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Project REAL

Project REAL is a re-engagement program for 9-12 year-olds who have disengaged from mainstream education. It aims to support children, their families and schools to develop skills that foster positive school engagement.

Project REAL is a Flexible Learning Option (FLO) for Tier 3 students ages 9-12 from  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 Department of Education and Training registered teaching and learning staff, as well as family support services.

For the duration of students’ enrolment at Project REAL, our team provides intensive family or caregiver support, including referrals and collaboration with community agencies and allied health professionals, coaching to referring schools, and professional development on key areas of our practice.
It is through a holistic and collaborative approach with students, families, mainstream schools, Project REAL and community organisations that we achieve the best outcomes for children and successfully re-engage them back into their mainstream schools.
Boy in kitchen preparing food
Teacher and student with art materials
Inforgraphic for Social and Emotional Learning

Project REAL theoretical underpinnings

The Project REAL approach with our students, families and schools represents a local adaptation of theoretical and practice-based components from a range of fields, including:

  • Trauma-informed practices (and Trauma-Informed Positive Education)
  • The Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC) Framework
  • Social and Emotional Learning – CASEL Framework
  • Restorative Practices
  • Intensive Family Work

An in-depth summary of our theoretical underpinnings is forthcoming in the NCESE’s soon-to-be published Building Blocks for School Engagement.

Teachers and students in a group outdoors

Our Story

For years BGCS staff had witnessed dozens of children from the local area regularly missing school as a result of school refusal and significant barriers to their learning. Quite powerlessly, we watched the longing for community and social connection and the need to belong, as they would regularly ride around and spend time at Banksia Gardens Community Services looking for something to do and somebody to talk to. Several conversations over many months led us to find a solution to support the increasing number of children, families and schools affected by early disengagement in the Hume area as schools struggled to meet their complex needs.

So in 2015, Banksia Gardens Community Services took the first steps towards the design and establishment of Project REAL (Re-engagement in Education and Learning) in order to address exclusion from primary school experienced by students aged 9-12 whose needs were found to be extremely challenging to meet, due to the complexity of the barriers they were facing in their daily lives and at school. Following several conversations with the Department of Education and Training, The Gateway School, (under the auspice of Roxburgh College) and with a group of local principals, Banksia Gardens was asked to put together a project proposal.
After a long fundraising journey, Project REAL was able to open its doors on the 7th of February 2017 and has rapidly become a major support to schools, families and children in the local area.

Project REAL today

Since opening our doors almost five years ago to some of the most vulnerable children in our community, we have established an alliance between local organisations including Banksia Gardens Community Services, Royal Childrens Hospital, DPV Health, Berry Street Childhood Institute, The Gateway School (Roxburgh College), the Department of Education and Training, and fifteen local primary schools.

Project REAL is the common site that brought so many of our schools together five years ago, and its operations have evolved significantly over the last eighteen months with the formalisation of the alliance mentioned above into the Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement (NCESE).
The NCESE as a formal collective is still relatively new, but has benefitted from many years of work from our partner schools and BGCS – particularly through Project REAL. Project REAL is the engine room of the NCESE: it is where we work intensively with a small number of referred students and their families.
Project REAL is a place where research and theory meet practice, where we refine our student re-engagement model based on the local and international research of what works best to increase student participation and success in schooling.

What the NCESE brings to the table is the evidence base for different interventions. Where Project REAL might focus on the micro level of working with a specific student, the NCESE works at a meso level to help the school build capacity to cater for that type of cohort (Tier 3) more generally, and which ultimately helps school engagement for all students.

Our ultimate goal of re-engaging our students in their education and building the capacity of all our partner schools to appropriately respond to the needs of students impacted by adverse childhood experiences is a vision that we will continue to work tirelessly towards.
Boy wearing climing gear

Contact and referral information for Project REAL

Referrals to Project REAL are exclusive to NCESE partner schools. If you would like further information about the work of Project REAL or the NCESE, please contact one of our Co-Directors.

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

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