2020 materialised into an extraordinary year, not just for Dunlea Centre, but for the entire world. The consequence for most educational facilities was to transition to remote platforms utilising online learning.
Research data has highlighted that Dunlea students work at their best with close classroom interaction. The suggestion of removing this support produced several nervous moments for both the families and staff. After postponing this variation to operations for several weeks, it was decided in Week 8 of Term 1 to make the change. Students were excited by the prospect (not knowing the school work would continue) whilst families and staff remained cautiously optimistic. How could Dunlea students be adequately supported virtually, and still achieve positive outcomes?
Remarkably, throughout this unprecedented period, Dunlea students displayed exceptional adaptability and resilience in adjusting to the necessary changes. Effective online learning was achieved through the utilisation of a ‘Project Based Learning Model’ where all students completed requisite set tasks contributing to their ROSA completion.
The school continued to grow academically despite the challenges and restrictions of the pandemic. Significant gains were made in education in addition to many positive behavioural changes observed across the classes. The implementation of the Boys Town, Omaha, ‘Well Managed School’ – Social Skills Model, has been a contributing factor in these encouraging outcomes. This evidence based approach incorporates individual intervention in reading comprehension, maths and spelling delivered during the daily Fundamentals session.
Twenty-two students successfully completed the ROSA in 2020. This was the largest cohort of year 10 students to achieve this milestone in any given academic year at Dunlea. This distended number led to deliberations over extending current services beyond year 10. A successful application to NESA late last year has allowed the Agency the opportunity to deliver Stage 6, Preliminary and HSC from 2021. This is an exciting new chapter for Dunlea Centre as it will be able to support students in attaining an HSC qualification, with the option of an ATAR.
Students had a positive experience engaging in the ‘YES’ Program offered by NSW TAFE. These 6-week short courses provide students direct industry experience in a field of their choice, e.g. Beauty Therapy, Plumbing, IT and Early Childcare. Many glowing reports were received from the TAFE teachers relating to student application throughout the field experience. Dunlea Centre will continue to take part in these industry experience courses.
STEM Day was another exciting experience that is now into its third year of operations. Students were engaged in topics around chemical reactions and rocket building as well as examining combustion principles in engineering. Other topics included forces and friction, building boats out of cardboard and water testing/racing with many students displaying unforeseen shipwright skills.
An enormously challenging year has concluded with uncertain times still on the horizon. Nonetheless, many great accomplishments were realised in 2020 with many more to emanate in the New Year, in particular, the students working towards the HSC.