Gosford Education and Training Services

Forty-eight young people on the NSW Central Coast received one-to-one literacy and numeracy tuition as part of a mobile service offered by the Gosford Education and Training Services. The on-site, highly personalised approach produced excellent results. Assessments showed that 98% of participants gained in self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as improving their literacy and numeracy skills.

Background

Workwise (formerly GEATS - Gosford Education and Training Services) offers HELP, Time Out, and JPET programs to young people on the NSW Central Coast. These programs particularly target young people who are:

· homeless and/or have difficult family circumstances
· suffer drug and alcohol problems
· have disabilities
· have come into contact with the juvenile justice system
· are sole parents
· are from a non-English speaking or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background
· are financially disadvantaged and/or geographically isolated.

Clients from these target groups often exhibit anti-social behaviour, low self-esteem, emotional instability, transient lifestyles, difficulty establishing and maintaining personal relationships and positive support networks.

Through the HELP program, the Service offers vocationally-oriented literacy and numeracy training. However, this training has always been conducted at the centre and GEATS was interested in developing a more flexible delivery approach.

Project Objectives

The Strategic Pilot Project established an outreach service to provide one-to-one mobile literacy/numeracy tutors for:

  • young people unlikely to access either mainstream training or existing HELP programs
  • HELP program participants in need of more intensive (one-to-one) assistance
  • young people reluctant to enter formal training programs or with a history of difficulties in a formal learning structure
  • unemployed early school leavers
  • students at risk of leaving school early.

Project Activities

In the four weeks before the project started, tutors created networks with local organisations that deal with transient disadvantaged youth, e.g. Juvenile Justice and youth refuges.

The new mobile service was promoted to local people and agencies via a regular mail-out, flyers/posters, word-of-mouth, attendance at interagency meetings and newspaper advertisements. It was also promoted throughout all local youth agencies and service providers, who then referred young people to GEATS.

The mobile service offered on-site individual tuition on a weekly basis to young people who were referred. Where appropriate, these clients were directed into a HELP course and were assisted on an individual basis for 10 weeks while attending the HELP course.

There was no fixed curriculum, which allowed tutors to tailor the content of the literacy/numeracy training to suit the individual needs and interests of participants. Each week during the project each participant had a regular number of individual contact hours in which they worked on their maths, writing and spelling.

Project Outcomes

The target of 48 tuition places was achieved very early in the project, with demand exceeding the number of places available.

The skill levels of each participant were assessed at the beginning, at set stages during and at the end of the project. Participants responded well to this approach and mutual trust and confidence grew between tutors and participants. The atmosphere was relaxed and allowed participants to maximise their learning experience and opportunities for success.

These assessments recorded increased rates of literacy, numeracy, self-esteem and confidence in approximately 98% of participants, all of whom said they had reached their personal goals in the course.

Eight clients at risk of leaving school early, received enough support to motivate them to complete their year or course. Six other young people - already participants in the HELP program - received one-on-one intensive tutoring. This experience contributed directly to them gaining their School Certificate.

The tutors also acted as a referral point, directing participants to other appropriate youth service providers.

Success Factors

The flexibility of one-to-one tuition ensured privacy and confidentiality. Previous experience with the target group shows they can be sensitive about, or embarrassed by their low literacy and numeracy skills. In group activities they tend to conceal specific personal needs. Individual tuition eliminated this problem.

The one-on-one approach also eliminated problems of discipline, as clients had no need to compete for attention.

The flexible, tailor-made nature of the project offered the young people a new learning framework. In this new environment they were decisive, because they could take ownership of their own learning.

The "on location" service allowed staff to circumvent problems otherwise encountered with transport, isolation and financial difficulties.

Possible Improvements

In future, staff would break sessions down into smaller blocks, allowing the more transient clients to complete full blocks of study rather than finish part way through.

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