Project REAL

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Our Story

For years BGCS staff had witnessed dozens of children from the local area regularly missing school as a result of school refusal, suspensions and expulsions. Quite powerlessly, we watched the longing for community and social connection and the need to belong the children displayed, 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.

So in the last quarter of 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 behaviours where found to be extremely challenging, mostly as a result of previous experiences of trauma, abuse or neglect. 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.

Our supporters:

To date BGCS has been successful in securing financial support from the following philanthropic partners, who have provided the bulk of the project funding for Project REAL so far. We thank them for their generosity and the vital support they have provided us.

  • BGH Australia
  • Gandel Philanthropy
  • Helen MacPherson Smith Trust
  • John T Reid Charitable Trust
  • Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation
  • Perpetual
  • RE Ross Trust
  • William Buckland Foundation

In late 2018, BGCS was able to secure some financial support from the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

Today

Since opening our doors almost three 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, Berry Street Childhood Institute, The Gateway School (Roxburgh College), Outer Urban Projects, the Department of Education and Training, and fifteen local primary schools.

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 trauma is a vision that we will continue to work tirelessly towards.

We are pleased to report that in 2019 we have had 65 teachers and educators regularly taking part in our CoP (community of Practice) activities and various professional development sessions. In addition to this, this year we also have 90 teachers who have also completed the Trauma Informed Positive Education training. To date, over 450 teachers and educators have participated in training and professional development activities related to the project. The overwhelming positive response from participants in these sessions have helped to cement our relationship with our 15 partner primary schools and to establish a partnership committed to working collectively to share our practices to reduce the impacts of trauma and to provide more opportunities for our children to heal and to remain engaged in school

Project REAL – Our Theoretical underpinnings & curriculum activities

The Project REAL approach represents a local adaptation of theoretical and practice-based components derived from, and including, the following:

Theoretical components

Trauma-informed practice (and Trauma-Informed Positive Education): a strengths based approach that regards trust building and emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing as preconditions to learning for children who have experienced severe hardship and/or trauma (Brunzell 2014, 2016; Chafouleas et al. 2016).

The Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC) Framework: a flexible intervention developed for children and adolescents who have experienced complex trauma. Its theoretical foundations are four key areas of study: normative childhood development, traumatic stress, attachment, and risk and resilience. ARC identifies key treatment targets organised around the three primary domains of intervention that give this methodology its name (ARC) (Blaustein 2007, 2010; Kinniburgh et al. 2005).

• Social and emotional learning: an approach that builds the capacity of children and adults to understand the interaction between physiology, biology and psychology.

Practice-based components

• Family work: regular engagement with, and support for, parents and, where possible, assistance for parents when navigating bureaucracy and other services and in their parenting through the use of the above-mentioned techniques and skills (informed by Bowen 1974 et al.).

• Think:Kids and Collaborative & Proactive Solutions: these approaches provide tailored assessment for children at risk of disengagement and provide practical tools to support positive development in areas such as language and communication, social thinking, attention and working memory, emotions and self-regulation, and cognitive flexibility.

The above elements feature in the Project REAL timetable and curriculum as the following:

 • MABA: movement and body awareness

• Word Up: literacy tuition

• Count Me In: self-managed numeracy (via games and numeracy sheets)

• Cooking: incorporating maths and encouraging independence and healthy eating

• Project-based learning: hands-on activities based on individual interests5

• Social Games: e.g. board and card games

• Art: drawing, ceramics

• OUP: ‘Outer Urban Projects’:  Hip Hop (writing), music, dance and movement

• Wetlands ‘bush education’ and ‘back to nature’: Outdoor education and environmental studies

Throughout the timetable, and complementing these main skills-based components, are sessions that help prepare the students for the main activities. These include: ‘morning and afternoon circles’, ‘spick and span’ (tidying), ‘quiet activities’ (preceding the day’s first lesson), ‘brain breaks’, and ‘calm activities to support readiness to learn and self-regulation.

Meet the Project REAL team

For further information please contact 9309 8531 Seral seral.f@banksiagardens.org.au

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