In Victoria, 60 per cent of those in the youth justice system have previously been suspended or expelled from school, and over 90 per cent of adults in our prisons did not complete secondary school. Further, most expulsions occur for students between years 8 and 10 and boys are vastly over-represented.
Exclusion can have adverse economic, health, and social impacts on young people, including likely trajectory into the Youth Justice system, illness, and unemployment in adulthood. Boys are twice as likely to engage in disruptive and high-risk behaviours that lead to school expulsion and disengagement than girls, and five times more likely to engage in violent and aggressive behaviours.
Adolescence is the common stage when challenging behaviours escalate, and we’ve also seen a recent rise in the number of sexual assault and violence related offences by young people highlighting the need for effective evidence-informed behavioural interventions and violence prevention efforts that will provide benefits to both the young people themselves and our society more broadly.
Our proposed pilot program, Jack’s Hut, will work with young men in community or specialist settings who have highly complex needs and are disengaging with their learning at school, to deliver a multi-faceted program that improves their social and emotional literacy, family/significant relationships, and enhances their connectedness with community. Program content can be adapted to single sex, mixed sex, and universal cohorts.
Jack’s Hut takes a ‘Groupwork’ approach focussed on social and emotional literacy and is transferable and adaptable to different sites. Evidence shows multiple program components that reflect the young person’s social context is the most effective approach – Jack’s Hut integrates young people’s individual agency and participation with group / peer social and emotional learning, family therapeutic responses, and supported opportunities to connect with community through vocational, recreational, and creative activities.
Jack’s Hut focuses on providing young people with diverse activities, settings, and interactions with positive peer and adult community members to practice and reinforce their social and emotional learning.