Hearing the voices of young people - and the programs that embrace them

Hearing the voice of young people

And the programs that support them…

I was invited to speak in two sessions at the 2016 Doing School Differently conference.

  1. Flexible and Alternative Education: Hearing the Voices of Young People.

    This presentation summarised Nick’s thesis examining the lived experience of young people in Flexible Learning Programs.

    Currently over 70,000 young people are educated in flexible learning and alternative education programs across Australia. Despite this, the voices of these young people is largely missing, both from the discourse of education reform and from research.

    This thesis aimed to amplify their voice regarding the impact of flexible learning programs on their experience of education. It explored the views of 13 young people from four different flexible learning settings in Melbourne, Australia through qualitative, in-depth interviews.

    Thematic analysis of these interviews reveals these young people have often struggled in mainstream schools, but key features of flexible learning programs have reengaged them and motivated them to learn again. Important features of successful flexible learning programs identified by this research include welcoming tone and ethos; respectful relationships; tailored curriculum and learning; and flexible structures and environment.

    These features sit within a wider story of the young person’s journey through education. This study concludes that we have much to learn by listening more carefully to young people. It presents recommendations based on young peoples’ views for improving flexible options in the context of policy, practice and further research.

    Key recommendations include valuing student voice; improving transitions from schools to flexible programs; prioritising funding to such settings; sharing good practice; and promoting understanding of ‘caring teaching’ practice. This study is part of a growing body of research on flexible learning programs in Australia and will contribute to future research on similar topics by putting the voices of young people at the centre of the conversation.

    The full document can be accessed by clicking on this link here.

  2. Flexible Learning Victoria: Supporting flexible learning programs to network differently

    This presentation covered the expansion of the Flexible Learning Victoria (FLV) network. In 2013 and 2014 two research reports were published by the BGKLLEN based on data from the flexible learning providers in the southern metropolitan Melbourne region – A Different Journey (Ellum & Longmuir, 2013) and The Next Journey (Waugh, 2014). Both reports identified the need to establish networks or communities of practice that would link providers more effectively. As a result, four organisations (SkillsPlus, Melbourne City Mission, Brotherhood of St Laurence and Narre Community Learning Centre) applied for ACFE funding in 2015 to start a project that lead to the development of Flexible Learning Victoria (FLV) under BGKLLEN project management.

    FLV is a professional body established to support the work of flexible learning program providers in Victoria. Flexible Learning Programs (FLPs) provide educational pathways and support to young people who have experienced barriers to completing secondary education in mainstream contexts, mainly due to social marginalisation or socioeconomic disadvantage. FLV has focused on facilitating formation of new, and strengthening existing, regional Flexible Learning Networks.

    Further information about the FLV network can be found here - https://www.bgkllen.org.au/programs/flexible-learning-victoria-flv/