning from a different perspective.

    “I enjoy doing the one-on-one work and having someone sit there and help you understand the work. Dane makes it easier to understand the questions and actually shows you how to understand the work… I find it easier to work outside of school than being in school. It’s a lot easier.”

    By the end of her first year in the program, Holly passed all of her subjects. But both she and Dane are quick to point out that their sessions are about more than just grades.

    The intention of the program is to re-engage young people with education. To recognise they don’t necessarily have to reach their goals through conventional means and to instil a belief in the possibility of success and a positive future.

    “I felt really good last year,’ Holly tells us. “Knowing that I actually finished it. Like I didn’t think I was going to. At all. I didn’t think I was going to pass. So I was really happy that I did.”

    We asked her what made her most proud.

    “Probably moving back into mainstream and knowing that I could actually do it, knowing I could actually sit in a classroom and not get annoyed with the teachers. And not say anything back to the teachers. Like I treat them more as a friend now, with more respect. I don’t swear at them and stuff, coz they’re actually there to help me and now I realise that. That’s one thing that I’m proud of, that I actually realise that.”

    Moving Forward

    There’s no doubt that the Out-Teach program in Tasmania is working. And little doubt that eventually it will be implemented elsewhere.

    In Australia, the rate of recidivism for young offenders is around 65%. But of those engaged in the Out-Teach program in Tasmania, more than 80% are not re-offending.

    In the case of Holly and the new path she seems determined to pursue, Dane acknowledges the role he and the Out-Teach program have played but insists that it’s Holly herself who has led the way.

    “I can’t take credit for what she’s done. I’ve helped her and I’ve shown her some patience. The one thing that makes me really proud is seeing her maturity. The fact that she now values education. She now sees teachers as allies instead of enemies and she sees her education as her short-cut to success. Rather than what’s holding her back.

    “And the fact that she’s so willing to engage and so interested in achieving, she has that belief, and when these kids have that belief and that hunger to succeed and to learn – no teacher can ask for more than that.”

    Header image Credit:
    Photograph by Robert McKechnie.

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