By April Murphy
An education facility at Ormeau on the Gold Coast is leading the way and changing lives for at risk youth. Toogoolawa School is an independent institution that caters for boys in years 3 to 10, who find it difficult to function in mainstream schools.
The school gives a rare opportunity to students with a history of disengagement, and who otherwise could be forgotten in the mainstream school system. The personalised and compassionate approach to teaching is helping to create a brighter future for them.
Designed to revolve around human values, the model employed at Toogoolawa is unique to the school, based on truth, love, peace, right conduct and non-violence. Mindfulness meditation also guides the students to what can be considered the core of the educational function of the institution.
“Before coming to Toogoolawa School, I had been kicked out of three different high schools. I have now developed more respect and self-control. If it wasn’t for Toogoolawa School I would most likely be in trouble with the police and others”. Says Blake Benton, a student from Toogoolawa.
The commitment of each teacher to become an ideal role model for the five human values is what seems to make the Toogoolawa model so effective. The school employs qualified teachers and youth workers. Once employees, all staff are trained in the Schools Educare philosophy. The ratio of staff to students is kept at 1 staff member per 7 students. The emphasis of the day to day teaching at Toogoolawa is placed on character development rather than scholastic performance.
Over 1580 students have benefited from the school since it’s opening in 1998. Of these, about one-third of the boys have integrated back into mainstream schooling. Others enter traineeships or TAFE courses.
Around 85% of the students leave Toogoolawa and take on some form of work or study. “Since being at Toogoolawa School I have changed a lot. I even became school captain. I have caught up with my work and I did work experience and I really like it. I really enjoyed working at BCF” Says Trey Beauvalet, one of Toogoolawa’s former students.
The school levy is $45 per week. This tax covers study material and resources, freshly made lunch daily, weekly outings and transport to and from the local train station. Consideration of a reduction in fees is given to families who are struggling financially.