Mission Australia: 'Flexible Learning program works' - Education Matters Magazine
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Mission Australia: ‘Flexible Learning program works’

Charity Mission Australia is calling for long-term commitment to a program that improves student learning engagement and outcomes, job pathways and wellbeing for young people experiencing disadvantage in South Australia, and the expansion of the program to other parts of Australia.

New research shows Mission Australia’s Flexible Learning Options (FLO) program in South Australia not only successfully re-engages hundreds of disadvantaged high school students with learning, but also has a significant transformative and potentially life-saving impact on young people who are facing a range of complex issues.

The evaluation report released on 12 April by Mission Australia and the University of Adelaide 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. Students said they valued their meaningful relationship of trust with their FLO caseworker above all other services that they access.

Mission Australia’s Regional Leader, Adam Sherwood said: “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.

“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.”

“The evaluation highlighted that the tailored classroom support provided through FLO teachers and our caseworkers has a significant positive impact on a young person’s confidence, self-organisation and self-reliance. This helps them to re-engage and successfully participate with learning and achieve learning outcomes.

“This 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.”

Mr Sherwood added: “The evidence shows that FLO has a positive impact on disengaged and vulnerable young people and 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 encouraged the South Australian government to continue the program long-term and urged other governments to consider replicating the FLO program so more young people in need could benefit.

“Unfortunately, there are too many young people in South Australia and across the nation who are falling through the cracks which has significant impacts on our nation’s productivity and the life and health outcomes of students,” Mr Sherwood said. “This is why we are calling for continued government commitment to this evidence based program that has clear and positive outcomes.”

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