School can be tough. If you’re ahead of the class or behind, if you’re bullied or popular, it’s not easy to navigate the halls of any high school. If you don’t have a good home life, it makes it even harder.

Communities@Work’s Galilee School is working to make sure that young people who are disengaged or disadvantaged don’t lose out. First established almost 20 years ago, the school is an independent secondary institution designed to support young people who are often the subject of care and protection orders,  involved with the youth justice system or in foster care.

If you’re not keen on school, it can be hard to imagine what a supportive learning environment looks like. So to give an insight into the experiences of a Galilee student, the school recently put together a video.

“We thought it might be good to present it as a day in the life of a student,” said Priscilla Thornton, business manager for the school. “It was a lot of fun.”

Learning is made easier by one-on-one tuition, and small student numbers in the classroom. In bigger, more traditional mainstream classes, students at Galilee would often be written off as ‘troublemakers’. “In a classroom of 30, a lot of these guys are going to be the ones that play up - and usually that’s because they don’t understand the work,” said Priscilla. “Their literacy and numeracy is so low they’re not able to interact with the grade-level work they’re given. Instead of asking questions about that, they usually play up to get out of it.”

The small classes and extra attention mean that students have a chance to learn – but also to be themselves. “In a larger setting, they’ll often be the victim of bullying, or the bullies themselves,” explained Priscilla. “In a smaller group setting we can keep an eye on that. They feel safe, that they can be themselves.”

Along with curricular support, the Galilee School takes a ‘holistic approach’ to a young person’s education. With the support of a Coca-Cola Australia Foundation grant, the school picks the kids up in the morning, provides all their daily meals and drops them off at the end of the day. “We do a lot of life-skills stuff as well, like writing a resume, interview skills, we get them to apply for their birth certificates, we do their learners licenses, they open bank accounts, get tax file numbers, help them apply for first jobs and things like that,” said Priscilla.

“We tend to focus more on the life changes in the young people. A lot of the time, a big step is just coming to school even three out of five days. That’s already a 200-300 per cent increase than before.

“If at all possible, we aim to help students re-engage with the mainstream schooling system and also provide pathways for them to transition to further education and employment.  The objective is to promote respect and confidence, and inspire young people to realise their full potential by developing their unique talents and capabilities.”