St Arnaud PS #1Right Choices’ is a whole of  community early intervention  approach adopted by St. Arnaud  Primary School to support young peoples learning and development.

The school is the only state primary school within the community—a population of around 3,500 people. The community is a large farming community which is currently suffering from the effects of the drought with many businesses in town closing. The community has a large proportion of low socio economic families, and has a range of challenges related to adolescent crimes rates being double the state average; young adults are less likely to complete Year 12; kindergarten participation in the fourth lowest in Victoria.

This is a community based early intervention program that has key partnerships formed with St Vincent de Paul, Sisters of Mercy, St Arnaud Neighbourhood House, Grampians Community Health and Bendigo Community Bank, just to mention a few. It involves students being involved in a range of programs including Meals on Wheels, St Vincent de Paul Op Shop, Food bank, community gardening, visitation program to the hostel, nursing home and kindergarten, farm education, blacksmith, speech assistance, music, cooking and community kitchen.

A unique partnership developed by the program has been the link  developed with the local Malmsbury Youth Detention Centre—the only primary school involved in this  program,The program also provides parenting programs, welfare support and school based counselling services and a visiting psychologist.

St Arnaud PS #3The program has been featured on ABC 730 and ABC Radio, Sunrise Program and in a range of publication. We are also a 7 Habits ‘ Leader in Me’ School. The use of the 7 habits has only strengthened our ability to build and ustain community partnerships.

The Right Choices program also gained great recognition as a recipient of the National Bank Schools First initiative in 2009 – “The Impact Award”.

Using ‘FAMILIES’ as a central focus, the program contains a range of components including teams of      students working in small groups; involvement of community service and links; employment of part-time local community members; agencies and community groups delivering programs; psychologist based at the school;  and professional development and training for the adults involved.

The school wanted a more proactive approach to early intervention, involving working with the entire family and not just the child at school. Through this partnership approach the program is able to   support families through providing resources, brokering relationships with other agencies and delivering a consistent message in regards to effective parenting. The partnership has also been able to arrange      delivery of resources such as wood,  water, school uniforms and other items to struggling families within the community.

The Right Choices team are  beginning to see some fantastic outcomes including young people having “less contact” with police, greater involvement of young people in school, improved relationship with families, peers and the community; and student academic results are improving.

Further information contact the school on 54951028 or check out our website.  http://www.starnaudps.vic.edu.au/