Axe falls on schools

OK Youth Services boss Michael Parker with staff from the boys’ campus in Wangara. Picture: Emma Reeves d411781
OK Youth Services boss Michael Parker with staff from the boys’ campus in Wangara. Picture: Emma Reeves d411781

Joondalup (girls) and Wangara (boys) campuses offer practical classes to about 140 young people who have struggled in mainstream education.

OK Youth Services chief executive Michael Parker is fighting closure on two fronts despite many successes among mainly Aboriginal students in the last three years.

The ordained Lutheran minister said the Department of Education Services had recommended Education Minister Peter Collier cancel its licence because ‘of concerns with recording and reporting of young people’s performance’.

The schools are finalising an appeal, which will be sent to an independent panel.

Pastor Parker said the not-for-profit organisation also had a cash-flow problem because of State and Federal government funding schedule changes and delays.

As a result, they had lost about half their staff and were relying on the community’s goodwill over late payment of rent and other bills.

‘The schools’ board has taken the step of not accruing any more debt, so remaining staff are running the school voluntarily to the end of the year so the kids can finish their pre-apprenticeship certificates,’ he said.

‘We are also accepting community donations for breakfast and lunch, and for fuel to pick up the kids.’

Pastor Parker said he did not believe officials understood Catalyst’s need to operate differently to mainstream schools, which had already failed the students.

The organisation was working on areas identified by the department as needing improvement, including rolling out a new school curriculum.

‘We acknowledge there are areas we need to improve upon and we have practices in place for continued improvement,’ he said.

Pastor Parker said he felt the department’s timing was ‘callous’ given that many young people were so close to finishing their courses.

‘Our kids are distressed and upset as they say these are the only schools where they have ever learnt anything and are cared for,’ he said.

Pastor Parker said Catalyst Schools were different.

‘We are working with chronically disadvantaged young people with many suffering from mental health (issues), post-traumatic stress in their lives and life in the context of a difficult family environment,’ he said.

‘Our focus is on attendance, behaviour and curriculum ” that’s the order we have to do it in.

‘It can take six to nine months for a young person to have a regular attitude, appropriate behaviours and to concentrate on curriculum work.

‘These kids are coming to us with very, very little literacy or numeracy. We have to take them right back to phonetics, writing skills and single number addition. Allied to that is their personal confidence and self-belief and one of the critical things is motivation.’

The essentials
WHAT:Catalyst Schools is a registered non-government
CARE (Curriculum and Reengagement in Education) school.
OPERATED BY:OK Youth Services (part of Ocean Keys Community
WHERE:Campuses in Joondalup/Wangara.
AIMS:To re-engage young people back into school.
OFFERS:Basic subjects, certificate courses, wood/metal work, spray
painting/panel beating, and workforce preparation
SUPPORT:School drop-off and pick-up, breakfast/ lunch meals and visiting role