Page 97 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 13 December 2016

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Independent, Catholic, and public schools across Canberra have embraced KidsMatter and MindMatters as programs to support student wellbeing. These evidence-based mental health initiatives support students in primary and secondary schools. ACT has the highest uptake of KidsMatter and MindMatters in Australia.

In public schools, four additional senior psychologists and four additional social workers with case management capabilities have been recruited to strengthen the response to families and students through the networked student engagement teams. In addition, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists have been held to support students with learning difficulties and delays, respond to needs within specialist schools and support teachers in delivering the curriculum to all students.

The government made an election commitment to a further 20 new psychologists for public schools, five new professionals being introduced each year for four years. In addition, ACT Health will also collaborate across education sectors to implement a streamlined mental health and wellbeing referral process that can be used by all schools.

The ACT government acknowledges that student wellbeing is strongly linked to teacher wellbeing and has committed additional funds to increase support to teachers through more mentoring support and an examination of the professional development and career pathways under a long-term policy strategy for our school system. These commitments will be implemented in future reporting periods and will complement the work of the schools for all program.

Recommendations related to professional learning and capacity building are being addressed through a cross-sectoral professional learning working group. Public, Catholic, and independent schools are collaborating with Teacher Quality Institute, University of Canberra, and Australian Catholic University in this project.

The working group is reviewing and improving the teacher education units with respect to teaching students with complex needs and challenging behaviours, including disability. They are also working to accredit and to develop professional learning options relevant to teaching students with complex needs.

Each sector continues to communicate with parents and seek additional opportunities to engage parents meaningfully in their schools. In our public schools, the schools for all program team have continued to host quarterly parent forums, and every fortnight provides information to schools via the Canberra public schools bulletin.

Schools exist for children and young people and hearing the voice of students is important to understanding their experiences and perspectives. A cross-sector youth forum and review of best practice resources which will support schools to maximise the student voice are being developed.

In the third quarter there has been a strong focus on the capital upgrade program for safe sensory spaces in schools. A total of 35 projects with an estimated investment of $2.22 million are being progressed for capital upgrades in Canberra public schools.

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