Unfortunately we know that many people have the opportunity of education interrupted at various points in their lives. Issues like family conflict, illness, bullying, disability, substance use and homelessness can all have a huge impact on a young person’s ability to stay in school. At other times, mainstream schooling simply can’t fully provide for diverse needs and learning styles.

In 2004 we launched a project in partnership with Bowden Brompton Community School, called Bridging Alternative Learning and Training (BALT). The program aimed to re-engage young people who were enrolled in school but had not attended for more than six months.

Students attended the group learning environment held in a neutral off-campus location. SYC staff were able to apply their expertise in case management and help young people access support from our other programs. In this way, students are simultaneously supported to address their barriers to learning, whilst continuing to work on educational and vocational outcomes.

Students playing a game at BALT

By 2007, the number of students we supported in alternative learning programs was up to 248 students from 18 public schools in Northern and Western Adelaide. These students were supported in a mixture of group learning environments and individual case management. During 2007, case management resulted in student engagement levels almost doubling across two terms.

In 2011 we piloted a partnership with Seaton High School to establish a second alternative group learning environment. Studio West has registered teachers working alongside case managers, trained in social work, to provide holistic support to young people.

Studio West Student and Mentor

Whether or not they fit the standard approach, we are committed as an organisation to making sure that young people have the opportunity to build their capacity and reach their potential.

Today we have a range of learning programs, developed specifically with the diverse needs of students in mind. The original BALT program has now taken on the new name, BOLT. BOLT is a kind of multi-acronym that stands for:

Building BELIEVING and BELONGING. Creating OPTIMISM and OPPORTUNITY. Enabling LEARNING and LEADERSHIP. Empowering TEAMWORK and TRANSITION.

The BOLT program’s key defining factor is the focus on developing and strengthening an individual’s wellbeing and resilience. Using positive psychology, the program fosters an environment of individualised teaching and learning. Staff place a focus on character strengths and establishing personal values as a basis for education. This gives students the confidence to be an active participant in the classroom and succeed in their learning and wellbeing.

Recently we surveyed students and parents about their experiences in the program.

“BOLT has helped me in my everyday life, my overall learning and my wellbeing. Gaining better skills in maths and literacy has also helped me as I’ll be using that often in my future career,” a past student said.

Parents say that the program is responsible for many positive changes in their children. Parents see their children growing into young adults, with increased understanding of how to manage their health and wellbeing.

 “Without BOLT she would have dropped out of school, continued her bad behaviour, and never found her own strength and happiness. Her future is now very bright, and full of possibilities,” a parent commented.

Last year we supported 2,482 students on their pathway to gaining a vocational qualification or completing school.