by Emily May
YAPA Policy & Training Officer
Working with schools is one of the most effective – but sadly, one of the most difficult - ways youth workers can support young people in NSW. Finding a way into a school can sometimes feel like you’re prying open the shell of an oyster: the pathway to success is unclear, and often messy. So I have whipped up a guide for working with schools that provides some basic steps, advice and inspiration.
1. Take the time to do some background work
- Identify the needs of local high school students, using school newsletters, monitoring local media, talking to your local Youth Development Officer (YDO), young people and parents.
- Keep informed about Department of Education (DET) priority areas, eg. cyber bullying
- Identify what you can bring to the partnership (eg. time, staff etc)
- Consider partnership sustainability by partnering with other local organisations, seeking further funding, or recruiting volunteers.
2. Establish initial contact
- Identify the best point of contact for your local school(s) by asking your local YDO and youth interagency.
- Talk to other organisations that have been in contact with schools in your area.
- Attend open school events (eg. school open days)
- Prepare a well thought out and flexible proposal for a partnership.
- Check the school calendar and select a time during the school year to pursue the partnership outside of peak activity.
- Ensure a professional approach, including preparing material in advance.
3. Develop a partnership agenda
This should be a joint process between the school and community organisation(s). Students, parents and/or community members should also be invited to participate.
Things to consider when developing a partnership agenda:
- Clarify the aims of the partnership, ensuring there is synergy in the aims of both parties
- Clarify the capacity of each partner (eg. time, resources, venue)
- Clarify the nature of the partnership (eg. program delivery, resourcing teachers, referrals, joint initiatives etc)
- Decide on the specific programs/ initiative/ training to be involved in the partnership, using evidence to support your decision
- Discuss how you will build data collection and evaluation into the partnership. Check out the What is sound evidence? factsheet (below).
4. Define the details
- Identify who will be responsible for what duties.
- Decide on the timeframe of the partnership, using an online calendar with alerts and reminders.
- Identify who will provide what resources. You may want to consider applying for a grant, such as the NAB Schools First Partnership Awards (below)
- Create and complete a memorandum of understanding (MOU)
- Get clearance from the school executive.
- Establish rules for confidentiality.
5. Negotiate and commit to ongoing communication
- Create a contact list
- Arrange a meeting schedule.
- Organise a regular review. This could be integrated into the meeting schedule.
- Provide regular feedback to school staff, students and the community.
Throughout your journey into developing a partnership with your local school, it is important to consider the types of programs and opportunities that are already out there. Here are just a few.
NAB Schools First Program
NAB Schools First is a grants programs aimed at bringing together students, teachers, parents and community members to help young people grow (see below).
School Business Community Partnership Broker Program
The Partnership Brokers assist key stakeholders to enter into partnership arrangements that will enrich the learning experience for young people leading to improved levels of participation, engagement and attainment. These partnerships harness resources and build local infrastructure to support communities to share responsibility for young people’s learning and development (see below).
Need some inspiration? Here are two examples of successful school and community partnerships that have benefited students.
Shellharbour Youth Workers in Schools Project
Begun as a pilot program with Warilla High School in Wollongong NSW in 2004, the Youth Workers in Schools Project now involves partnerships between the Shellharbour Youth Services Team and four local high schools. The project has two main components:
A youth worker is allocated one day per week to visit each high school and provide support and referrals for students. The aim of the service is to provide a safe and welcoming place where young people can seek help, guidance and contacts. Youth workers also run programs in schools catering to specific local issues, as they arise, and consult with staff about how to tackle community problems.
Transition to teens program includes full day workshops with feeder primary schools on self-esteem, circus skills, drama, meeting the team and accessing youth services, with the view to:
- provide information and resources to students, parents/carers and teachers about local youth services
- clarify concerns and misconceptions about transitioning to high school
- identify barriers to students making a successful transition
- ensure young people in year 6 have an established links with youth service and high school staff.
Fairfield High School
Fairfield City Council, Fairfield High School and Fairfield Powerhouse Youth Theatre worked together in partnership to create a theatre production, Why Can’t You See it my Way?, which addressed intergenerational issues facing many of our refugee families in Australia. The project provided the opportunity for students to learn theatrical skills, build confidence, and explore issues relating to their lives.
- NSW Public Schools www.schools.nsw.edu.au
- NSW youth worker networks - contact details www.yapa.org.au/youthwork/facts/networkslist.php
- What is sound evidence? factsheet www.schoolsfirst.edu.au/sf-toolkit/index.phps
- NAB Schools First Partnership Awards www.schoolsfirst.edu.au
- School Business Community Partnership Broker Program www.deewr.gov.au/Youth/YouthAttainmentandTransitions/Pages/SBCPB.aspx
- Shellharbour Youth Workers in Schools Project www.yapa.org.au/youthwork/stories/shellharbour.php
- Get REAL @ Relationships www.yapa.org.au/youthwork/stories/real.php