Hope for new Alesco

Saturday, 1st July, 2017

By Emily Roberts

The CEO of Robinson College said they may look to open an alternative school in coming years.

It was announced at the start of the week that the Alesco Learning Centre, which had been running since 2013, would close on July 28.

Robinson Education Centre CEO Tracey Dodimead told the BDT on Thursday that their first thought was for the students.

“We are thinking of the students and are putting them first,” Ms Dodimead said.

The centre received notice last week that it would lose its registration from the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) over compliance issues.

“We have had trouble attracting high qualified people who could undertake the compliance role,” Ms Dodimead explained.

“NESA did give us the possibility of having the compliance issues reviewed but said they would give us a two-week time frame.

“Then they said it was not enough time to embed those policies into practice.

“We were told if we had a second auditor come out and find it was not up to scratch it would impact the whole centre including Robinson College.

“Therefore the board made the decision to close before NESA could close it for good.

“By closing Alesco before NESA could close it, Robinson Education Centre Ltd have the option to apply next year to start a school although this wouldn’t commence until 2019. 

“That is the Board’s decision and one which hasn’t been explored or discussed as yet. It is just an option.”

She hoped the school could have stayed open for a little while longer.

“It is a tricky situation.

“We asked NESA if we could have closed at the end of the year, so students could have completed their school.

“In the end we had to weigh up all the factors.

“We may look at the option to apply to open another school.”

Mrs Dodimead said one of the issues NESA had was attendance.

“However, the students’ attendance was greater at Alesco than it would have been if they attended a mainstream high school. It still works out they are coming to school more.

“But it doesn’t tick the compliance box. We have a very unique cohort.”

Mrs Dodimead said she has received a huge response from the community.

“The community has really rallied behind the learning centre.

“It is a critical service for students and the teachers we have are amazing and so dedicated.

“It takes a special kind of teacher to come out and do what they do.”

Vicki Chorlton, the grandmother of an Alesco student said there needs to be an alternative school.

“I have thought long and hard about what to do and other alternatives for our kids, it’s not just for our kids now, but the kids in the future too,” she said. 

“There needs to be an alternative school for many kids otherwise what do they do? 

“When kids cannot cope in mainstream school and end up with nothing what will they do? Run amok for sure and you can’t blame them.”

Vicki said she will continue to fight to ensure there is an opportunity for students to attend alternative schooling.

“It is all up in the air, they can’t just close it.”

A NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the registration for the centre had to be cancelled.

“NESA has advised Alesco Learning Centre of the NESA School Registration Committee’s recommendation that the school’s registration be cancelled due to non-compliance with registration requirements,” she said.

“This non-compliance relates to the provision of a safe and supportive environment, the capacity of the school’s teaching staff as a whole and the school’s curriculum planning and delivery. 

“NESA has also informed the school that it may request an internal review of the NESA School Registration Committee’s recommendation by 7 July 2017. Any decision to close the school is a matter for the school’s proprietor.”