The leading children’s agency is calling for greater support for early intervention programs like Hands on Learning, which provides life skills and support to at-risk young people at a critical time in their lives – when they are in danger of dropping out of school and falling into lifelong negative pathways.
Every year around 38,000 young people do not complete year 12 in Australia, putting them at greater risk over their lifetime of suffering mental health issues like anxiety and depression or other long-term health conditions.
“The theme of Children’s Week in 2019 is the right of every child to good health and wellbeing. It seems fitting given the enormous need for more health and wellbeing support for children and young people,” Save the Children’s Australian Services Executive Director Matt Gardiner said.
“Hands on Learning is a proactive way to build wellbeing. It is all about intervening early to support young people in the middle years, giving them new ways to experience success, increase confidence, reduce anxiety and build a strong emotional framework to reach their potential in school and life.”
Partner schools employ specially trained Hands on Learning staff who work with at risk students each week on authentic building or social projects like constructing a gazebo, setting up and running a café or building new gardens for their school.
In a recent Hands on Learning survey, one mother said:
“This program has been the best thing for my son. He loves to build and the positive feedback he gets by seeing something he’s built make a change for the school really builds his confidence.”
Another mother said the program helped her daughter find “her spot in life”.
During National Children’s Week, a pizza oven built by Hands on Learning students will be opened at Westernport Secondary College in Hastings. Staff from the renowned Jackalope Hotel, one a former Hands on Learning student himself, will teach the students to make woodfired pizzas.
Save the Children is urging the Australian Government to commit $10 million to fund the national rollout of Hands on Learning, which would expand the program from 100 to 300 schools situated in communities with a high number of early school leavers.
“This National Children’s Week we would like to recognise the role Hands on Learning is playing in supporting young people’s mental health at a critical time in their lives. We hope the program will be federally funded so that more children in need have the opportunity to benefit,” Mr Gardiner said.