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Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement

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The Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement (NCESE) is a formal collective aimed at building capacity to develop and implement school and community programs that support school engagement for all, including (and especially) our most vulnerable students.

The NCESE was established in 2020, as a formal collaborative network of 16 primary schools, one secondary school, the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET), and Banksia Gardens Community Services (BGCS) – which acts as the NCESE ‘backbone’ organisation.

The NCESE includes Project REAL – a small, flexible-learning school run by BGCS for locally referred students with complex needs and significant barriers to learning. Project REAL has been in operation since 2017, and works closely with our NCESE partner schools to provide coaching and in-house support to assist schools with Tier 3 students.

Background and context

The Broadmeadows area is ranked the third most disadvantaged in Victoria, and the broader city of Hume ranks in the top decile for disadvantage in Australia (ABS, 2016).

School principals in the Broadmeadows area have noted:

  • High levels of students with complex needs who manifest inconsistent
    attendance, poor emotion regulation skills and high levels of significant behavioural incidents;
  • Impacts on staff stress, wellbeing, morale and ‘reactivity’; and
  • The expressed need for a consolidated local community response to school
    disengagement.
Our vision: All students in NCESE schools will be engaged, successful & happy learners.

Core NCESE objective

To collaboratively build the collective capacity of local schools and partner agencies to cater for engagement needs of all students – and particularly students who are at high risk of disengagement and school exclusion, and who may have a history of complex trauma.
Young woman at desk tutoring child
Group of people at a meeting

Core NCESE services and programs

Project REAL (Re-Engagement with Active Learning)

Project REAL is a Flexible Learning Option for Tier 3 students (9-12 years of age) from NCESE schools. Commenced in 2017, Project REAL has undergone extensive evaluation, and is now regarded as a benchmark of effective practice in the FLO space. Project REAL accepts 6-7 students per annum, for 3 days per week at school, and provides 1:1 teaching and learning with DET registered teaching & learning staff, as well as family support services. For more information, please contact Seral Fehmi or see the Project REAL page for further information.

Project REAL also provides on campus coaching support services for staff at NCESE schools with Tier 3 students, as well as mini FLO support services for schools wishing to establish their own Tier 3 programs or mini FLOs.

NCESE Communities of Practice

  • A quarterly joint led Prins/ School Leaders Community of Practice
  • A practitioner led Staff and Agency Community of Practice (approximately two per term)

On campus or on-line workshops

  • The impact of Trauma on Learning & Development (with Jaime; ~ 90 mins)
  • Introduction to the NCESE Engagement Building Blocks (Jaime & Eric; 45 mins)
  • The causes of disengagement and Tier 2-3 behaviours (with Jaime or Eric: 30 mins)
  • SEL and Executive Functions (Jaime, Seral or Eric: 2 x 60 mins)
  • Working with Tier 3 students – De-escalation tools (Seral & Jaime; 60 – 120 mins)

Staff wellbeing support via CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) workshops

The NCESE has partnered with CREATE (CARE Program | CREATE for Education) to deliver free CARE training to all NCESE schools in 2022. The CARE program delivers professional training for school staff in Social and Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness. The CARE program is backed by three randomised clinical trials in the USA and Europe which highlight improvements in staff wellbeing, morale, and teaching practice. 

For further information contact Jaime.

Berry Street Education Model Training

The NCESE provides free training in the Berry Street Education Model for up to 4 staff per school per annum. For details, contact Lily Walker at Project REAL.

The NCESE Engagement Building Blocks

An evidence-based framework of risk and protective factors for building school engagement programs and assessing school engagement progress. The Building Blocks have been endorsed by Evidence for Learning, a Social Ventures Australia initiative.

Engagement evaluation and research support through our Academic Advisory Group

For further information, please contact Eric Dommers.

Annual Conference (2022)

Watch this space for international evidence based workshops on SEL, Executive Functions, Restorative Justice/Practices, and more.

NCESE governance

The NCESE is governed and led by a Steering Committee that represents NCESE schools, DET, BGCS and other relevant community groups. The Steering Committee is primarily practitioner led – ie, partners will co-design agendas, chair meetings, and work to contribute to NCESE resources and outputs. The Committee also has access to input from the broader community as needed.

NCESE work is informed by policy guidance from relevant government departments (DET, DHHS, etc), and we seek to explore and maximise our potential impact on relevant policy areas.

Our programs are informed by both existing and active research and evidence, and our operations are evaluated by appropriate academic experts.

Our partners seek to both understand and address the causes of disengagement and to trial, evaluate and report on various strategies within their own organisations, and provide feedback and learnings about progress through the broader NCESE communication forums.

Our partners agree to provide some financial support – as mutually agreed – whilst also seeking support from government and the philanthropic community to ensure short and longer term sustainability.

The NCESE Principals/Leadership Community of Practice meets quarterly (once per term) to discuss a range of new developments, school progress or initiatives, hear guest speakers, discuss strategy.

NCESE partner schools

Bethal Primary School
Broadmeadows Primary School
Broadmeadows Valley Primary School
Coolaroo Sth Primary School
Craigieburn Primary School
Dallas Brooks Primary School
Gladstone Park Primary School
Glenroy West Primary School
Gladstone Views Primary School
Greenvale Primary School
Holy Child Primary School
Hume Valley School
Meadow Heights Primary School
Meadows Primary School
Roxburgh Rise Primary School
Roxburgh Homestead Primary School
Roxburgh Secondary College

For more information about the NCESE, please contact:

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