Mary's Neighbourhood Centre Inc
The accredited Generic Living Skills Certificate offered by North
St Mary's Neighbourhood Centre and the Blue Mountains College of
TAFE was an outstanding success. Students were early school leavers,
many were homeless and some had drug or other social problems. More
than twice the number of young people as originally anticipated,
graduated after the 40-week course, which is equivalent to the NSW
Through its Nepean InterYouth program, the North St.Mary's Neighbourhood
Centre offers a range of youth programs and services including JPET,
HELP and Work for the Dole. Within the Penrith, Hawksbury and Lower
Blue Mountains area, InterYouth is the only service that specialises
in job seeking services and pre-vocational, employment related courses
with a particular focus on literacy and numeracy.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 80% of long term
unemployed people in the area are early school leavers. The local
government area of Penrith for example, has a youth unemployment
rate of approximately 30%. Almost 80% of these young people meet
the target group criteria for HELP.
With so many early school leavers in its Nepean InterYouth program,
the service was keen to extend its unique blend of services to include
an alternative pre-vocational accredited pathway to the NSW School
The aim of the Strategic Pilot Project was to offer early school
leavers an alternative route to the NSW School Certificate, thereby
encouraging them to pursue further education, training and employment.
The Centre wanted the new pathway to contain relevant, creative
and interesting youth focused courses that developed the numeracy
and literacy skills necessary for daily life, education, training
and the work force. Through such a pathway, the Centre sought to
help participants improve their self-esteem, motivation, interpersonal,
social and living skills.
Staff at the Centre worked with the Blue Mountains College of TAFE
to develop and implement a Generic Living Skills Certificate, which
was equivalent to the NSW School Certificate. The course was delivered
20 hours per week over a period of 40 weeks.
The project offered accredited numeracy and literacy based subjects
that met the requirements of the School Certificate. The NSW Board
of Studies monitored course content and project implementation to
ensure that it met the State's educational standards. Local high
schools, Penrith Council, Home School Liaison and a range of area
youth services were also involved in the project.
Rather than focusing on traditional subjects, such as science and
history, the project looked at employment options, the practical
application of design and technology, living skills, personal development,
first aid and healthy lifestyles.
Priority of placement in the project was given to youth affected
by drugs and alcohol, those who were homeless or living in refuges,
adolescent parents, DOCS and Juvenile Justice referrals, young women,
Years 9-12 students suspended from school, Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islanders, NESB youth and those recently released from an
Due to the high demand for services in the area, there was no need
to advertise the project. Initially, the Centre intended to run
the project for 14 young people from the target group. At one point
35 were enrolled and by the end of the project, 28 students had
In an initial interview, each young person identified, as well as
they could, their educational, training and employment needs. The
Centre then used this information to help tailor the course so that
it addressed, as far as possible, those needs.
The project implemented attendance and educational outcome records,
monthly progress reports and weekly team meetings to provide adequate
documentation, and to ensure that clear communication between staff,
clients and other stakeholders was maintained.
Outcomes exceeded expectations, with twice the number of young people
graduating as originally anticipated.
The project clearly demonstrated that community agencies can work
successfully with Registered Training Organisations to produce outstanding
outcomes for young people disenchanted with the formal education
system. By offering an accredited program for those young people
who slip through the formal education net, the Centre gained for
themselves and their clients, greater credibility within the local
Students responded well to the use of worksheets where their progress
was recorded. Attendance rates were excellent, even when the course
continued to run during the school holidays.
Participants in this project were generally more motivated than
HELP clients. Being slightly older, they recognised the value of
obtaining the School Certificate as an aid to finding employment.
Students talked freely about personal issues with teachers and counsellors.
This led to increased self-esteem and self-confidence, with evidence
of reduced drug usage and dependency by some participants.
Course activities were relevant to the young people's life circumstances.
They were also offered in a flexible environment that allowed them
to negotiate with staff and other students over issues such as playing
background music in the classroom during sessions.
numeracy issues, though explicit throughout the course, were presented
in a way that was relevant to the clients.
interagency co-operation meant the project bridged the gap between
the formal education system and the informal, but no less meaningful
activities of the community sector.
of the local TAFE should not be underestimated. The Outreach service
facilitated the use of course learning materials, stationery and
advice on flexible delivery options. As a Registered Training Organisation,
it was able to issue recognised credentials that had status within
the formal education and training system.
The Centre had
an excellent track record of creating a safe learning environment
that provided clients with effective social support.
exceeded expectations, the Centre is keen to run the project again
and would make no changes to the way it was run.