New centre offers hope to the vulnerable
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 6, 14 August 2020, page no.17
Jacaranda Place is a world-class centre providing help and hope to some of Queensland’s most vulnerable young people.
This unique unit is the only one of its type in Australia and provides extended treatment and education for adolescents from across Queensland with severe and complex mental health conditions.
A collaborative partnership between the Department of Education, Department of Health and Children’s Health Queensland, it offers a haven to these teenagers, delivering specialist care and support to young people in a safe, supportive and structured environment while enabling them to continue their learning pathway or re-engage with education.
Located on the campus of Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital, the centre opened in April, the product of an extensive co-design process that included the input of clinicians, educators, First Nations people, young people with a lived experience of mental health care, and their families. The result is a 12-bed residential program and a 10-place day program based at a world-class facility that is functional, welcoming and engaging for young people.
Campus Principal Ben Orford said: “The students may have been in the child and youth mental health system for some time, in and out of various hospital and health services, and often disengaging from education during this period. What we are doing here, at Jacaranda Place, is empowering the students to lead their recovery process, working towards specific health and education goals over an extended period of time. As educators, we work in partnership with our health colleagues to provide a comprehensive holistic service.”
At the heart of the new centre is an education team made up of teachers, teacher-aides, guidance officers and administration officers with the goal of delivering a world-class education program that ensures every student receives the support needed to engage purposefully in learning and to experience success. As a campus of the Queensland Children’s Hospital School, the team embodies the school motto of “inspire; believe; achieve.”
Ben explains: “From an education point of view, we are focused on providing continuity of learning for our students and re-engaging those students who have fallen through the cracks. First and fundamentally, it’s about having the ability to build connections and relationships with the students, find the best education pathway to suit their goals, and then use a highly differentiated approach to teach the curriculum.”
Individually tailored learning programs are developed for each student on the basis of their specific learning needs, aspirations and interests, with a strong focus on the Australian Curriculum, particularly literacy, numeracy and personal and social capability.
Ben says: “We have students here from Years 7 to 12; we have students who are working towards a university pathway and we also have students who may not have been at school for two or three years. So our teachers have to be expert generalists. They deliver a range of programs, including the Australian Curriculum, literacy and numeracy short courses, a Certificate I in Hospitality, and general life skills – all individually targeted towards the specific learning needs of each student.”
The teachers work closely with the schools the students have come from to ensure continuity of learning while the students are at Jacaranda Place and as they return to school. This relationship also helps the students to maintain a social and cultural connection with their base school during their time away.
And as time passes, Jacaranda Place aims to extend its reach, increasingly sharing its expertise with schools and educators across the state: “We would like to help build capability across Queensland so that these young people can thrive in their own communities. In partnership with our health colleagues, our aim is to establish a platform for professional learning and support, which will provide plenty of opportunities for teachers, guidance officers and school leaders to learn how to better support the educational needs of students with complex mental health conditions.”